Raising Children in a Family that Doesn't Share Your Values
- Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Pioneer parents grew up in homes they don’t want to duplicate. Whether your upbringing was lacking key Christian values, or included various forms of abuse, brokeness, or dysfunction, you’ve struggled to parent differently than how you were raised. You’ve read parenting books, examined your own issues, and done your best to ensure your children won’t have to deal with the dysfunction you experienced growing up.
But what happens when your parents want a relationship with your children, particularly if your parents have not dealt with their own issues? And what if the influence they have in your children’s lives is negative or even harmful? How do you foster some sort of positive relationship between children and grandparents while still protecting your children?
As a pioneer parent, I’ve wrestled with these questions. Maintaining a good relationship with grandparents (or even other relatives) while protecting our children is no easy task, particularly because it involves navigating a minefield of negative emotions. Saying no to a parent who may still be unsafe emotionally may cause hurt in an important relationship. But saying yes may damage our children.
What can pioneer parents do to protect their children?
• If you are a person of faith, pray. Pray for the visits, that your children would be protected, wise, and carefree.
• Overcome your fears. If you live your life in constant fear, you may end up protecting your children so much, they could miss out on an important relationship.
• Ask good questions. Instead of yes or no questions, ask children how their visit went. "What did you like best about your trip to Grandpa’s house?" or "If you could change anything about the visit, what would it be?" Open-ended questions help you to probe about the visit without coming across as harsh or judgmental.
• Keep things out in the open between you and grandparents. It’s difficult to express expectations to grandparents. Do it anyway. Tell relatives sleeping schedules, food allergies, and what type of media you permit your children to watch. If there is someone who habitually drinks and drives, you must say, "My children are absolutely not allowed to ride in the car with you."
However much you want to preserve the relationship between your children and their grandparents or other relatives, there are times when you must limit visits. There are several reasons why parents would limit contact:
• Relatives battling substance abuse
• Relatives who have sexually abused others
• Relatives with extreme views (extreme racism, occultic activity)
• Relatives with a pornography addiction (particularly if it’s in plain sight)
• Relatives who have habitually broken the law
• Relatives who are careless or neglectful and have difficulty remembering the importance of supervision
• Relatives with a bent toward cruelty
Yes, it is extremely uncomfortable to say to a relative, "Aunt Martha, I can’t let you stay with the children. I love you very much, but I can’t trust you’ll take care of them properly," but you must. It is your job as a parent to protect your children no matter how much you’ll hurt someone else’s feelings.
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