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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Maggio

 

Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com.

What To Do When Your Child’s Friend is Struggling by Jennifer Maggio

 

I was 14 years old, when a dear friend’s father left her mother.  She was devastated.  The fighting had gone on for months. It had been tense at home, but she never imagined her parents would actually split.  We stayed up and cried together many nights in those first weeks and months.  We mourned the loss of the family that would never live in the same home again. We mourned what once was and what could now never be. I listened as she shared her pain and fears of what would eventually happen and how life would never be the same. Her pain became my pain.  I just wanted to help her heal, and mostly, I just felt helpless.

My mother died when I was only 18 months old, so I knew the trauma of living without both parents all too well.  I knew the financial challenges that would likely lie ahead for her family, the parties or church events where it would hurt that both parents were not present, and the endless questions that would one day come from well-meaning friends asking where the “other” parent was. Through the years, God placed beautiful, loving, adults in my life that helped me successfully navigate the hurt of losing a parent, the trauma of living with an alcoholic, and more.  Those adults included relatives and family friends, teachers and coaches, and parents of some of my best friends.  Their parents became my parents in so many ways. Even now, as I think of all of my friends’ parents and how they acted as “mom” in my life through critical parts of my story, I am moved to tears. 

Nothing is worse than when, as adults, we see a child is struggling, especially if you are a parent. If an adult has some type of hurt, trauma, disappointment, or a devastating circumstance, of course, it’s bad, and we sympathize. (Hopefully, we move forward to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, too). But let’s face it. There’s just something special about a child – the beauty of what they could be, their innocence and sweet faces – that fills us with immense heartache when they are hurting.  So what do you do when your child has a hurting friend? How much is too much? How little is not enough? 

Just like when my friend was hurting oh so many years ago and the special parents of friends that were there for me through my own trauma, there are some real do’s and don’ts that will assist you in navigating this season with your child’s friends who may be experiencing the struggle of an absentee parent, death, poverty, a health issue, or more.

  1. Be there for your child first. As your child is there for his/her friend, you be there for your child. As you well know, it is an important life skill to learn to be a good friend to others, to learn to encourage others, and to sympathize when our friends are struggling. This circumstance is a perfect opportunity for your child to gain skills that will last a lifetime.  Open dialogue with your child about how they are feeling and what questions they may have, as well as ensure that if there is something serious or harmful happening, they know they can come to you. Be the support to your child, as he/she is the support to a friend.  This will allow you to gently guide them through appropriate responses, while also letting them know that the things that concern them, concern you.
  2. Be a listening ear.  Let your child know that you care.  Encourage conversation when the friend is over.  Ask questions to display concern, but also be hesitant to offer advice. There are multiple layers to a struggle, and depending on what the child is struggling with, there could be multiple sides to the story. As a trusted adult, your main focus should be on displaying love, care, and warmth to the child, and being a listening ear that can exhibit the love of Christ by simply being there.
  3. Don’t overstep your bounds.  While it is important that you are supportive and that your child and his/her friend know that you are there for them, it is also important that you honor and respect their parents’ (or guardians) position in their lives.  The struggles a child is facing could stem from challenges at home or circumstances that you do not fully understand or have comprehensive details on. It’s important that you recognize the authority figures in that child’s life (parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.) and respond with an attitude of honor and respect. Teach that child that it’s important to honor his/her authority.  (Caution: If the struggle the child is facing stems from suspected abuse, then it’s important that you notify appropriate parties and investigate.)
  4. Don’t try to fix it.  Life gets messy and problems get complicated, very quickly.  It isn’t our job to fix everyone and everything (although as moms we certainly think so, don’t we?)  I don’t know about you, but some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life have been through struggle and disappointment.  The same will likely be true for your child’s friend.  There are some life lessons that often come best through experience, pain, and struggle.  Struggles help us build resilience and a full dependence on the Lord.  We learn the value of perseverance. We grow in many areas. Be careful not to attempt the fixing.  Point them to the One who can fix it all. (Now, that’s not to say that baking some warm chocolate chip cookies or serving a great meal won’t go a long way to help heal them!)
  5. Do point the child to Jesus.  The deepest sorrows only our Healer can mend.  The largest mountains, our Savior can move. The tears shed are bottled up and stored (see Ps. 56:8).  He cares more than we ever could.  Continue to point the child in the direction of his/her Savior. This is a prime time to move forward in either strengthening his/her walk with the Lord or introducing him/her to our Savior.  Certainly, we want to be age appropriate with such discussions, but Jesus instructed us to come to him when we are weary. (See Matthew 11:28-30).
  6. Pray with and for the friend.  Take the time to pray together as a team. Let the child know that their trust can be in the Lord and the He offers peace that the world does not understand.  The more frequently we pray with and for our children (and their friends), the more embedded this becomes into their lives and personal walks with their Heavenly Father as they become teens and young adults. Take the time to lift up the needs to the Lord and trust that He will direct the paths. Exhibit how to pray.  Show them that even the toughest of problems, for which you have no answers or solutions, can be taken to the Lord, and He can provide a peace that just flows like a river through the situation. 

