Srping 2015 | Volume 24, Number 2 Musings from Silver Spring with Claudio Consuegra
When Your Child Divorces
Divorce has become both a commonplace and a complex occurrence for many children today. According to the website “Children and Divorce,”1 the statistics are startling:
- 50% of all North-American children will witness the divorce of their parents. Almost half of them will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage. (Furstenberg and others -Life Course-)
- One out of 10 children of divorce experiences three or more parental marriage breakups. (Gallagher -The Abolition of Marriage)
- 40% of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. (Wade, Horn and Busy, -Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform, Hudson Institute Executive Briefing, 1997)
- 50% of all the children born to married parents today, will experience the divorce of their parents before they are 18 years old. (Fagan, Fitzgerald, Rector, -The Effects of Divorce On America-)
Much research has been done on the effects of divorce on children. Even adult children experience the consequences of the divorce of their parents. What we also need to realize is that when it’s your child who’s going through divorce, you go through some of the same pain your child does, and sometimes even more.
Claire Berman wrote, “For the past six years, Sue and Stan Howard have been going through a tough divorce. During that time, they’ve spent ‘an outrageous amount of money’ on legal fees; suffered many a sleepless night over custody and visitation concerns; been forced to reschedule business and social appointments to accommodate the vagaries of court calendars. And yet Sue and Stan recently celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. It is the breakup of the marriage of their daughter that has turned their lives upside down.”2
The emotional strings to your child’s spouse, and particularly to your grandchildren, cannot be easily severed without leaving deep scars and without changing entirely the dynamics in the family. You may be asking yourself one or more of these questions:
- What did I do wrong?
- How can I help emotionally?
- How can I help financially?
- How do I deal with my child’s ex-spouse?
- What if my child moves back home?
- What relationship will I have with my grandchildren?
While we cannot answer all these questions in the space we have, we wish to share just a few ideas:
- Show your support for the divorcing child. In some instances, parents are relieved that a divorce allows their child to escape a bad relationship, but others may feel depressed, angry, fearful, and even guilty if they believe that they haven’t done enough to prevent the split. Your child is your child forever, and you need to show some loyalty, even though that does not mean that you agree with what they have done.
- Try not to alienate your child’s ex. You have to maintain a balance between supporting and encouraging your child (even if they are at fault), and at the same time not alienating your son- or daughter-in-law (even if it’s their fault). Avoid badmouthing either one, particularly to their children.
- Hone in on your grandchildren’s needs. While grandparents can’t replace parents, you can give your grandchildren a sense of stability and a reminder that they belong to a larger family network.
- Offer divorcing children financial and practical help, but do it very carefully. Gestures of love and support are appropriate, but you must take care not to engender long-term, unhealthy dependency. If they need to borrow money from you, negotiate flexible repayment schedules. Having a target date for a child to move into his or her own place again can encourage renewed independence after divorce.
It is one thing when we have our children and we are trying to raise them, train them, teach them, and disciple them. However, when they are old enough to make their own decisions, they continue to be our children and yet we have little, if any, control over what they do. In this issue of Family Life we will explore some of the challenges of parenting adult children and how we can help parents deal with them.
1http://www.children-and-divorce.com/children-divorce-statistics.html (accessed 7-30-15)
2http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/26/son-daughter-divorce_n_3658605.html (accessed 7-31-15)From the Editor with Jeffrey O. Brown
Caring for Christ’s Legacy
Using the theme Building Family Memories: Leaving a Spiritual Legacy, guest presenters Dr. Scott Stanley and Pastor Roger and Kathy Hernandez, at the 2016 Adventist Conference on Family Research and Practice held at Andrews University, were nothing short of outstanding. They spoke about modeling not a perfect marriage, but a committed marriage; not sinlessness in singleness, but holiness in singleness. Dr. Stanley punctuated presentations based upon his profound research with some memorable lines taken from parent-child interactions: “Commitment is making a choice to give up other choices.” “You fall in love with the front end of the puppy. But every puppy has a back end...” “If you didn’t want to be improved, you shouldn’t have gotten married” (Mrs. Nancy Stanley). “Why do you always say no, Son?” “Because yes takes too much time” (7-year-old Luke Stanley).
