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Parenting an Angry Child in Your Stepfamily

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2022 10:00 pm

Parenting an Angry Child in Your Stepfamily

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 23, 2022 10:00 pm

How do you help a lost or angry child who battles against the family? Ron Deal speaks with psychologist Danny Huerta on troubled kids in a stepfamily.

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Give yourself grace, but pause and try to notice.

Put pause buttons all over your house and and that'll just remind you, I just I need to look at my child's face. I need to look in their eyes. I need to visit their city. I can't just be focused on my own city. I got to go into their city and see what's going on.

Help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson and I'm Dave Wilson and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. I can't imagine what my stepmom was probably thinking of me when she married my dad and now she has a son.

You know, me. And I was not happy. You were not happy. No, I wasn't happy about the arrangement.

She was an incredible woman, but you know, initially I didn't want her in my life. And so it became a difficult transition for all of us. So, I mean, I think that's pretty common for most blended families. And, you know, we're going to talk about that today. We got Ron Deal with us in the studio. Ron is the director of Family Life Blended. Ron, welcome to Family Life Today. It's always great to be back with you guys.

Thanks for having me. Yeah. And so, you know, what you just heard me say is pretty common. I know you talked about this on your Family Life Blended podcast, which is part of the Family Life network of podcasts. Is that pretty common? Yeah, absolutely.

It is. I mean, figuring out how you're going to work together and agree and sometimes you disagree. And that was the topic of conversation that I had with Danny Huerta for the Family Life Blended podcast. And, you know, one of the things I'm thinking about is you may not be part of a blended family, at least in your home, but you may be connected to somebody in your extended family who is. And so listen for them for how you can encourage them.

But here's the other thing. The principles that we talked about with Danny really apply to all marriages and families. So many times I was talking with Danny and I was thinking, wow, Nan and I could have used this when our kids were younger.

So feel free to apply the principles to your life and your circumstances. And so we're going to get to listen to your conversation. Tell us a little bit about Danny. I know he's with Focus on the Family, right?

That's right. Danny is vice president of parenting and youth at Focus on the Family. He oversees their initiatives to equip moms and dads with biblical principles for raising healthy, resilient children. He is a bilingual, I should mention licensed clinical social worker. He's a great guy. Good friend.

Really enjoyed my time with him. He and Heather have two children together. And the book that we talked a little bit about is called Seven Traits of Effective Parenting. There's parental influences, whether it be a grandparent or a co-parent in the other household or a new step parent in the other house or whatever. There are people that are influencing this child that's adding confusion to their world. And the child is acting out of all of that confusion. And here we are trying to shape and mold and come alongside and deal with consequences from the past, from the child's actions or somebody else's actions. And man, it just can feel overwhelming at times.

Just right off the bat, let's just deal with that. What does a parent or step parent do with that overwhelming feeling? You want to step back and figure out the real estate that you actually own in that. As far as emotionally and in decisions that you make, that is so important to realize. So I use this analogy, Ron, over and over again in my practice. And it's the analogy of cities.

We may talk about that a little later again. But it's the idea that a mom is her own city and a dad is their own city and they've been built over time. Each one has their own museum, their own history. And sometimes we let people into our museum to know our past and sometimes we don't.

And sometimes we just don't want to have anyone know a certain part of the museum. And then we've got certain parts of our city that people enter into, rough parts, maybe fun parts, maybe some mundane, but just creatively thinking of that. And then you have two spouses that over time built highways to one another and influenced one another.

And then all of a sudden it's cut off. But at the same time, they're still influencing the little cities that are called their kids. And then a new city comes in and does things differently. Their culture is different, brand new museum, and they're coming in and starting to build dirt roads to these kids both ways.

Right. There's a blended family of these roads. And then you add extended family to that, other cities that are influencing.

It becomes very overwhelming. And a lot of times there's disagreement between the two cities that used to be the parents of the original kids. And then you have still influence coming behind there and you have a city that's divided, which is the child. And so they start to act out in certain ways.

And I have here's a story, Ron, one that's very fresh on my mind from a counseling perspective. It's so complex, but it is a picture of many families and it's that mom and a dad that disagree on what is best for the child. So we're trying to get a good relationship going for this young man, for both parents. Both parents do not like each other. And one parent is the dad in particular in this situation is texting and saying all kinds of negative things towards the mom with the son and creating behaviors that are very much opposed to any type of respect towards the mom. And then the child, when he's with his mom, tries to connect with his mom in a way that's loving. And now he's developed all these other personalities, a fragmented personality where he has a different voice in his head.

