Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce
About the Guest
Divorce is difficult for everyone, especially the kids. Tammy Daughtry, founder of Co-Parenting International, and her husband, Jay, tell how they became a blended family of six and talk about what's required to raise emotionally healthy children after a divorce. Tammy reminds divorced co-parents that their number one motive must be to love their child well and to try to heal the hurt. Ways they can do this include: giving their child permission to love the other parent; not criticizing the other parent, but affirming the good in them; and getting on the same page in regards to discipline and boundaries. Also joining in the conversation is the director of FamilyLife Blended™, Ron Deal.
Jay and Tammy Daughtry and Ron Deal talk about what’s required to raise emotionally healthy children after a divorce.
Bob: There are a lot of statistics that talk about the negative impact that divorce can have on children raised in a broken home. But Tammy Daughtry says there are ways to beat those odds.
Tammy: One of the best testimonies of that is our friend, Dr. John Trent. We all know him. He is a champion for the gospel and for traditional families. He came from a broken home, but he didn’t have a broken life. He said his mom never spoke ill of his dad though he never knew his father till late / late in life. She never spoke ill of his dad. She always talked to John about God’s plan for a lifelong marriage. That’s what changed the whole course of his life.
This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We have some thoughts for you today on how to be successful at co-parenting as you raise children in a blended home. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLifeToday. Thanks for joining us.
Bob: One of the lessons that I learned—early on, as a parent—is that, when a child comes to you, isolated from your spouse, asking for permission to do something, “Can I do this?” there is only one correct answer when the child does that. And the correct answer is—
Dennis: “Have you talked to your mom?”
Bob: “I’ll talk to your mom. [Laughter] We have to get together.” In fact, our kids got so they finally would say—before they would say, “Can I do this?”—they would say, “Would you talk to Mom and the two of you decide whether I can do this or not?” They learned that they were not going to get a “Yes,” or “No,” from me until I talked to her. They weren’t going to get a “Yes,” or “No,” from her until she talked to me. It was no good trying to divide the two of us.
Dennis: And that is what makes blended families kind of tricky because you don’t have the same set of assumptions that you have in an intact family—where the mom and the dad are either the bio parents or the adoptive parents—where there is no confusion about where they came from, and who is in charge, and who is the authority.
We have with us, again, on the broadcast Ron Deal, who heads up FamilyLife’s Blended Initiative. Comment on that—if you would, Ron—because we’ve got a couple of guests today who are going to talk about parenting in a blended family. Respond to what Bob shared in that illustration.
Ron: Yes; it’s a good illustration because it’s a little challenging when you live in the same home, as parents, to work together and find out what the other parent has already said to the children—you want to be on the same page. It’s exceedingly difficult to do that if you live in two different homes and you are still parenting the kids that you had together, which is the topic of co-parenting. That’s what we are going to be talking about today.
Dennis: We are. We are going to be talking to the leaders of a ministry called Co-Parenting International, Tammy and Jay Daughtry.
Welcome to the broadcast, Tammy, Jay.
Tammy and Jay: Thank you very much.
Dennis: Tammy has written a book, Co-Parenting Works! Helping Your Children Thrive after Divorce. Which one of you was the one who got a divorce? It was you, Tammy; right?
Tammy: Yes; sir.
Dennis: And Jay, with you, your wife passed away?
Jay: Yes; passed away in a car accident that actually was ten years ago March 26.
Dennis: Andyou two have been married how long?
Tammy: Six years
Dennis: Six years. Youhave four children between you.
Tammy and Jay: Yes.
Dennis: And the illustration Bob talked about—of children coming to one of the parents and not the other—it really is a bit different when you’ve got other parents who aren’t physically present in the home.
Tammy: Absolutely; yes.
Bob: I would think—in a home where it is a blended family—the child is going to assume that the bio parent has sole authority—that there is not a link—
—so they are going to come to the bio mom or bio dad and say, “Can I do this?” The idea that “I am going to talk to your stepmom or your stepdad about this,” would be kind of: “Wait! Why does he or she…” Ron, you are following me on this—in the kid’s mind, it’s like: “Who gave that person permission to say anything about my life?”
Ron: Yes; and think about it. The child may be thinking: “Okay. So this is the stepparent’s involvement in the equation, but I really want my mom and my biological dad to answer this.” Well, dad lives in his house and mom lives in this house.
Stop and think of it from the child’s point of view. Sometimes, there are three adults that are parenting them. In some situations, there are four / maybe more if there is a grandparent or somebody that is playing a role in the parenting. It gets pretty complicated in terms of who is supposed to answer the question and which adults need to talk to each other to come up with the answer / to answer my question.