Roger and Kathy Hernandez appealed to us to research the roots, reject the myths, and reverse the curse with regards to family life. Stating that the gospel frees us from the desire for control, they postulated that the gospel works best when we “out-submit each other.” They inquired, “Where can we find grace?” Certainly not in sports, work, or school. They concluded that grace should be found in the church.
While we are called to leave an enduring legacy for our children, Christ has left a surprising legacy for His. Ellen White stated, “It is to provide these opportunities that God has placed among us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering. They are Christ’s legacy to His church, and they are to be cared for as He would care for them. In this way God takes away the dross and purifies the gold, giving us that culture of heart and character which we need.”1
Christ’s legacy is not only supplying grace for us, but also producing grace in us. We are surrounded by persons of differing social experiences in order that our lives of compassion may reveal to them the incomparable grace of Christ. First class seminars brought us face to face with “Christ’s legacy... to be cared for as He would care for them,” as we dealt with topics such as domestic violence, sexual misconduct, and sexual addiction. Seminary professor and therapist Peter Swanson led out in “Homosexuality: A Quest for Answers.” We were introduced to groups such as Transgender, Gender Dysphoria, Transsexual, Transvestite, Intersex, and Gender Queer... all of them Christ’s legacy to the church.
A 2012 U.S. survey of the attitudes toward the church held by young “outsiders,” aged 16-29, was conducted by faith researchers David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. The poll found that 70% believed the church was “insensitive to others,” 75% said it was “too political,” 78% percent said it was “out of touch with reality,” 85% said it was “hypocritical,” 87% said it was “judgmental,” and 91% said it was “antihomosexual.”2 Our young adult children are asking us to listen to them.
Psychiatrist Carlos Fayard speaks about the conclusion of his experience with one gay person:
“[Joe] remained a self-identified single gay man and religious conservative — and he became celibate... This clinical case example provides some ideas as to how pastors and therapists might help individuals who struggle with same sex attraction yet choose a celibate lifestyle as the result of religious convictions... It would appear that some Christian churches have difficulties in assimilating and welcoming those who, for various reasons, remain on the margins: from the poor in affluent churches, to immigrants in Anglo churches, to the single and shy in any spiritual community, to individuals struggling with same-sex attraction in churches that consider the Bible to be authoritative. This means that we ourselves have some soul searching to do. Do we, as a community, want to be known in the way Jesus was?”3
The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, it is holiness. The opposite of condemnation is not condoning, it is compassion. To Christians who profess to be homosexual (or heterosexual) and who practice promiscuity, God requires a change of behavior; to Christians who profess to be heterosexual (or homosexual) and who practice condemnation, God requires a change of attitude. God requires the one to replace helplessness with holiness, and the other to replace condemnation with compassion.
To those who sincerely desire a change of behavior, comes a word of encouragement: “He who steadfastly adheres to the principles of truth has the assurance that his weakest points of character may become his strongest points. Heavenly angels are close by him who strives to bring his life into harmony with God and His holy law. God is with him as he declares, ‘I must overcome the temptations that surround me, else they will drive Christ from my heart.’ He combats all temptation and braves all opposition. By the strength obtained from on high, he holds in control the passions and tendencies which, uncontrolled, would lead him to defeat.”4
To those who sincerely desire a change of attitude, comes a word of exhortation: “Many claim to love God while they fail to cherish love toward their brethren; but genuine love to God will testify to its real existence by love to our fellow-men. Those who love God will reveal the tender, compassionate spirit of Jesus to all that are around them. But not to any class is Christ’s love restricted. He identifies Himself with every child of humanity. That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family. He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam. His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints.”5
My elder brother died. In his will we found out that he had left his children to me. I was shocked. I was single and carefree and they were not the most desirable. In fact, one or two of them had some habits that made it hard for me to love them. But the words of the will haunted me: “Take your inheritance... I was lonely and you made me welcome... I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40, Phillips). It’s a parable. Jesus is our Elder Brother. He died and left His children in our care; they are His legacy. He wants them in our family for us to show love and compassion. “Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me’ ” (Matthew 25:40, Message).