He's lost hope in life. He feels like he can't love now because he feels so confused in this situation because of what's going on with the parents. So owning your own real estate, how can I love my child? Well, what do I have control over in recognizing that my child or my children need me all in loving them and guiding them in a loving way to learn how to love both parents and encouraging them. And if the bridge is out to one of the other major cities, we got to try to repair that.

Yes. I mean, from a biblical perspective, that makes perfect sense. You build that and it's healthy for the child. It may feel like you lose a little bit of love from your child and maybe you're wanting that control. And so you have to figure out in your own city, why are you needing so much of your child's love? Why is that? What's going on in your city that you're trying to repair through your children that you've lost from your spouse potentially?

And that's where you need to go get the help you need and surround yourself with people that can help you repair within your city. So you're not relying so much of the input on your kids and not able to encourage their connectedness with the spouse. Now, there are certain situations, right, Ron, where that other spouse is in a really bad spot and you don't necessarily want to encourage that connection. Right. Right.

That's so good. I was just thinking there's another application of that bridge analogy. If the other major city is the one of the parents, maybe it's a former spouse, maybe it's your parent or step parent in your own home, whoever you're married to.

And there's been a rift between the two of you. You've got to rebuild that bridge, too, so that the two of you are more on the same page and not putting the kid back to your example, putting the kid back into a situation where you're manipulating or playing games through the child. That's going to just constantly keep that child in a state of, I don't know who to please. If I'm loving mom, I'm not pleasing dad. If I'm loving dad, I'm not pleasing mom. So repairing that mom-dad connection or parent-step parent, whatever the case is, seems to me that would be very important.

I agree, Ron. Otherwise, the child city is going to look like a war zone because you're trying to get at the other parent to let the other parent know how much they have. How much they hurt you or how much you hate what they did. And the child is the one that suffers. And if you go into their city, there's confusion. There are buildings that are half built.

There's a child that is hurting. And parents can't see that because they're just wanting to get to that other city to attack. And so, yeah, you're right.

That bridge is key. And that is hard. Okay. So I want to pull back for a second.

I want to chase what you just said. The child is hurting. Danny, one of the things that I hear people do sometimes when they talk about blended families is talk about all the bad news and they throw out stats and they just leave the stats sitting there. And I got to tell you, if you are a parent or a step parent in that situation, you would feel hopeless. Things like kids in blended families. Now, this is true. Let me preface what I'm about to say to the listener. This is true, but we're going to get underneath it about why it's true.

And that's what's going to be important here. Saying things like kids in blended families compared to children in two biological parent homes being raised by their biological parents. Kids in blended families have higher rates of aggression and depression and behavioral problems and do a little more poorly in school, academically. On the whole, in general, compared to kids growing up in a biological nuclear family. We just leave that there as if to say, this is all kids. This is why blended families are bad. All those judgmental messages that have come through that are inappropriate and wrong because the quality of the relationships in any home, single parent home, biological home, adoptive family home, foster family home, blended family home. The quality of relationships at the end of the day has more to do with why we see some of those things in children. It's not the structure of the home that is going to equal where you're going to have a messed up kid. Right. I think that is a that is an inappropriate use of those stats.

But what I think is more important to do is to get underneath and go, OK. So sometimes kids in blended families have a reason to be a little more depressed than the average teenage kid. And it's, I think, related to the kinds of hurt that they have experienced, the kinds of transition that's created some instability in their world, in their life. A parent who's not as involved or engaged as a result of parental divorce, for example. And just the sadness and the hurt that comes along with those changes, transitions, unwanted transitions. And so we got to get inside that.

I think it's easy for a step parent who's kind of new on the scene to look at their spouse's kid going, man, you got a messed up child right there. No, let's get underneath it. Like, why is that kid hurting? What's going on?

What's the back story? And then what do we do with that? OK, just react to that, Danny. Does that is that fitting?

Is that a good place for us to start? Oh, it is. I call those that wasn't supposed to happen moments. It wasn't designed that way. And think about that wasn't supposed to happen moments as parents. Just a regular day. You have a reactiveness to it.

Yes. And when you have that wasn't supposed to happen moment that's so big. It really creates a big reaction in a child's life when their life is lived off of emotions rather than experience.

They don't have much experience to draw from. And they assume that life is always going to be this way. They think in terms of I wonder if my parents are ever going to get back together. I wish they would get back together. I wonder if my dad still loves me because he's gone.

Or I wonder if my mom still loves me. And so they're wondering these things behind the scenes and interpreting life from those questions. Right. And they're looking for data.