While the pain of a child is heartbreaking, it can be a time of great growth for all involved – you, your child, and the friend. While we cannot always understand they why, we can trust the Lord that He is always good and all-knowing and all-powerful to heal and rectify the pain.

Jennifer Maggio is an author to 4 books, wife of Jeff, and mother of 3 children.  She is passionate about helping women find their full potential in Christ.  She is a national speaker and Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Sure Signs of a Strong Marriage

By: Jennifer Maggio

            I sat with Becky as she shared with me the feelings of utter shock, horror, devastation, and heaviness she felt that Thursday morning.  She was shaking and tears steadily streamed down her face.  Her husband had just announced that he wanted a divorced after twenty years of marriage.  They had raised three children together. They had built a house – a home – together for over two decades.  Becky hadn’t worked outside the home since they married.  What would she do now for income? For companionship? It was a shock, to say the least.

            The next several weeks began a dialogue between she and her husband about what had been missing for some years.  It resulted in much pain, as the questions always were, Why didn’t we talk about this before? Why did it get to this point?  I wish I could tell you that Becky’s story is a rare one and that she was the only woman I knew with such hurt.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. Nearly 50% of today’s marriages will end in divorce or separation and researchers estimate that nearly 41% of all first marriages will end in divorce (2016 of the U.S. Divorce & Marriage Rates by Year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here).

            My husband has been such a joy in my life and our marriage has truly been a partnership over the last decade.  There are some things that we’ve learned through the years to dissect the health of your marriage.