René Drumm says, “Many gay and lesbian Adventists (and non-Adventists) are searching for supportive people and an accepting church congregation... From birth, Adventists are taught that the Bible contains the answers to right and wrong behavior, and as we mature, we are taught that same-sex behavior is sinful... The pain of growing up in a system poised for rejection is clear and heart-wrenching.”6 Many Seventh-day Adventists recoil at the term gay Adventists, believing (1) if they are professing to be gay, then surely they must be practicing, and (2) if they are professing to be Christian, then surely they would be victorious. To many, victory means heterosexuality when in reality victory may mean sexual purity.
There has always existed apprehension that an emphasis on grace may lesson the forcefulness of law. Paul encountered it and countered: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). The Christian message is the same for all persons and across all generations: impossible standards made possible by incredible grace. This is epitomized in the words of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn thee [incredible grace]; go, and sin no more [impossible standards]” (John 8:11). Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Family life specialists John and Millie Youngberg assert, “You can do the impossible if you connect with the Source of power.”7
We must throw caution to the wind and unequivocally, unreservedly, and unconditionally embrace Christ’s legacy to the church. We should take note of the order of Christ’s wording in the text. His children may first need to hear from pastors and therapists, family members and church members, “Neither do I condemn thee” before these, our children, will “go, and sin no more.”
1Welfare Ministry, p. 17
3Carlos Fayard, “The psychological and spiritual care of a gay man who chose celibacy: A case study.” In Homosexuality, Marriage, and the Church, edited by Roy E. Game, Nicholas P. Miller, and H. Peter Swanson. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2012, pp. 407, 408, emphasis included.
4In Heavenly Places, p. 321.
5The Desire of Ages, p. 638
6René Drumm, “Interaction and Angst: The Social Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Seventh-day Adventists.” In Church and Society: Missiological Challenges for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, edited by Rudi Maier. Berrien Springs, MI: Department of World Mission, Andrews University, pp. 569, 573.
7John and Millie Youngberg, Jesus—Who Is He? Berrien Springs, MI: WIN! Wellness, 2015, p. 42
2015 Adventist Conference on Family Research and Practice Engages Family Life Leaders
Forty years ago, John and Millie Youngberg began a tradition of hosting an annual family life conference in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that has continued to this day. Then it was called Family Life International; today it is the Adventist Conference on Family Research and Practice (ACFRP). The theme for the 2015 Adventist Conference on Family Research and Practice was Building Family Memories: Leaving a Spiritual Legacy. Several entities, including the Adventist Association of Family Life Professionals, sponsor this annual event to celebrate family ministry and to educate our constituencies about its importance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We believe that this annual conference, held at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, is one of the best-kept secrets in the church.
Dr. Scott Stanley, renowned researcher in the area of family, kicked off the conference with a Thursday evening presentation entitled “Sliding vs. Deciding” in which he described current research on the ambiguous commitment with which many couples enter a relationship today. The increase of cohabitation is a symptom of a generation that is averse to taking the risk of committing wholeheartedly to a lifetime of covenant marriage. Fear of commitment results in individuals sliding into relationships, often uncertain of whether or not they are even a couple. Dr. Stanley’s Friday morning keynote address followed up on this theme by presenting approaches based on research and Scripture that support individuals as they seek to choose a life partner.