Right. They're looking for information to help them with all this interpreting that's going on. And on top of that, they have the other pressures and then they they notice the kids that have things intact. They don't necessarily compare themselves with kids that have similar situations. They want that, but they usually notice how much better other people's lives are. And they unfortunately don't get as much of the bids for connection responded to by the parents.

They bid for the connection. They're like, hey, pay attention to me. I'm I'm hurting. And over time they have this helpless feeling that, yeah, my mom, she said I don't want to upset her or my dad. He's busy.

I don't want to bug him. And they don't see their emotions as that important. And so they step back and they start to try to deal with it in their own world.

And that wasn't supposed to happen. Moments start to pile up. And unfortunately, some kids run.

The one thing you didn't mention there is that suicide rate is also higher. Yeah. And they think, OK, I don't have any hope.

It's always going to be this way. And then they they hop out. And I heard parents afterwards saying, I didn't see this coming, whether it be drugs or other things.

And it's because they were so involved in their own world that they missed what was happening in that child's world. We're listening to a clip from our Family Life Blended podcast with Ron Deal. And Ron, you've got something coming up that's pretty exciting.

Yeah. You know, every year, Family Life puts on the Blended and Blessed livestream event. People can attend from around the world. It's live in Houston, Texas. So if you happen to live in that vicinity, we'd love to have you join us Saturday, April 2nd, 2022. But you can livestream it from anywhere to your home or to your church. Churches gather people together and livestream it so that they can experience the day together, worship and praise and talking about the practicalities of blended family living. By the way, the event is live streamed into Spanish again this year. I'm so excited about that. So literally around the world, people will be tuning in. You know, David and it's new every year. People ask me, so is it same as last year?

No, no, no. New theme, new speakers, new subject matter. And, you know, we're trying to give people practical information to strengthen their blended family, much like we're doing in this conversation with Danny. Ron, Dave and I had the honor of being at a Blended and Blessed conference.

And I have to tell you, we were so impressed. Not only by the speakers, the communicators, the authenticity, but the practicality and how you guys make this doable in our homes. And if you want to sign up for that, you can go to family life today dot com. Bids for connection for somebody who's not familiar with that terminology. Explain that a little bit. Yeah, a bid for connection is is really what it sounds like. Somebody bidding for connection with you, wanting a connection point with you. So it could be a smile. That could be a bid for connection. It could be a wave. It can be a tug.

And our new daughter, 13, she has ADHD and some other things going on. And she'll come and just stare at you. And that's a bid for connection. Like, I am here. Can you pay attention to me?

So I have to literally stop, look at her. Hey, what do you need from me right now? I'd love to meet that if I can. Or, hey, can you give me two minutes?

I need to finish this and then I'll be all in with you. I know you want to connect. You want to talk about something clearly.

And so let's talk. And so it's apparent being aware enough. But, you know, I've noticed a lot of parents lose appetite. They are trying to navigate a job, a new job and many hours of work. They're tired. They're exhausted.

Then they have the emotional reality of the other spouse potentially doing some things and then trying to connect with new kids and new spouse. And it's so much that they say, I just I miss those bids for connection. My child is giving me these hints and I miss them. And so for you, it's give yourself grace, but pause and try to notice.

Put pause buttons all over your house and that'll just remind you. I just I need to look at my child's face. I need to look in their eyes. I need to visit their city. I can't just be focused on my own city. I got to go into their city and see what's going on. Driving by and waving at the city is not the same as entering the city, going into the park and sitting down and going, hey, what's going on? And connecting with that.

No, that's so good. And I think the other side of this that parents need to understand is that in the midst of the confusion and transition and change, kids often in my clinical experience and I'm I'm curious what yours is as well. Kids of all ages, young, old, teenagers, even adults are recognize that mom's under a lot of pressure. Mom's trying to figure this stuff out. Mom's got stuff at work.

COVID still in the air. Mom is trying to figure out how to be a step mom to my step siblings. Now, I don't want to burden her. I don't want to bother her. Or I'm concerned that she's already irritated with me. I don't want to make it worse.

So I don't really make overt, easy to understand bids for connection. I either do nothing and hide it and just get isolated and feel more alone or I do a bid for connection in anger. Something irritating. Do you see that in the kids you work with? Oh, yeah. We're acting out.

Yeah. I mean, it can be in school acting out. They don't know how to handle the fact that they're not able to bid for connection with somebody that they love. And unfortunately, many teens, their bids for connection go to other friends and other places over time. And then a parent laments the fact that they don't have very good connection with their teens. But that's where the bid for connection now comes from the parent.

