When Your Child's Other Home is Leading
Them Away From Christ
By Ron L. Deal, M.MFT.
"I really want my two children to love the Lord and have
a relationship with their father. But when they spend time with
their dad and stepmom, they are exposed to a lifestyle that goes
against what the Bible teaches. What can we do? I'm tempted to
discourage them from going to see their dad."
Judy's question is one I hear repeated around the country. All
Christian parents want their children to grow in faith. But what
can you do when the other household is leading the sheep away
from the Shepherd?
Before I offer some ideas about faith training, let me address
Judy's temptation to limit the contact between her children and
their father. While the desire to protect the faith of her children
is understandable, becoming a barrier between the other biological
parent and their children is not recommended. When this happens
children grow to resent the parent who blocks parental access.
In addition, the ex-spouse often feels cheated and may retaliate,
exposing children to more conflict. You must find other ways of
influencing your children. Here are some suggestions.
1. First and foremost, admit that you cannot control
what is taught or demonstrated in the other home. Too
many people are still trying to change their ex-spouse, even after
they've been divorced for years. (If you couldn't change them
in your marriage, what makes you think you can change them in
your divorce?) Letting go of control forces you to 1) let God
be in control of what you can't change; and 2) make the most of
your time with your children.
2. Influence your children toward the Lord, while in
your home. All parents need to model the Christian walk
and impress on their children the decrees of God (Duet. 6:4-9).
But you will also have to inoculate them. Medical inoculations
are controlled injections of a virus; this allows the body to
develop anti-bodies that can combat a live virus, if ever encountered.
Spiritual inoculations present viewpoints that oppose the word
of God and then teach Biblical concepts that help children combat
them. For example, discussing a TV program that glorifies greed
and then showing children a spiritual view of money and stewardship.
Children who have one parent not living a Christian life will
need inoculations to help them deal with an environment that is
hostile to their growing faith. It is critical, however, that
you remain neutral about the other parent; the inoculation cannot
be a personal attack. A comment like, "Your father shouldn't
be lying to his boss-he's so self-centered," pulls on children's
loyalties and burden's them with your hostility. Ironically, it
also diminishes your influence as they react defensively against
your negativity. A more appropriate response is, "Some people
believe lying is fine when it serves a purpose. But God is truth
and wants us to be honest, as well. Let's talk about that..."
3. You may have to endure years of prodigal living as
your children try out the values of the other home. This
is a truth that many parents fear. Children may experiment with
the "easier, less demanding" lifestyle of the other
home, especially during the teen years when they are deciding
whether the faith they've been handed ("inherited faith")
will become their own ("owned faith"). Lovingly admonish
them toward the Lord (not "away" from the other parent),
and be close enough to reach when they repent.
4. Pray daily for the strength to walk in the light and
introduce your children to Jesus at each and every opportunity.
Your model is a powerful bridge to their personal commitment to
Christ. Do all that you can to take your kids by the hand and
lead them in the way of the Master (Eph. 6:4).
A Moment with Scripture
"...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds
of the Lord..." (Ps. 78:4 NIV)
Children have a natural inclination to listen to stories. Be
sure to tell your children and stepchildren your faith story,
including how you came to know Christ, your faith peaks and valleys,
and the influence of other people in your life. Let them see and
hear how God has worked in your life.
Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah
More family and parenting articles on CBN.com
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Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family
Ron L. Deal is President of Successful
Stepfamilies, author of
The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family,
and serves as stepfamily educational consultant to Focus on the
Family. He has appeared on numerous broadcasts, including Focus
on the Family, and conducts stepfamily conferences and ministry
training around the country. He and his wife, Nan, live with their
three boys in Arkansas. Article reprinted with permission.
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