Following Dr. Stanley, morning and afternoon workshop sessions featured Adventist researchers and practitioners from around the globe. Six morning workshops focused on research topics including “A Quest for Answers” (homosexuality) by Peter Swanson, “Biblical Spirituality in the Seminary’s MDiv Program: Implications for the Family” by Michael Harris, “The Effects of Pornography on the Brain & Breaking its Addiction through Rewiring Your Brain” by Abraham Swamidass, “Factors Contributing to Romantic Relationship Formation While in College and the Role that Spirituality Plays in this Formation” by Eva M. Starner, and “I’m An Inferior Specimen of PK: Examining the Aftermath of Pressure put on Pastor’s Children” by Alina Baltazar and René Drumm.
The afternoon sessions covered a wide range of practice topics related to family including “Single Man Walking” (overcoming pornography and sexual addiction) by Michael Carducci, “Changing the Family: One Brain at a Time” by Beverly Sedlacek, “Strengthening Marriages through Small Group Dynamics” by Roger & Peggy Dudley, “Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systematic Preventative Agenda of Family Research and Practice” by Michael Hall, “Addressing Domestic Violence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church: Past, Present and Future” by Melissa Ponce-Rodes, Orleanys del Carmen, René Drumm, and David Sedlacek, and “Leaving a Spiritual Legacy in Mongolia: Starting from Scratch” by Sally & Chek Yat Phoon. Several participants commented that they were unaware that such a high level of research and practice expertise related to family even existed in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. All family life professionals were encouraged to consider submitting a proposal for next year’s event!
The keynote speakers for Friday vespers and Sabbath were Roger and Kathy Hernandez, the Ministerial and Evangelism Director and Coordinator, respectively, for the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The Hernandez’ presentations were filled with humor and practical wisdom from their own family and pastoral experiences. They highlighted a fact echoed by succeeding presenters, namely that the decision to marry comes with no guarantees, only probabilities; our work, therefore, is to improve the probabilities. Roger and Kathy were very transparent about their own challenges in marriage, including how their own relationship got off to a “rocky” start. Participants appreciated their vulnerability, since the norm of pastoral ministry involves presenting the family in the best light possible to the congregation.
On Sabbath morning, graduates from the MA Religious Education major with certificates in Family Life Education and Children’s Ministry were recognized. Pastor Ben Martin was the recipient of the John and Millie Youngberg award for his outstanding work with children from the Ruth Murdoch Elementary School. Alina Baltazar was given the Roberta Mazat award for her years of contribution to family ministry through her research, teaching and practice. The North American Division Distinguished Service Award was given to Jeane and Ray Hartwell recognizing their many years of service to families in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Monte Sahlin was given the General Conference Spalding Distinguished Service Medallion for his many years of dedicated research and writing in support of healthy families in the church.
As the photographs show, this year’s ACFRP was filled with stimulating keynote presenters, outstanding workshops presented by Adventist researchers and practitioners, many networking opportunities, great food, and resources on family from AdventSource, one of the event’s sponsors. Although this year’s attendance was the highest in the history of the Adventist Conference on Family Research and Practice, we are not content with this year’s success. Our goal for next year is to outgrow the seminary chapel. We have learned that top-down communication of events such as this one does not work the best. Therefore, we are soliciting support from all AAFLP members even now to help publicize the 2016 ACFRP with the main theme of “Healthy Families for Eternity.”
The event is held on the third weekend in July every year, so put July 21-23, 2016 on your calendar now. Our Thursday evening and Friday morning keynote speaker will be David H. Olson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN and Founder and CEO of PREPARE/ENRICH. This tool is used worldwide by pastors and practitioners in church and society to help couples prepare for marriage and enrich the lives of those already married. The Sabbath speakers will be Drs. Lael and Lena Caesar who are well known to the Andrews University community and the church around the world. Lael is an associate editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, and Research Professor of Hebrew Bible at Andrews University. Lena teaches and directs the department of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at Loyola University. We’ll see you in July, 2016!