Bob: Well, if I’m the child—what I am thinking of is: “What’s the strategy I can employ to get the answer I want as frequently as possible?”
Ron: Really, children do this? [Laughter] Is that what happens?
Bob: Idon't know if kids do, but that's how I would be working it. [Laughter]
Dennis: It's called divide and conquer.
Jay: That’s right!
Dennis: It was genetically passed on to our kids.
To add complexity to what we’re talking about here—the stepparent, probably in his or her own mind—and you guys can comment on this because this is where you live—probably thinks of himself or herself as being in authority and being in charge of what’s taking place in that family. So it’s not necessarily a check off—that: “No; I don't have anything to say about this.” Comment on that if you would.
Tammy: Well, I would say in our family—we have four children. One is my bio daughter / so she has Jay as her stepdad. Her dad lives one exit away—so she has a father and a stepmother. So that daughter has four parents in two homes. And then our other three children have Jay and I here and their mom in heaven.
As far as day-to-day decisions and authority—really, in our home, those three look to Jay and me.
Angelia knows—she is pretty creative and smart / 16 now—but she knows that really big questions have four parents that will come back to her with an answer. Part of that is because, from the beginning of her life’s journey when her dad and I began co-parenting, we really put very intentional efforts into play to work together and raise her—though in two homes—to raise her together. It’s a complicated journey; yes. But one of our children has four parents that really have to sign off on everything. Then the other three have the two of us.
Dennis: This is a nation now that has 40 percent of all marriages forming blended families. Ron, this complexity that we're talking about here—this is no longer the exception.
Dennis: This is becoming more and more normal for a lot of families.
Ron: And we’re also talking to single parents, who are listening—who are not remarried or their ex is not remarried / they are just in a divorced situation—
—or they had a child out of wedlock and never married, and they’re sharing a child; but they live in two different homes. When you start adding all those numbers up—I'm not exactly sure what the number is—but we're talking to an awful lot of people right now.
Bob: Tammy, you interviewed a lot of young teens, all of whom were from divorced family situations, to kind of figure out: “What does the landscape of their life look like?” What came through from those interviews? What stood out to you as the biggest “Ahah”?
Tammy: I would say there are, at least, two big “Ahas.” Number one— at the core of every kid, they just want to be free to love both parents. They don’t want to be put in the middle and challenged on their love for mom by dad or their love for dad by mom—so that freedom just to—you know, one of the phrases we always talk to parents about is: “One heart, two homes.”
These kids that are living in two places—they come and go emotionally, physically, and spiritually with one solid heart between two homes. It’s a challenge. We really try to talk to moms and dads about: “Letting your children love you both,”—giving the kids permission—emotionally, verbally, intentionally—to love that other parent in the other home.
Then the other thing that is common—it’s a tough spot, especially for divorced parents / separated parents—when there is anger, hostility and deep hurt from the past. It’s hard not to talk bad about the other parent—or to even let that show up in your tone of voice / your body language at the handoff every other weekend. But that second really important topic from kids is that they don't want to hear negative information about that other parent. They don't want to know all the mistakes they made. They don't want to know how they’ve hurt the other parent. They just want to know it is okay to love them.
We try to give moms and dads tools and specific strategies on how to—not only not speak negative of the other parent—but how to give positive feedback about that other parent and help their children realize it’s good to have this other parent in your life. There are some good qualities about that parent that are okay for you to celebrate.
Dennis: I want to take it back to the parents of an intact family and apply the same principle. Barbara and I would not always agree on a circumstance on what we would let our children do. And it’s very important, in those circumstances, not to undercut your spouse and the other parent. This is all just really common sense, whether you are talking about a blended family or an intact family.
What we’re talking about right here—I just kept thinking about the book of Proverbs, which talks about wisdom to live life skillfully according to God's perspective. That’s what parents need to be asking God for:
“Give me wisdom to know how to answer this child with something he or she wants to do, where we're divided or we may not agree, as parents, about what they ought to be able to go do.” I think parents in blendeds / parents in intact families have got to pray that prayer and have got to work hard not to undermine the authority of the other parent.
Ron: You know, really, what is at stake here is the motivation. I'm going to toss this to you guys, here in just a second, in terms of the motivation of the single parent to speak well of the other parent. If we're talking about Dennis and Barbara, you have a high motivation—not only on behalf of your children—but on behalf of your marriage. You guard your marriage by honoring each other and not saying negative things about each other. But if you are divorced, you don't have that motivation; right? So why should that single parent remind himself/herself to not make the negative comment?
