NCCW Works To End Domestic Violence

By Cathy Jarboe Domestic violence is largely a women’s issue – 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. In fact, every nine seconds a woman is beaten in the US. Thus, since you began reading this, […]

Stress and Family Life

By Tony Garascia The Nature of Stress and Trauma Stress is an everyday part of life. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, from the relatively small stress of making sure our children have their homework done to the much larger issues surrounding watching a parent who is in the military deploy to a combat […]

Beyond “Bless Us O Lord”, What Does Family Prayer Look Like?

by Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck

Our nine-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son had been having a terrible weekend together. Liam was annoyed with Teenasia’s constant singing. Teenasia said Liam was chewing with his mouth open on purpose. Liam took more than his share of chips for lunch; Teenasia allegedly never got in trouble for anything. Their list of complaints became shriller with every passing hour. Finally, on Sunday morning, my husband and I left them unsupervised in the mudroom to put on their jackets for Mass and a screaming match ensued. Mass would begin in ten minutes, and we were already a couple minutes behind. But as I looked at their angry faces, I knew I couldn’t ignore this moment. I told Liam and Teenasia to join hands with the other kids and we were going to have a quick family prayer. In the prayer, I thanked God for sending Liam and Teenasia into our family. I said there was a reason God had chosen for them to be brother and sister and prayed that both of them would be open to God’s grace to be the best big brother or younger sister that they could be.

Once the family was loaded in the van, I said we were going to drive to church without talking, so that Liam and Teenasia could both pray the Hail Mary silently.

Parents who integrate prayer into daily life give their children the gift of a relationship with God that is constant and accessible. Praying about regular life problems and successes helps children to form a context for a faith that could otherwise feel removed and mysterious. For Liam and Teenasia that particular day, my husband and I noticed that each of them made a conscious effort to stop the bickering after church. Later that night, Liam approached Teenasia and said he’d read out loud with her before bed. Will this be the end of sibling rivalry for them? Certainly not. But hopefully, having them pray together in difficult times is laying the groundwork for an understanding that all relationships are gifts from God.

Looking for ways to build more prayer into your family’s life? Here are a few ideas:

• Create a tradition that incorporates prayer: “Each year, during Lent, we do outdoor Stations of the Cross with another family,” said Jamie, father of four. “We either have a picnic or go out for a fish fry afterward. The kids love that it’s a tradition unique to our family.”

• If it’s an important day – pray for it! “When a child has an important day in our family, we gather together in the morning, put our hands on that child and each person gives a blessing,” said Jen, mother of three. “Whether it’s a big test or tryouts for a sport or a birthday, we begin the day by talking to God about it.”

• Road trips start with prayer: “Once the van is packed and everyone is buckled in, we say an Our Father or a Hail Mary for our trip,” said Bill, father of four. “My wife or I will pray out loud for safe travels and also for the people we might be going to visit, or that we learn something from the trip.”

• Service can be prayer in action: “We serve at a meal program once a month,” said Henry, father of three. “When we do this, our kids are taken out of their comfortable world and get to experience living the Gospel values.”

• Jump-start your own prayer life: It’s difficult to pass on a spirit of prayer if that’s not where you are personally. If you feel that your whole family is lacking spiritually, begin by giving prayer a place in your own life. Children will learn by osmosis. “I can tell when I need to pray more. I become more irritable and worried,” said Amy, mother of three. “When my children see me taking time to go to daily Mass or Adoration, or reading spiritual books, they recognize it’s important and it makes a difference.”

TRAIL MAP TIPS FOR STEPFAMILY SUCCESS

1. Understand two critical realities. Making a stepfamily work well is a process. It also takes time.

2. Take time to live alone as a single after divorce or the death of a partner. Develop and maintain a solid network of family and friends. Start school, move into a new job, or do whatever it takes to move toward a long-awaited dream you’ve always held. Take risks that lead to restoring your ability to trust others. Beware of that first intense relationship and realize that, quite likely, this person is your transition person and not necessarily the one you’ll end up marrying. However, it can be a vital relationship for rebuilding self-confidence and selfrespect, as well as learning how to b ewith someone again.

3. Take time before you commit and prepare wisely. Resolve and heal former relationships. Learn information about stepfamily living. Help your children grieve their changed family situation with family discussions and therapy so they can better adjust to stepfamily living.

4. Clarify your relationship with your former spouse. Peaceful relationships help your children move between two households. Effective coparenting and minimizing loyalty conflicts for children only works when the original relationship is reasonably healthy.

5. Dealing with discipline will be your greatest challenge. The first hurdle is dealing with discipline, so that you can present a “united front” to the children as soon as possible. Examine your parenting styles. Perhaps take parenting classes during courtship. Seek out skills and communication classes. Agree on approaches that respect everyone.

6. Examine and clarify boundary issues early. Time, space, chores, and authority are issues to sort out early in the stepfamily journey so everyone is on the same page.

7. Disclose and discuss finances. Money discussions are best done before remarriage, because issues around money and other economic considerations are the second greatest challenge in the stepfamily.

8. Reduce children’s anxiety. Kids worry about their roles in the new family and may be confused. Many are angry about all the changes. Reduce their concerns by talking with them openly. Yes, they still have a good relationship with their other parent without it upsetting you or your new partner. No, they needn’t lose touch with their grandparents. Yes, they can they still see their old friends? Clear answers provide the reassurance youngsters need. New stepparents can assure children their intent is neither to replace their biological parent nor interfere in those relationships. Ask them how they view your role in their lives, listen well for guidelines, and watch for opportunities to build good relationships with them.

9. Participate in stepfamily education or counseling. Because stepfamilies differ from other families in so many ways, the more you learn in advance, the fewer struggles you’ll face later. Attend a stepfamily education class. Visit a therapist who’s savvy about stepfamilies and is trained in family systems – especially before marriage and in the early stages. It’s a
healthy family that seeks help to strengthen its family life.

10. Celebrate with a creative ceremony that includes the children. At the cutting edge of tradition, stepfamily weddings can help create a storehouse of memories that provide a strong foundation for your stepfamily. Everyone who wants to take part in a meaningful way can be encouraged to do so. A child might want to play the piano, sing a song, read a poem, or manage the guest book. Encourage your children to be a part in the ceremony but no one should be forced. If there’s resistance by a certain child, talk about it calmly to get to the bottom of what the child is feeling – it is usually unresolved divorce issues. A creative and joyful ceremony heralds your new beginning to friends and family and provides a positive start to what lies ahead.