Parsonage Perspective with Alonzo Smith
Boomerang Children Moving Back Home: Lessons from the Prodigal Story
A survey by the Pew Research Center1 finds that 13% of parents with grown children have experienced an adult son or daughter moving back home. Young adults who move in with parents after living away from home are sometimes described as ‘boomerang children.’ One of the causative factors for this phenomenon is the recent recession this country has passed through. One-in-ten (10%) adults aged 18 to 34 say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with Mom and Dad.2
Seven-in-ten (70%) grown children who live with their parents are younger than 30. Thirty-five percent of adults who reported living in their parent’s home, say they had lived independently at some point in their lives before returning home.3
While this may seem to be just a concern of economics, there are larger implications for the family. The Bible is replete with stories that connect with modern families and the concrete situations in which they find themselves. One such story is that of the Prodigal Son. This story is quite fascinating as it relates the account of a young man who took his inheritance and left home, and ends with his gut-wrenching decision to return home. There are seminal lessons parents may draw from this riveting story to help them adjust and adapt to ‘boomerang’ young adults.
Parenting young adults that are recalcitrant. It is not uncommon to find returning children demanding and non-compliant. They want the benefits of home with total independence. This can become conflicting. The son “said to his father, give me my share of the estate” (Lk 15:12). This is a classic example of how demanding and non-compliant children can be. Psychologically, one could say he exhibited compulsive behavior, oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder. Whatever might be his diagnosis, if parents are not equipped to handle such behavior, severe conflict may occur. Absolute parental authority will not work; seeking unquestioned compliance will not do. Parents should provide young adults with space and help them to become fully individuated by setting clear boundaries while respecting their independence.
Parenting young adults that are selfish. Returning home is not necessarily a selfish act. In most cases, it reflects a son or daughter’s need to survive the economic crunch. However, selfishness might lie at the heart of coming back. In our Bible story, after the younger son received his share of the inheritance, he gathered together all he had and set off for a distant country (v. 13). We could call this disengagement, family member separation, or geographic relocation. Whatever it might be, this was a selfish act. Sometimes our children leave home out of their own selfish desires and it can become quite difficult relating to them upon their return. Transference might take place and this can cause tension to build up in the relationship. Once parents open the doors to the ‘boomerang’ child, they must be ready and able to accept them while they establish a plan to eventually launch them.
Parenting young adults that are squanderers. Most parents can identify with this notion. It is not an uncommon phenomenon for young adults who have left home to squander or misappropriate their resources. Our story says the youngster “squandered his wealth in wild living” (v. 13). His compulsive behavior got him in financial trouble. It can become quite upsetting to a parent to bail out or rescue a child after knowing how irresponsible and defiant they may be. Remember, parenting never ends; it only presents more complex challenges. This might be a last chance to correct dysfunctional patterns of behavior and set them on an adaptive path.
Parenting young adults with impaired judgment. The adage “easy come easy go” is quite apropos to the prodigal son. His money was all gone and, to worsen his situation, a famine ensued, “so he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs” (v. 15). He even ate some of the pigs' food. This shows his level of desperation. How is it that a Jewish boy, raised in a kosher kitchen, eating kosher food, finds himself feeding and eating swine’s food? That is impaired judgment at its worst. This cognitive deficit sometimes manifests itself in young adults. Parents should keep in mind that they cannot divorce their children, even during the most trying times. Regardless of the challenges, parents have to forgive and use these moments as teaching opportunities.
Parenting young adults seeking reconciliation. It was Jesus who said, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6:37). Having realized how impaired his judgment was, the young man came to himself and said, “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him…” (v. 18). His psychological quest for ‘dependency’ was over, and now he falls back on his parents to provide financial support, housing, and caregiving. Parents cannot turn away their young adults seeking reconciliation, regardless of the reason for their departure. Just as Jesus will not cast us out when we come to Him, so too parents must embrace their returning child. The action of the young man’s father is a classic example. To wit, parents should not allow past behavior to impair present relationship.