Jay: Yes. Well, that's extremely important.
And the implications—you know, as you talk about an intact family, you recognize the importance of Mom and Dad being on the same page and how that creates security within the children. Despite the fact that they may be demonstrably upset / frustrated—you know, they want what they want—but in the long run, we know that that provides security for them, knowing that Mom and Dad are connected / they’ve got this thing together: “I can trust them to make the right decision.”
Well, the implications for that speaking about the other parent in a healthy positive way are significant in a blended family. Much more so because the child has within himself/herself this sense of: “I come from both parents.” For children—if we put them in a place of having to hear and even respond to negative things about our parents, what we've done to that child is force this issue of loyalty:
“I want to support my mom; but when she says things that are really bad about my dad, it hurts me deeply. So now, I am in this place of: ‘Okay; what do I say? How do I respond to this? What can I do with this?’”
Dennis: You’re forcing a child to choose at that point.
Jay: Yes; and: “You’re telling me something about me. You don’t like this quality in my dad, and that’s part of me too. So are you telling me you don’t like me?”
Ron: That makes a lot of sense. It’s not just about the other parent / it's also about the child.
Tammy: And I want to chime in on the motive. You asked a minute ago about: “What is the motive?” I would say to every single parent, never-married parent, any parent that is raising a child in two homes—your number one motive is loving your child well, and doing everything you can to heal the hurt / to hold that child’s life together. If you love your children, you will make these choices though they are not what comes naturally, emotionally. Choose love.
Choose what is good for them—not what comes natural to you—because that is a healing power.
I can say—myself / in 15/16 years of being a co-parent—there have been a thousand and one opportunities that I have chosen my daughter’s best interest over my own. I have chosen what is good for her: Sometimes that is what we say, and sometimes that is what we don't say. It’s what we offer, and it’s what we hold back. And she has a wonderful dad / he's a good dad. Our marriage did not make it, but he’s a good dad and he loves her.
I have spent 15 years taking every possible opportunity to build into her respect for her father / love for her father. When he remarried, I have really supported the stepmom in the other house. I made it a point to try to build a bridge with her. Again, coming back to motive, I want my little girl to have the most healthy whole life possible. [Emotion in voice]
That takes hard work, but that has been the number one focus of my 15 years—it’s to do whatever it takes to counteract the pain of divorce and let my little girl have two homes, where she is freely loved, and a bridge to come and go every other week until one day she goes into a godly awesome lifelong marriage of her own.
I think it’s that motive of: “What are we going to focus on? Are we going to focus on the past and the pain? Are we going to focus on the children and what the children need from Mom and Dad?”
Dennis: Tammy, we can hear in your voice the heartache that comes as a result of divorce and the impact that has on a child; but in spite of that, wanting redemption,—
Dennis: —wanting healing, wanting that child to feel loved.
Ron, I want you to comment on this because this is an area of expertise that you have.
It seems to me that a divorced parent is set up in their attempt to love the child and bring this healing to overdo it and to give the child everything he or she wants. That really isn't a biblical view of love. Biblical love, according to what the Scriptures teach, has got boundaries.
Ron: It does.
Dennis: And it doesn't always give in. It doesn't allow the child to have his or her own way.
Ron: And I know Tammy and Jay well enough—they are good friends. And I know that what Tammy just poured out in that last comment is about her doing everything she can to create an environment where Angelia gets to grow, be loved, and to love, and to come to know God. That does not mean giving in to everything she wants. That does not mean being—what you call a pushover in your book, Co-Parenting Works!—not being a pushover parent.
It is tempting, as Dennis mentioned, because the thought there is: “They have suffered enough.
“I feel guilty perhaps for what has happened.” Maybe you feel guilty for what somebody else did. The bottom line is—you don't want your children to have any more pain. So you kind of say, “Yes,” to everything; or you feel like kind of giving in somehow is going to alleviate the difficulty in their life. And then you end up getting permissive as a parent. That has its own consequences; does it not?
Tammy: Sure; sure. And parenting from guilt or from loss doesn't give you a very healthy perspective on what the kids need. A simple phrase I also usually share is: "Divorce often interrupts good parenting. Healthy co-parenting keeps the train going.” That’s in our book—we talk about communication, about handling the handoff, about having meetings, about really putting all the effort into trying to communicate well—
—kind of like co-CEOs of a business, focused on an investment / something you care about, short term and long term—and all of these tools hopefully for the parents that want to continue being good parents—that's what this book is all about. You know—that disruption of the family and the marriage doesn't mean that it has to be the end of good parenting.
