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Miranda Writes: The Brady Bunch Doesn’t Live Here Anymore! Part 3




by Omar Miranda



We’ve been talking about divorce for the past two weeks. This week we’re going to learn about the things people need in order to be emotionally healthy. We’ll also discover how going through a divorce negatively affects those basic needs that people have.

Then we’ll talk about the issue that nobody wants to talk about. Now, divorce is an ugly word, but in many respects and to a lot of teens the next word is even worse. “What’s the word?” you ask. OK, I’ll tell you, but don’t get mad at me! The word is remarriage. I know, I know. It’s not easy to talk about, but talk about it we must.

Abraham’s Hierarchy of Needs

A long time ago there was a guy named Abraham Maslow. He studied what motivates people to do a lot of the things they do, and he also studied what types of things people need in order to be emotionally healthy and thrive. Let me share with you some of what he found out. The triangle you see below is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and he proposed this in 1943. It starts at the bottom and goes up to the top. Take a look at it, and then we’ll discuss it in more detail.

Here are some things to keep in mind:


""Notice that the triangle looks like a ladder or stairs and begins—as most ladders and stairs do—at the bottom. The most basic and tangible needs are at the bottom, but notice what happens as a person progresses to the top: the needs stop becoming tangible and become more intangible—that is, they become less about getting and more about becoming. Now, Abraham Maslow was a big-time secular humanist. In fact, in 1967 the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year. I would say that makes Maslow the poster boy for humanism, wouldn’t you?

Humanism is a word we’ve used before, but just to be sure you know what it is, I’ll explain it again. Basically, a humanist believes that everything we need to live an awesome life—including perfecting ourselves—we can find solely in ourselves. Humanists tend to believe that “what the mind can conceive the person can achieve,” and they also tend to believe that we as humans are basically good and can get better—not worse—if we just focus and put our minds and wills to it. However, as Christians, we know better. The Bible tells us clearly that we are getting not better, but worse, and that as sinners we were clearly never good, but were born sinful, and everything we say, do, and think is sinful. The only answer for us is not us, but something outside of ourselves—Someone, to be exact, and that Someone is Jesus. Maslow believed that the ultimate stop on the last rung of his hierarchy was total perfection—something he called “self-actualization.” But the only way that we will ever be self-actualized is through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we can get the Holy Spirit from only one source . . . and it’s not Abraham Maslow . . . or ourselves, for that matter. Maslow was a pretty smart guy and a keen observer of human behavior, but we have only one Savior, and His name is Jesus Christ! I hope you know Him and have accepted Him as your only escape from this evil, miserable world and life and allowed Him to give you peace, hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Sorry, there I go preaching again.

Maslow believed, as do I, that a person cannot move up the triangle to get their emotional and spiritual needs met if they cannot first get their most basic physiological “lower” needs met. Therefore, some people stuck in abusive or neglectful family situations never learn to have good self-esteem or good social skills, because they’re stuck in the lower needs just trying to get what they can to keep themselves alive!

Say a teen lives in a home in which both Dad and Mom work full-time and money isn’t a problem. Or maybe just one parent works full-time. If the family goes through a divorce and either Mom or Dad moves across town or to another state or country, what do you think will happen to that teen’s physiological and/or security needs? Do you think their needs will be fully met? Let’s hope so, but many times this isn’t the case, even when the state tries to help by passing laws known as “deadbeat dad” laws to ensure that people pay child support for the children who have been left in the wake of a nasty or “friendly” divorce.

Either way, I’ve known kids who were doing great at school, even making straight A’s, and then went through a divorce. All of a sudden their grades did a nosedive or they dropped out of school altogether! Sometimes this happens because teens can become depressed or have any number of other emotional problems (as we discussed last week), but many times their grades suffer because those teens just don’t have the emotional or physical energy to do their schoolwork when they and their parents are trying to figure out how they’re going to buy groceries for that week or stay safe in the cheaper place they’ve had to move into. Divorce has lots of different levels and results that people usually don’t think about until it’s too late.

Blended families

The following article, entitled “Portraits of a Stepfamily,” by Natalie Nichols Gillespie, appears on Focus on the Family’s Web site www.TroubledWith.com. It covers different kinds of stepfamilies and offers tips for getting along:

Statistics show that “approximately 1300 new stepfamilies are formed every day in the U.S., and it’s predicted that by 2010 there will be more stepfamilies in the U.S. than any other type of family.”* A look at different types of stepfamilies can highlight the unique challenges each stepfamily may encounter.