Parenting young adults that are irrational. Sometimes the child that remains at home may become irrational and unaccepting of the ‘boomerang’ child. Just as “the older brother became angry and refused to go in” (v. 28). His conduct disorder might be classified as a lack of sensitivity to the thoughts, feelings, and needs of his returning brother. Several factors can contribute to this behavior, such as: jealousy, selfishness, lack of impulse control, or unforgiveness. The more parents understand these emotions and the reasons behind them, the better they may help the family adjust to the returning child.
In summary, then, it is trendy for young adult children to return home primarily because of economic hardship. However, this can pose considerable problems for parents and/or the remaining child. While the outcome is not always negative, parents should prepare themselves for that possibility and, with the help of God, seek to help their “boomerang’ children adapt and prepare themselves for permanent launching from their family of origin.
1Pew Research Center tabulations of Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, 2007 and 2009, U.S. Census Bureau
3Wang, Wendy & Morin, Rich. (2009), Home for the holidays… and every other day. Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends
Positive Parenting with Susan E. Murray
The Power of a Positive Martital Relationship
“Just as a tree is affected by the quality of air, water and soil in its environment, the emotional health of children is determined by the quality of intimate relationships that surround them.” John Gottman
God designed marriage to be a place where trust, openness and vulnerability would thrive. It was to be a place of nourishment, enrichment and continual growth. Because of Adam and Eve’s choices, these gifts are often the most difficult to find, keep and enjoy.
Learning how to handle differences is one of the most powerful things a couple can do to protect the promise their marriage offers. Children learn about God by observing and listening in their own family. Researcher John Gottman1 found that a parent’s interaction with the child’s other parent influences the child’s attitudes, achievements, ability to regulate emotions, and capacity for getting along with others. When parents nurture and support each other, their children’s emotional well-being flourishes.
Marital discord affects children in adverse ways:
- There is a strong connection between marital relationships and children’s behavior with their own friends. Children whose parents are distressed in their marriages play less collaboratively and have more negative interactions with their playmates than children whose parents are happily married.
- In the long run, children risk failure to friendships, which is a leading indicator of a child’s risk for psychiatric problems.
- Small children react to adult arguments with psychological changes, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure. They typically respond by crying, standing motionless with tension, covering their ears, grimacing, or requesting to leave.
- Nonverbal stress reactions to anger have been observed in children as young as six months. Babies may not understand the content of the disagreement, but they know when something is amiss and react with agitation and tears.
- Marital discord may have a deep and profound impact on children, especially when exposed to severe family problems from the time they are very small. The stress of living with parental, conflict can affect the development of an infant’s autonomic nervous system, which in turn largely determines a child’s ability to cope.
- Parents, distracted by their own problems, have less time and attention for their children.
- Divorce and conflicts leading up to divorce leave parents too exhausted, distracted, or depressed to be effective disciplinarians.
- During the first two years of a parent’s separation and divorce is a time of serious disruption in the parent-child relationship, whether the parents want to admit it or not. A preoccupied and/or emotionally disturbed parent and a distressed, demanding child are likely to have difficulty supporting or consoling each other and may even exacerbate each other’s problems.
- Kids may drift unsupervised towards a more deviant peer group.
- By early adolescence, many children from disrupted families experience failing grades, precocious sexual behavior, substance abuse, and delinquency.
- Parents in stressed marriages often provide poor examples to their children of how to get along with others, especially in stressful situations.
- Children reared by parents whose marriages are characterized by criticism, defensiveness, and contempt are much more likely to have difficulty regulating their emotions, focusing their attention, and soothing themselves when they become upset.
However, we must remember, there is hope! The principles for living in a satisfying marriage are the same as for being a good parent. It is not the parental conflict itself that is so harmful to children, but the way in which parents handle their disputes. When parents can be present for their children emotionally, helping them to cope with negative feelings, and guiding them through periods of family stress, their children are shielded from many of the damaging effects of family turmoil.