  1. Communication. No topic should be off topic.  As life partners, the necessity of keeping an open line of communication is critical. As was with the case with my friend, Becky, as she and her husband began the divorce process, there were many topics that had been untouched for years. The inability to communicate openly, candidly, and honestly within in a marriage could be the death of the marriage.  Do you feel that there are topics that are best left alone in the marriage? Have you carried a past hurt from years ago about something your spouse said or did that you did communicate clearly on? Is there a need (emotionally, physically, etc.) that you have within the marriage that you have not communicated to your spouse? These are questions to consider as you evaluate your marriage.
  2. Conflict.  Conflict does not denote an unhealthy marriage. We are all different. We have challenges and different perspectives and old hurts, occasionally. These things make conflict pretty much inevitable. The key to a strong marriage is your ability to work through conflict. The necessity to have a game plan now (in the absence of conflict) is important to how you move forward.  Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.”  This does not mean that there will never be conflict. It means that we are blessed as we work towards keeping the peace.  As with point number 1, failing to communicate doesn’t mean that conflict isn’t there. It means you are unwilling to address it. The problem with that is, it festers.  Take the time to talk about the challenges and be willing to work through them.
  3. Financial Transparency.  As you’ve likely heard, money is one of the biggies when it comes to marital bliss or discourse. People always find it funny that my husband and I rarely buy each other gift’s for birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversary, and the like.  Early on in our marriage, we just decided that it wasn’t that important to us.  We usually will get a card for each other or a letter and there has been the occasional surprise, but for us, the financial goals we had established were more important than a trinket on the day of the event.  That said, this was a choice for us.  Many couples don’t have financial conversations. Usually, there is a primary financial handler who pays the bills and handles much of the finances.  That is certainly fine. However, it is necessary to be on the same page about who is spending what where, what financial goals you have as a couple, and what are considered reasonable and unreasonable expenses and extras. 
  4. Trust.  There is such peace that comes with trust. Years ago, I was in a relationship with a man I did not trust. He had broken my trust early on in the relationship and sadly, continued to make poor decisions for some years thereafter.  I can’t tell you, even today, why I took it for so long, but it was miserable, to say the least. Some of you today have gone through a particularly devastating part of your marriage that has caused broken trust.  The good news is, there is hope.  With two parties who are “all in” for their marriage, God can heal, restore, and redeem the broken places, including broken trust. Unlike that previous relationship, I don’t the need to constantly double-check my husband’s whereabouts, social media, or other details of his life. We have full transparency and I know he is honest, so I don’t have to operate in insecurity.  Trust is critical to the relationship. If you don’t have it, communicate about it, and begin the process of working towards what each of you have concerns about.
  5. Growth. We are never finished. A productive and healthy life means one full of growth in our spiritual journey with the Lord, our physical fitness, our financial stewardship, our parenting techniques, and….our marriages.  We grow in closeness. Healthy marriages are filled with individuals who are growing. There should be much grace during the growth process, as sometimes it can be challenging.  Commit to growing. What are the areas that you know are a struggle for you? Do you struggle with insecurity? Are you quick to anger? Do you talk calmly or tend to scream?
  6. Willingness.  A healthy marriage means two people who are willing to grow, willing to learn, willing to try, and willing to risk.  You cannot move the ball down the field if one person is unwilling to communicate, change, and persevere through the hard times. Healthy marriages are full of folks who are willing to do the hard work necessary to have one of the most fulfilling relationships on the planet. Healthy marriages don’t fall into our laps from outer space. They are birthed through willing hearts.
  7. Passion. The early years are often met with giggles and flirting and lots of sex. Through the children and health problems and maybe weight gain and complacency, many lose their zeal and passion for their spouse.  Togetherness, in a physical sense, is a critical component of a healthy marriage. Passion, of course, isn’t only exhibited through sex, rather through the pursuit. Do you write love notes? Do you send sweet texts? Do you hold hands or cuddle during television time? Do you laugh at his jokes? Do you hurry home and put on fresh makeup, because you can’t wait to see him at the end of a day? I’m certainly not suggesting that these things are a daily occurrence, as life does sometimes get in the way. But intention with date nights and kissing and doing the things that once were great fun can be just what your marriage needs to get back on track.
  8. Prayer. Do you pray for your spouse daily? Do you lift him up throughout the day as he struggles through that tough meeting or big project? Do you hold hands and pray together about the big (and small) issues of life? Do you commit to praying with the family on a regular basis? Prayer is the backbone of the marriage. It is the glue that binds you, when feelings are hurt and hearts are mending and anger is fuming. Prayer binds hearts, like nothing else can.
  9. Effort. Okay, so I admit it. I put much more effort into the early years of our marriage than I did after some years passed. And…it showed.  I wore the nightgown with the holes in it. I did fix my hair or maybe put on makeup or even sometimes ask my husband how his day was.  It began to convict me that I was putting very little effort into my marriage.  I took it for granted.  I hid behind how tired I was. But the truth is, I put effort into other things, like children’s projects and ministry plans and work and friend relationships. We have time for what we make time for. Don’t take your spouse for granted. What would life look like if he wasn’t there? Have there been times when you have not put much effort into the marriage.
  10. Fun. Have fun. Be spontaneous. Have a dance party in the living room. Sing karaoke on a weeknight. Laugh. Big time. Go hiking. Ride bikes. Exercise together. Try a new activity. Develop hobbies that you can do together.  This journey is supposed to be a fun one. Don’t make your marriage all work and no play.