Portrait no. 1: Husband with children marries never-married, no-kids wife.
Dads who remarry often expect their new brides to assume a similar role to their former wife. The new wife, on the contrary, steps into the marriage ready for romance and quality time together as a couple. Instantly filling the role of wife is challenge enough; being interim Mom is often overwhelming. Wives in this situation often feel frustration and disillusionment when they are handed someone else’s kids to care for (and the kids don’t like it, either!).

In this scenario, Dad must step up to the plate and handle the disciplining of his children to avoid conflict with his new wife. He should also teach the kids to treat their stepmom with respect and talk through (or even write down) household duties with his new wife until a fair arrangement is reached.

Portrait no. 2: Wife with children marries no-kids husband.
Entering this marriage, Mom’s relief at having a new partner in life might result in her handing off too many responsibilities to her new husband. The kids, then, usually will rebel. They have a dad (or had one); they don’t think they need a new one. Tread lightly with any stepparent administering discipline. Biological parents are the ones who should handle rules and punishments, at least initially.

This couple needs to bond and show solidarity to the children. The wife must be careful not to shut out her new husband in favor of her children. Avoid inside jokes with the kids and subtle put-downs that would cause the kids to disregard their new stepfather altogether. There is a fine line between handling the discipline and devaluing the husband’s position in the home. Require children to show the same respect for their stepdad that they would any teacher, law enforcement officer, or other adult in authority. Don’t try to force love.

Portrait no. 3: Divorced mom with kids marries divorced dad with kids.

This type of stepfamily may seem to come with the most hurdles to overcome initially, but has potential to be the most successful makeup because Mom and Dad are motivated to pull together for the kids. Kids, however, experience the most loss when their parent marries someone with children. Access to their biological parent must now be shared by not just the new spouse but also by other children. Their physical space is shared with a stepparent and stepsiblings. New cities, new home, new school and new roommate are also common changes when families join. And, some children must face the end of their dream of their parents reuniting.

The first two years in any stepfamily, but especially this type, are crucial. Expect conflict and extend grace—lots of it. There will be different relationships between members of this type of stepfamily, different levels of intimacy, connection, and love between stepsiblings and between children and stepparents. Don’t worry; that’s normal.

Portrait no. 4: Widow or widower with kids remarries.
When a family experiences the loss of a beloved spouse and parent, the new spouse/stepparent will inevitably confront the “ghosts of family past.” On some level, grieving continues for years after the death of a spouse.

This stepfamily needs to make sure it is taking steps to heal from their grief in order for the new family to unite. Rather than trying to assume a parental role, the successful stepparent in this situation will step into the role of friend and mentor. Family members can honor their loved one with photographs and memories, but erecting a shrine and idolizing their past prevents intimacy with the new spouse and stepparent. Establishing common ground and moving forward together is difficult but possible.

Portrait no. 5: Divorced or widowed parents of adult children marry.
Even if the children have left the nest, remarried couples with children still qualify as stepfamilies. Due to a lack of daily interactions, bonding and connecting may be more difficult. Many relationships will be strained for years or may never achieve any level of intimacy. Stepparents and stepchildren can make an effort to connect through cards, letters, phone calls, emails and family get-togethers.

Unique issues to this stepfamily may include establishing healthy grandparenting relationships and inheritance tension. Family fears can be alleviated by communication and a welcoming love. Distributing family keepsakes ahead of time or deciding how you will distribute your property can ease some of the tensions related to inheritance.

No matter what type of stepfamily yours may fall under, with the right resources and the help of God, family, and friends, your stepfamily can find encouragement and hope.

*http://www.successfulstepfamilies.com/view.php/id/24

Copyright © 2004 Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Used by permission.

Regardless of what type of makeup your blended family has, chances are that you’re going to have to get used to many new things living in a blended family—and that’s always difficult. It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t give up hope. God can heal the wounded heart and make good things come from bad.

Next week we’ll finish up our discussion of stepfamilies and cover the importance of getting along with new stepparents and stepsiblings. We’ll also discuss the importance of clarifying new family expectations/dynamics and dealing with anger/jealousy/favorites in stepfamilies.

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor
Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.

 





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