So should parents ban all forms of marital conflict, or keep disagreements hidden from the children? Well, this would be impossible. Anger and conflict are normal, to some degree, in everyday married life. Couples who can openly express their differences and work through them in respectful, constructive ways have happier relationships. Their children can actually benefit from witnessing certain kinds of family conflict. Children can clearly see that their parents are working toward a resolution and can see and experience how conflict can be managed. Children who never see adults disagree, get angry with each other, and then settle their differences, are missing crucial lessons that can contribute to their lives. Home is the place to learn and practice new skills, including valuable negotiating skills.
Guidelines for couples in conflict include: 1) Don’t use your children as weapons in your marital conflict; 2) Don’t put your children in the middle; and 3) Let your children know when conflicts are resolved.
If there ever is a time to talk to your children about their feelings (emotions), it is when there is marital conflict at home. It is often difficult for parents who are sad or angry, but there are ways in which you can find the emotional energy to talk with your children: 1) Set aside time when you are feeling relatively calm yourself; 2) Explain the situation, sharing details as is appropriate; and 3) Help your child express his or her feelings about the situation and give opportunity for questions.
In closing, a healthy Christian marriage is a powerful statement to others of God’s love. All intimate relationships experience some level of conflict. This is part of life on this earth. How couples display their love for one another, and how they deal with their own couple conflicts, can provide powerful insights to those who live closest to them, especially their children. When sympathy is missing, when parents don’t have the desire or energy to handle their emotions in healthy ways, the children suffer, as does the couple. Children deserve a home environment where they feel safe, where they can ask questions, learn to problem-solve, develop their critical thinking skills, and come to know the Savior as their own.
As Ellen White shares, “Home should be a place where cheerfulness, courtesy and love abide; and where these graces dwell, there will abide happiness and peace. Troubles may invade, but these are the lot of humanity. Let patience, gratitude, and love keep sunshine in the heart, though the day may be ever so cloudy. In such homes angels of God abide.”2
1John Gottman, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
2Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 393.
Guest Columnist with Ryan R. Simpson
Don’t Just Give Them The Keys— Let Them Drive
Carol Kuykendall wrote regarding the late teenage years, “Remember the goal of this season. Deparent and allow them to gain confidence in their independence. As parents we must honor their attempts to do so... Reaching a comfortable adult-to-adult friendship is a growing, changing process, and it’s never too late to make new progress.” She entitled her book, Give Them Wings. In the nineties, we heard a similar rallying cry from Elder Robert Folkenberg, former president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He pled with leaders, “Give them a piece of the pie,” adding “and they will stay for dinner.” Recently we heard another memorable call.
Seated almost in the nosebleed section of the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas on the morning of July 4th, 2015, I listened to the newly-elected treasurer of the General Conference, Juan Prestol-Puesan make a very passionate appeal to the more than seventy thousand delegates and attendees of the 60th annual General Conference session. His tone was full of emotion and his voice spurred with conviction. His topic was “Give them the keys.” His appeal was that the attendees of the conference would dig deep into their pockets and give of their financial resources so that the church could put the young people to work. He shared the story of his daughters learning to drive and how the day finally came when they got their driver’s licenses and no longer needed driving lessons. “They came and took the keys to the car and drove.” The room filled with applause. Providentially, it was Independence Day.
To Elder Prestol-Puesan this was a great achievement for his daughters. It was, he said, “a vote of confidence indeed, an empowering action.” Then, to the sound of resounding applause he announced, “The time has arrived and is already here for the young people to take the keys and drive the car of evangelism.” As I sat there and listened while the congregation broke out in applause, my heart felt broken as the tears welled up in my eyes. Somehow, as a youth leader, I should have been encouraged by the speech but I wasn’t. It was a great speech indeed, so why did I feel so sad? The answer was evident as I looked around the stadium to survey the events and participants in the convention. On stage there was no one leading out in the programs or chairing discussions on important church matters that was under the age of 50, except for three little girls who stood in one corner prepped to read the scripture during the Sabbath School lesson review. They never participated in the discussion.