 

Jennifer Maggio is author of four books, mother of three, and wife to Jeff. She is a national speaker and founder of the international nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an abuse survivor who is passionate about women finding a life of complete freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

 

 

 

10 Signs You Are Enabling Your Adult Child’s Bad Behavior (And How to Stop)

By: Jennifer Maggio

 

            The moment I gave birth to my 9 pound, brown-eyed, overly-chubby, bouncing baby boy, I was in love.  Like most moms, the joy of holding his soft hands in my arms and snuggling his sweet face into mine far outweighed the fears and worries that I knew would be part of our journey.  As a then single mom, I knew that the mountain we’d climb over the next twenty years or so would probably be harder than I could even imagine, but nonetheless, he was all mine and I couldn’t have loved him more.  I don’t know if was my youth (I was only 18), my single motherhood, my lack of a mother in my own life, or my parenting ignorance, or a perhaps a combination of all the above, but over the course of the next many years, I created a habit of enabling my son that took many years to break. 

 

            Like other enablers, I didn’t intend for that to be the case. I only wanted what was best for him.  But I think my guilt over the lack of his biological father in his life, or maybe just sheer exhaustion, created this ability to me to enable him.  Because of my own journey, I can now see with radar lenses the parent who is enabling their child’s bad behavior and how even the smallest of children can be enabled or encouraged, but rarely both. 

 

            The following are 10 signs you may be enabling your adult child.  Consider each.

 

