If you are in a dysfunctional marriage and have children, you have a dysfunctional family. Few things cause as much pain, anguish, anger, guilt, fear, anxiety, and frustration as seeing your children hurting. You want good things for your children. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”(Matthew 7:9)
Yet due to the dysfunction in the home, you may find yourself doing or allowing things that you are ashamed to admit hurt your children. Each of the following things directly touches on typical problem areas with children in dysfunctional families.
Follow this list of “dos and don’ts” in order to take care of your children.
Don’t assume you understand what is going on with your children; instead ask open questions. It is easy to assume why your child is acting a certain way, but there are a lot of feelings and reactions in a dysfunctional family that affect the way children act and you aren’t a mind reader. Here are some examples:”What are you thinking?” “Why did you do that?” and “What is bothering you?” You give your child a chance to speak truth and you get information about your child.
Don’t use labels; instead, describe the behavior. Labels are confining and shaming. They stick children with images that shape their future behavior and self-esteem. It doesn’t help your child to do better, because it doesn’t define what needs to change. With all of the emotional intensity in a difficult marriage, it is easy to resort to pressuring your child to change with shame-based labels rather than taking the time to teach about behavior, but it isn’t in your child’s best interest.
Don’t break promises; instead, keep the promises you make. Dysfunctional families have lots of ups and downs and promises tend to get broken. Even if your spouse doesn’t keep a promise, you keep your part. And as much as possible, keep schedules and routines. Dysfunctional families are filled with distrust and inconsistency. Children need consistency to feel secure. Do your part to make them secure.
Don’t rely on your children to meet your emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational needs; instead, figure out ways to take care of yourself. Children do not need to carry a parent. The tendency is for a lonely or troubled parent to go to a mature, responsible child to talk or to have the child take care of things around the house. Encourage your child to be a child; find an adult to talk to; and don’t let your child assume adult responsibilities.
Don’t use your child as a go-between to your spouse; instead,keep your child out of your relationship with your spouse. With the relationship problems, come communication problems. Whether your spouse is angry, sarcastic, withdrawn, punitive, passive, abusive, indirect, or rude, you probably don’t like communicating with him/her. The way many dysfunctional parents solve this is to use the child to communicate for them. They send the child to bring messages to the other spouse. The problem with this is that the dysfunctional communication continues, it is just directed at the child and makes the child the recipient of all the negative toxicity and emotions. Don’t use your child as a mediator or go-between. Take the responsibility to communicate with your spouse without bringing your child into it.
Don’t dump your toxic emotions on your child; instead,take care of your own toxic emotions. The tendency of all human beings is to displace their negative emotions onto someone else. In dysfunctional families, an unhappy spouse is often an unhappy parent. If your spouse is angry with you, you will likely be angry with your children. If your spouse puts you in a bad mood, you will show your children your bad mood and direct it at them. This isn’t fair to your children who assume that they did something wrong to make you feel the way you do. Find a way to deal with your toxic emotions, so you can have a relationship with your children that reflects how you really feel about them-and it isn’t the way you feel about your spouse.
Don’t ignore their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational needs; instead, prioritize their needs even if your spouse doesn’t. It isn’t uncommon for dysfunctional parents to be so consumed with their own marital problems that they ignore the needs of their children in extreme or subtle ways. Your children need you to be a good parent and they need all their needs met. You need to purpose to pay attention to your children by forcing yourself to take your mind off the marital problems. Look at your child and assess what the needs are and then figure out how to meet them, whether your spouse does or not. And don’t be afraid to tell them about God and pray with them. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite to show them a relationship with God just because your marriage isn’t good and you aren’t perfect.
Don’t ignore verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse; instead, protect them from abuse. If your spouse is abusing you, then he/she is probably abusing the children in the same way. It can be difficult to manage this dilemma, because protecting them may mean leaving the relationship and that brings additional problems. It certainly means that you need to get educated about the abuse and find a way to set boundaries. It also means you may not be able to leave your children alone with your spouse. One of the problems with an abusive spouse is that in a divorce, you have to prove the abuse to keep the parent from getting his/her share of custody. This isn’t an easy dilemma and you will probably need professional help to maneuver it.
Even if you can’t change everything in your dysfunctional family, you can change the way you take care of your children in the midst of the dysfunction.
Next, if you need more practical tips and Biblical truths to help you change your relationships, get my FREE “15-Day Relationship Challenge” designed to give you back the power over your life. Just click here: http://www.Free15dayChallenge.com