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Donít Blame Yourself

R. Xavier Green and Karen Birkett Green

Don’t blame yourself. It’s common for children to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. The resulting feelings of guilt may cause you to believe that it’s your job to fix it by getting your parents back together. However, it is important to understand that you did not cause the divorce, nor is it your responsibility to get your parents back together again. Parents choose to divorce for many reasons. It is solely their choice—not their children’s.

Try not to get involved in the conflict. Many children of divorce find themselves caught up in their parents’ arguing and bitterness toward each other. While you can’t control how your parents act toward each other, you can ask them to try their best to call a truce in their bickering, especially in your presence.
 You can also ask them not to try to make you take sides, spy on the other parent, or carry messages and information between them. You should feel free to relate to each parent without the other feeling angry, bitter, resentful, or jealous, or without feeling that you have to carry a message or report to the other parent.
Take care of yourself. Divorce, like any other traumatic event, can be very stressful. You may experience sleepless nights, depression, and anger. It’s important to recognize these symptoms and to understand that they are normal reactions. However, it is beneficial to engage in activities that will help you relax and rejuvenate your mind and body.
Talk about the future. Lots of teens whose parents divorce worry about how their plans for the future might be affected. You may worry about which parent you are going to live with and the likely change in household finances as a result of the expenses of the divorce and the possible loss of one income. You may be concerned that there will be less money for college and other expenses you anticipate. Do not be afraid to talk to your parents about these concerns and formulate plans with them for your future. Remember that ultimately God is in control of your future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Seek the support of others. Talk about your feelings and reactions to the divorce with someone you trust. Friends and family members can provide an excellent support for you when you’re feeling down and upset. Seeking the help of professionals such as school counselors and pastors can also be helpful. Books such as The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor can offer some good advice.
Remember, no one cares and understands more than Jesus. Spend time in prayer and meditation. Find scripture, such as Psalms 90 and 91, that is especially uplifting for you and claim it as your own, inserting your name in it where possible. With God’s help you can get through this difficult time.
R. Xavier Green and Karen Birkett Green of Taylor,
Michigan, are counselors, freelance writers, and seminar presenters. They are founders of Zavkay Family Services.

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by Zipora Araujo

When I learned that my dad had been kidnapped and almost killed, I got upsetóeven though I hadnít spoken to him for six years.

At the end of a great spring break from boarding school, on Sabbath afternoon I sat on the couch by my mother and listened to her talk to my grandma on the phone. It’s pretty much a ritual at our house that on Sabbath afternoons we call our family members to find out how they’re doing. As my mom and grandma talked, I heard Mom ask about my dad, which seemed unusual.
My parents divorced when I was 11, and I hadn’t spoken to my father since then. The reason I stopped talking to him wasn’t because my mom no longer allowed me to talk to him. I was scared of him, because of everything he’d done to Mom and me while they were married.
When my mother finished talking to my grandma, I asked her, “What’s going on with Dad?”
At first she wouldn’t tell me. Then she explained that my father had been kidnapped and held for a couple of months. The kidnappers took all his money. Then they almost killed him, so he wouldn’t report them to the police. After they left him for dead, someone finally found my dad and took him to the hospital, where he’d been staying for the past three months. The medical staff wasn’t sure if he was going to live or die.
After my mom told me all that, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to know more about what had happened, but I was still very afraid to talk to my dad. So I decided to call his brother, my uncle, whom I hadn’t talked to for more than six years.
After dialing his number, my hands shook and my heart beat rapidly. I feared my uncle’s reaction when he heard my voice. I thought he might be rude and not want to tell me anything.
When someone answered the phone, I asked for my uncle. My hands shook, and I felt like  crying. I really didn’t know what to say.
“Hello, hello?” my uncle said into the phone.
I couldn’t speak.
“Hello?” he said again.
I was shaking.
“Hello, this is Zizi,” I mumbled. I thought he might hang up or make me feel bad for rejecting his family for the past six years. To my surprise, he sounded very happy to hear from me.
“Zizi, I have missed you,” he said, “and I love you very much!”
Hearing that made me feel sad for the distance that I’d kept for so long.
We talked for a while, until I felt comfortable enough to ask if my dad was OK.
My uncle told me about some of the things that had happened to my dad. Then he stopped and started telling me how much my dad missed me. We reminisced about all the good memories he had of me when I was little. He said my dad was sorry for everything he had done.
As the memories of some good times came to mind, I started crying. My heart felt as if it were breaking. I realized that I’d rejected the fact that I had a father, because I couldn’t forgive him for all the hurtful things he’d done to Mom and me.
Dad called
The next day I returned to boarding school.  Mom called me there to tell me that my dad had called for me at home. “I told him that you had already left to go back to school,” she explained.
I ran up to my dorm room, crying uncontrollably. I did want to talk to my dad and find out how he was, but I felt scared that he might hurt me again.
I’m still afraid to speak to my dad. People always say to forgive and forget. I’m working on the forgiving part, and it has been difficult. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget.
At least now I know my dad is doing fine. I’ve also come to realize that my dad’s family still loves me and cares for me, and I know that they aren’t to blame for what happened.
Now I occasionally pray for my dad. For six years I couldn’t pray for him, because he wasn’t a part of my life anymore. I admit that the space he once filled in my life is still empty. So far nothing has been able to fill it. I don’t consider him as my father, I just refer to him as “Dad” when I’m telling someone something about him, to make it easier to explain.
I now have a great stepdad that I love and respect so much. He is a wonderful person—he’s the father I never had before. I thank God for him every day, yet he can’t fill the space a real father would.
I would love to be able to tell my friends about great memories that I had with my dad—how he’s seen me grow from birth to now. I wish he could watch me excel in life, thanks to the things he taught me—but I can’t say that about him. How I wish I could.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I now know that during my struggle with my family’s situation, God has always been my rock and given me the support and comfort I’ve needed, even though at times I didn’t think He cared.
I believe God still has a plan “B” for my life. Through it all God has proven to me that the past doesn’t have to determine my future.

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