  1. You accept responsibility for his failures.  We all fall short of God’s glory and thereby, we all will make mistakes, including our children. However, an enabling parent will internalize every mistake a child makes as somehow “our fault”.  We weren’t good enough as a parent.  We beat ourselves up that we constantly failed.  Now, that’s not to say that we haven’t made some parenting mistakes. Of course, we have.  But every failure our adult children have is not directly tied to them. 
  2. You are an endless supply of money for your adult child.  When I was 18, I became a mother.  I moved out. And I was never permitted to live in my family home again.  I bought a $500 car that broke down weekly, seemingly.  My dad’s only financial support was buying me a used mattress.  There would be some that would say that that was simply awful and how dare my dad treat me in such a way.  However, I have a different perspective.  My years of scraping pennies and knowing there wasn’t an endless supply of money at the ends of my dad’s wallet taught me much about managing money. It taught me stewardship and responsibility.  So, why do we think that we must be the solution for our adult children’s money problems?  I have seen parents exhaust savings accounts, forego retirement, and skip vacations to keep their adult children afloat.  What’s worse is that it often never ends!
  3. You are easily manipulated.  Do you believe everything your adult child tells you, although he/she hasn’t been honest in the past?  Did he/she “lose her wallet again?” Did he get fired, again, from that rude, unyielding boss because he’s so unfair? Sometimes the enablement of our adult children is worsened by our naiveté or ease of manipulation.  Be savvy. Be wise.  Be prayerful about when your adult child isn’t being honest with you.
  4. You frequently make excuses for his/her behavior. Is Johnny always late to functions? Does Madison always snap at guests and visitors?  Does he/she fail to sympathize with others’ pain or challenges?  No, it is not always because your adult child had a bad life.  Yes, they may have faced passed hardships, such as an absentee parent, trauma, death, abuse, or loss, but such occurrences aren’t a license to forever treat people poorly, or have you to constantly make excuses for their behavior. 
  5. You complete tasks your adult child should complete.  Wow, this list is endless.  Some items could include laundry, dishes, cleaning, taxes, school/college projects, or scheduling doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, and the like.  While none of these tasks, in and of themselves are life-altering, the trend of constantly taking care of tasks that your adult child should be handling is one that will leave you exhausted and he/she ill-prepared for the real world.
  6. You are exhausted.  Okay, so exhaustion can be spearheaded by countless reasons, included physical ailments, lack of sleep, stress, etc.  But the type of exhaustion I’m speaking of is in specific regards to your adult children. Is your task list much longer than it should be because you are handling much of their affairs? Are you emotionally worn out, because you spend time fretting and worrying about your adult child’s decisions and potential future consequences?  The constant to and fro of enabling an adult child wears on us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. If you hear your adult child’s name or see their number surface on your phone, do you immediately feel a sense of dread or overwhelm? If so, it is a good indicator that you are enabling your adult child.
  7. You are controlling his life.  I remember standing in the parking lot of my son’s high school chatting with another mother about our sons’ impending graduation.  The other mother made a comment, “I guess I’m going to have to go to college with XXX.  These extra assignments are killing me!”  I smiled and may have even laughed, but as I drove away, I was saddened for her.  I had once been there – completing projects and attempting to control every facet of my son’s decision-making.  It isn’t worth it.  We do our children no favors when we attempt to control their lives, their decision-making, their future selection of spouse, or their friends.  You won’t be around forever to control the outcome of every situation for your adult child.
  8. You allow your adult child to control your life.  This is just the opposite of the previous point.  Do you struggle with the freedom to enjoy your life, because you are so busy worried about your adult child? Do you forego vacations, because you worry that your adult child may need you while you are gone? Do you spend much of your time worrying about what your adult child is doing or who they are doing it with? The lack of healthy boundaries in an adult-child relationship that integrate control and manipulation are key indicators that enablement is transpiring.
  9. You have failed to prepare your adult child for the future.  You will one day pass away, as will we all.  Have you prepared your adult child to make decisions alone? Manage money well?  Parent his own children effectively one day?  Be the man of the home, leading in a Godly and way (or alternatively prepared your daughter for independence?
  10. You have failed to let go.  I am reminded of Proverbs 22:6’s instruction to train up a child in the way they should go.  The operative word here is Go. Go. Go.  It is our duty as parents to let them go. Give them the freedom and great opportunity of serving the Lord their God.  Allow them to discover life and all its riches and joys.  Allow them to fail and grow into better human beings, because of those failures.

 

So, what do you do when you read this list and the response is, “Yep, that’s me. Check. Check. Check.”?   The short story? There’s hope.  Confession time:  I’m a recovering enabler.  I spent far too much time on my child’s school projects. I was too interested in the sporting events and the winning at all costs.  I controlled doctor’s appointments and friend choices.  And guess what? I became flat-out, utterly, exhausted.  I had no time for my ministry, my husband, or me.  I had to learn to let it go.  As with many difficult decisions, it wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.  I have been parenting since I was 18 years old. I went straight from childhood to parenthood. I had never actually enjoyed my life, as an adult, apart from being a mother.  Yes, of course, you are always mom (or dad), but you are not always parenting.  Parenting ends with a season.  You can love your adult child, offer Godly counsel, when asked, and enjoy their company, but you can let go of the active parenting season, once they reach adulthood.

 

And guess what happened once I did?  It didn’t kill my adult child or me!  Our relationship strengthened, because life was no longer all about him.  I enjoyed the new-found freedom to go on vacation, pick up new hobbies, or not answer phone calls, when I wasn’t in the mood to talk.  Does he know I love him? Yep.  Is he better equipped to handle the rest or his life, once I finally let go?  Yep.  Did he always like the boundaries I implemented? No.  Does he still love me? You better believe it!

 

So, go moms. Be free. Enjoy your life as an empty nester. You’ve earned it.

 

 

Jennifer Maggio is author of four books, mother of three, and wife to Jeff. She is a national speaker and founder of the international nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an abuse survivor who is passionate about women finding a life of complete freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

               

 

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