Ron: I’d love to hear some of those tips as we come back to them—but not to miss the point from Dennis—parenting has to have boundaries. There have to be times where you say, “No.” You're going to disappoint your child. You’re going to have to say: “No; not this time. Even though the other household may be saying, ‘Yes,’ I'm going to say, ‘No,’ and here is why…” Otherwise, you become a pushover. That's the kind of love that Scripture talks about—it's balanced, it has boundaries, and it has expectations. At the same time: “I am your biggest fan and I'm with you forever.”
Bob: If parents can have a longer view of what they are doing, they can recognize that—
—well, here is the illustration that I think of. The first Christmas after a divorce, kids usually clean up—[Laughter]—I mean, they get whatever was on their list.
Dennis: And I get it—I understand why.
Bob: But those kids, ten years from today, will look back on that and see that for what it was.
Bob: That's not what’s going to build into their lives—is whether they got everything that was on their list. That doesn't heal what they're feeling in their heart—that they got a temporary band-aid that distracted them. And this is where parents have got to go: “You know what? This is a long game we’re playing. This is not the short game, where we just try to patch it up and hope for the best.”
Dennis: Bob, I've kind of sat back and listened to our conversation here; and I've just been reminded why we're addressing blended families.
Just listening to the conversation, this is incredibly complex. Four parents—two living in one home / two living in another—I mean, you got a child who is spending halftime one place / another half the other place—there's disagreements, there’s difficulties, there’s divisions.
And I just want to say, “Thank you,” to the donors to FamilyLife—the Legacy Partners, who make this ministry possible—who enable us to be able to ultimately go to Ron Deal and say: “Ron, would you come in and help us help the Christian community / help the church begin to address a fast-growing form of family?”—that yes, its messy; yes, it’s got all kinds of thorns in it; and it’s not easy; and it’s not nice and neat and wrapped up in short little quips and answers—it demands wisdom / it demands grace.
And it does—I think demands that the church know how to come alongside couples, like Tammy and Jay, and say in the midst of the complexity: “We're here for you. You know what? We're part of the redemptive strategy of raising your kids to adulthood so they can someday have a healthy, vibrant marriage and family of their own.”
Bob: We're addressing this because we read in Isaiah that God brings beauty from ashes. We said we'd like to be a part of that—we'd like to see some beautiful things come out of ashes. And that's, Ron—what you've given your life to. And we should mention that there is an event coming up in Colorado Springs, September 29 and 30. It's the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry©. It's designed for pastors, counselors, laymen and women, people who have a heart to see God bring healing, and reconciliation, and redemption out of broken families, broken lives, and broken marriages.
If you would like to find out more about the Summit on Step Family Ministry, taking place September 29 and 30 in Colorado Springs—we're doing this in partnership with our friends at Focus on the Family®. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There's a link there with information about the summit. You can register online or get more information. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions about the event, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, if you are a counselor, a pastor, or you just have a heart for this and you want to help bring help and hope to hurting families, find out more. Come join us at the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry in Colorado Springs in September.
And if you're in a blended family / if you are co-parenting, get a copy of Jay and Tammy’s Daughtry’s book Co-Parenting Works! It's a book we've got in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center.
Order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy.
Now, we want to say a special word of congratulations to one of our coworkers today—actually, two of our coworkers—Dan and Mary Donovan work here at FamilyLife. In fact, Dan is just across the glass in the other room, listening to me as I wish him a “Happy anniversary!” today. He and Mary are celebrating 35 years together—they got married in 1981. And if you ever visit FamilyLife, Mary may be your tour guide—she's probably the best tour guide we have here. So “Happy anniversary!” to the Donovans as they celebrate 35 years together today.
As we like to say: “Anniversaries matter. Anniversaries make a difference.” And celebrating them—well, we all ought to celebrate any time a couple is persevering in marriage, and going the distance, and keeping their covenant to love, honor, and cherish one another.
Here, at FamilyLife, that is our goal—to provide the practical biblical help and hope you need so that you can keep your covenant and can thrive in your marriage.
And we appreciate those of you who partner with us and who share this goal. Thank you for your support of this ministry. We couldn’t do what we do without you being involved. If you would like to help with a donation this month, we would love to hear from you. In fact, if you can make a donation of a $100 or more, we'd love to send you a series of three Bible studies for couples. It's a part of our Art of Marriage® Connect Series. These studies are designed for small groups to go through together, but a husband and wife can go though them on their own and find help and benefit from going through these studies. Again, they are our thank-you gift to you when you support the ministry, which you can do online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can donate by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO
Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how you can bring alignment as two separated families raising the same children. How can you get on the same page? We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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