Someone speculated that young people under the age of 35 made up just about 2% of the delegates on the floor. That would be about 38 of the 1900 registered delegates. It has been estimated that over 70% of the membership of our church is under the age of 30 , yet it would appear that 70% its leadership, which became very evident during the General Conference session, are over the age of 50. For example, there were six vice presidents elected with three newcomers, thirteen division presidents boasting six newcomers and twelve departmental leaders, and not a single a young adult was among them. A stranger might easily assume that we are an aging church because of its aging leadership. The 70% young people are not reflected in the leadership of our church.
It may appear as though the young people are disinterested in the business of their church and many have contended that this is the case. Some would argue that the majority of young people chose not to attend the session because they didn’t see the relevance, and those who did attend seemed to find it more worthwhile to participate in the activities that the planners of the event seemed to believe would be of greater benefit to them such as giving concerts in the Lila Cockrell Theatre or being out on the streets painting murals, handing out water bottles, and eating haystacks at the Impact San Antonio event. From the platform where I stood, young people were given no opportunities. They appeared to be overlooked from the very beginning and continue to be overlooked. I do not doubt that the church wants to give them the keys; I just feel that it does not have an intentional plan for how to make the transition and further still, does not feel that young people are ready to drive car. The question however is, will they ever be ready?
I do not support the popular notion that “the old people should abdicate and hand over the church to the young people.” I think that is tantamount to saying that wisdom and experience should surrender to the inexperience and the not-too-wise. There is no wisdom in such postulations. However, I equally denounce the notion that assumes that the young people are not yet ready to assume leadership roles in their church at the highest levels when they are already leaders in the rest of the society. Furthermore, not only do I denounce, I also detest the practice of making tokens of our young people by making sure that at least one gets on the church board or among the deacons and elders-in-training and then call it “engaging the youth.” Elder Prestol-Puesan could not have been more on point in his appeal: “Perhaps we have forgotten that the Seventh-day Adventist movement began when young people took the keys and began the preaching of the gospel as we know it… J.N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, James White, Ellen White and who knows how many more.”
I was not hoping for all of the vice presidents and division presidents, and General Conference departmental directors to be replaced by young people; however it was my hope that there would have been at least some among them. Let us not make tokens of our young people, they are capable of so much more than that. Let us not underestimate their potentials and capabilities; we are the ones who have invested in them. Personally, I am not suggesting completely handing the keys over to the young people, but at least show them that we do plan to pass the baton on to them by starting with an intentionally drafted succession plan. Thus I would be remiss if I ended this discourse only with criticisms and not suggest some possible solutions.
While I cannot dictate how the church make this transition at the broader levels of the organization, I can say what I am going to do in my sphere of influence the Atlantic Union: (1) In the coming months, I will be establishing a youth ministry think tank comprising individuals under the age of 35 to advise me on all matters pertaining to youth ministry in the Atlantic Union; (2) In my first meeting as the new union youth director with my conference youth directors, I will be enlisting their support in drafting a plan for our volunteer and support leaders at conference and union levels to be representative of the 70% of our church population; (3) I will explore and provide forums in the form of blogs and town hall meetings for young people not only to discuss the topic of becoming more engaged in church leadership but to also say how they will avail themselves for the church to hand them the keys; (4) I will make it a priority to provide training in church leadership in order to prepare them to receive the keys and drive; and (5) I will make it my point of duty to keep this subject alive and frequently addressed when I speak to churches and church leaders within my union.
I started with Elder Prestol-Puesan, and I will also end with him as his final words couldn’t have expressed more precisely my sentiments. “I believe folks, that the moment is fast approaching for us to empower the ones that have the best energies among us… They have the energy. Let them take the keys and drive the car!”
1Juan Prestol-Puesan, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJEt1UfqagQ
2Baraka Muganda, Youth Facts. Report of the General Conference Youth Ministries Department to the General Conference Session, Toronto, Canada, 2000.