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Volume 5 Number 32       August 30, 2000       Norman Bales, Editor

CONTENTS

Just Visiting

In last week's newsletter, we began identifying specific problems children face when their parents divorce. Make no mistake about it, divorce is very difficult for children. Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation document the physical, emotional, academic, financial and social costs of the divorce epidemic in a recent study titled, "The Effects of Divorce on America." According to the study, the effects of divorce are intergenerational, "ranging from the lower earnings that children of divorce can expect as adults to the escalating cycle of family disintegration that they are likely to perpetuate." (reported by Katherine Kersten in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. July 26, 2000. We do not question the validity of these conclusions. Numerous other independent research projects have reached the same conclusion. However, the fact remains that we have an enormous number of children who are living with the reality of divorce. Is there anything that can be done for them? We believe there is, but parents need to understand what they are up against. That's the gist of today's feature article.

Norman and Ann

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HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH DIVORCE


Part Two: "Some Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children."

by Norman and Ann Bales

INTRODUCTION

In our last newsletter, we identified three myths that people believe about the effect of divorce on children. One of those myths perpetuates the fiction that children are resilient and bounce back in a few months without any negative consequences. Listed below are some of the actual long-term effects of divorce on children. 1. Children often accept responsibility for the divorce. Their feelings are not logical, but they think things like "If I had only cleaned up my room . . ." "If I had only been born a boy . . ." "If I would have made better grades in school . . ." They often carry the burden of guilt. Quite often parents don't even tell the children why they are getting a divorce. They think the children are too young to understand. This often has the effect of confusing the child. 2. Children often feel unloved. They reason, "If my parents had really loved me, they would have worked their problems out." It doesn't matter how many times a parent verbally affirms love or brings gifts on visitation days, the child bears a sense of resentment. A child may ask, "Why did my parents have children if they were going to divorce." 3. Divided Loyalty. Some divorced parents compete for the loyalty of their children. When they discuss the previous spouse with their children, they always cast them in the worst possible light. Children hear it from both sides and often feel confused. 4. Loss. Most, if not all children of divorced parents feel a sense of loss. Even in those families where life was difficult for the children, there were good times and those good times are firmly etched in the memories of the children. It can be compared to the death of a loved one. You remember the good things and block out the bad things. With the death of the loved one, we can eventually adjust because we know the deceased person will not return from the grave. In the case of divorce, the other person is still alive and it's harder to let go of the allusion that it's over. 5. Insecurity. Many young children experience separation anxiety. They will cling to their mothers when left at a day care facility. They cannot bear the sight of having their mother leave. Some try to deny their insecurity by claiming to be happy all the time. Some develop fantasies. One therapist spoke of talking with a little girl who claimed that her daddy slept in her bed every night. These are all symptoms of a fear that parents will go away and never return. 6. Anger. The two people who were supposed to love the children more than anyone else deserted them. Life is more complex than it used to be. Grownups are acting like children. A stranger who moves into the house to take the place of their birth parent may further complicate the children's lives. Anger may be expressed in numerous ways - non-cooperation, withdrawal, fits or rage, rebellious behavior. Some may show physical symptoms - headaches, stomach problems, frequent feverishness etc. We are now ready to take a more positive approach and offer some practical suggestions for divorced parents who are trying to raise children, but that will have to wait a week. NEXT WEEK: "Suggestions That Make Life Easier for Divorced Parents"
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SPIRIT: SKILLS AND PERSPECTIVES FOR INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS IN TRUTH

A WORLD COMMITTING SUICIDE

by Mikal Frazier, LMFT, LPC

"The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the world from suicide." -- T.S. Eliot (circa 1930) The pervasive exercise of divorce (dimly masking our selfishness) is a key player in Eliot's predicted collapse. There are indications that the rate of divorce may be slowing its ascent. Perhaps we are on the brink of beginning the rebuilding process. Anthropologists have told us that the family is the foundation of our western society, and that as the family deteriorates, our society will crumble. So what is the state of our nation? Economists are informing us of our present prosperity. To many this seems to be the end of the story. But is the lion sleeping? In Luke 12, Jesus tells about a man who seemed to think that his prosperity was the end of the story. As he assessed his generous crops he decided to build bigger barns and said, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." God's message countered: "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Following is the story on our foolishness: Substance abuse is rampant. Lawlessness abounds. Schools are no longer safe. Crack babies are born and abandoned. One-third of our children are born without the benefit of married parents. Each night in America 4 out of 10 children go to sleep without fathers in their home. Sixty percent of our children will spend some major part of their childhood without fathers. Oppositional and impulsive behaviors are on the increase. We are tied with Russia for having the largest percentage of our population incarcerated. In 1970 there were two major sexually transmitted diseases. Today there are 25 major sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In 1970 1 in 300 Americans had a curable, bacterial STD. Today l out of every 4 Americans has an incurable, viral STD. Young people are murdering their parents and themselves. Parents are murdering their children. The economic prosperity of America hardly tells the story. We are thriving. We can pay for our lawyers, addictions, divorces, infections and coffins for our dying children. But money is not a cure for the soul of the individual or the nation. For a long time, the powers that be tried to convince us that the social ills befalling America were in no way related to the breakdown of the family through divorce. A casual look at the evidence contradicts that fallacy. We have to hurt bad enough to want to do something different. Out of this pain was born the marriage education movement -- a plan to teach the skills, perspectives and core beliefs which strengthen the marital bond. The heart of the solution is a return to God's plan for the family -- a mother and father devoted first to God, then to one another, and together committed to raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6).

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PERCEPTIONS

"JOINED BY A PRAYER"

by Linda Winget

Our visits to the third world have dramatically impacted our attitudes toward people and their problems. We live in America, a nation whose material prosperity far overshadows that of many other people in the world. Linda Winget recently went to Honduras with a group of Americans from Minden, Louisiana and helped build a house for a family who lives there. I have been to Honduras and I have seen cardboard boxes that serve as dwelling places for families. It's hard to put out of your mind. In Honduras Linda and her friends bonded with a woman named Norma. They were all blessed by the house building project. You can read Linda's thoughts

at

http://www.allaboutfamilies.org/sh/percep200032.html

If you have questions about marriage and family relationships, you can "ASK THE COUNSELOR." Address your questions to Mikal Frazier. Her address is mikal@allaboutfamilies.org

Norman's e-mail address: nlbales@allaboutfamilies.org

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