And you have to be persistent and steadfast in that and not give up because you already experienced rejection in a spouse. Yes. Potentially.

Right. That's not all blended families. But in the case that's real, the reality that some people are some spouses are rejected, you may already experience those feelings of rejection. Then you're experiencing it with your teens or teen.

And then you have to bid for connection, putting those fears of rejection aside because you're persistent, understanding that it's not personal. This child is just trying to find connectedness somewhere and stability. And maybe it's finding friendships, which is totally normal, normal developmental stage. But you can really step in intentionally and have those bids with your child planning some consistent things. And over time, your child will enjoy those.

We have to be patient with that. So I think what we're saying here is both prevention and intervention, prevention for those families that are listening and going, well, we don't really have a kid who's acting out. But moving toward your child, seeing their bids for connection, creating opportunities to connect with them, even when they don't seem to be asking for it is prevention, because that is, at the end of the day, what our kids want most from us.

They just want us sitting in the park with them, throwing the Frisbee, being in their city and being a part of them. This is also intervention for families who do have a kid they're struggling with. It's always a good idea to move toward that child emotionally, physically. Now, sometimes they got a stiff arm out and they're really angry and they're not going to let you in because of something that's happened.

There's a repair that's needed. But in general, Danny, would you say to somebody who's struggling with a child, look, always look for the opportunities to move toward them? Yes.

Yes. Even when there's pushback, rejection, drug use, withdrawal, when they're bragging about everything that they can brag about, in their own different way and personality, they're looking and they desire deep down that pursuit, that connection, the affirmation. They're looking for a sense of belonging, a sense of competence, that I'm good at something. And so just recognize that as a parent, figure out what your own triggers are.

If you feel a certain emotion towards your child that disconnects you from them, figure out where that is coming from and maybe talk with a friend about it or process it, journal about it. Your role is to visit that city consistently and go in and ask questions and have curiosity and say, I wonder what's going on in your thought bubbles. I'm seeing all these other things. What's going on in your thought bubbles? I'd love to see them.

I can't see them. I have to rely on you telling me all about them. And I'm sure there are a lot of them that you're not telling me. And I'd love to hear about that whole thought world. Maybe we can meet up at the train station. Our trains of thought can have a meeting somewhere. We can have an appointment. And at the train station of our trains of thought, we can meet up together.

I'd love to hear what's going on in your thought world. We've been listening to Ron Deal interview Danny Huerta as they talk about, man, some really, really good stuff in the Family Life Blended podcast. Well, Ron, Danny talked about these bids for connection that our children toss our way. But what keeps parents from hearing the bid and responding?

Yeah. You know, that last comment he made was really about connecting. But it's when we don't hear the bid, where we don't connect with our kids. They're looking for time and energy from us.

And it happens. And sometimes it just happens because, I don't know, we're busy and our minds are elsewhere and, you know, our hearts are good. But we just sort of don't hear it. But other times it's because we're distracted. And I think we all know one of the biggest distractions these days is technology. Our phones. There's a new term. I don't know if you've heard technoference. You know, hey, it's a real thing. Sixty five percent of moms admit that a device regularly or fairly often interrupts their play or their behavioral management of their child.

My wife has said that's true in our marriage. I'm shaking my head. That's my phone. I hate to say it, but for kids, the new sibling they have a little rivalry with is our phones.

Right. And so we just don't hear when they walk in the room and just sort of sit quietly and look at us. That's a bid for connection. We just didn't catch it because we were looking at our phone. We didn't quite understand when they sort of pause around a topic and have some emotion. Well, we didn't actually see the emotion or see the little tear in the corner of their eye or see them, you know, clearing their throat because we're sort of distracted into something that we're involved in. It's like, yeah, we've got to discipline ourselves so that we don't miss those little opportunities to connect. Because here's the thing, David. And if we repetitively miss those connections, our children hear a big message of you're not important. I have better things to do than listen to be and be with you.

Be in tuned with you. Now, that's not a message we want to send. And they're going to they're going to go somewhere else to get that. They need connection. They'll go find it somewhere else.

We don't want that. Hey, you don't text and drive. I say don't text and parent.

Yeah, that's a word right there. We should put that above the door in our kitchen. Don't text and parent. Last thing, Ron, what are we going to hear tomorrow from Danny? You know, earlier he talked about staying in control of ourselves when we feel disrespected, when a child is doing things that really concern us.

Well, tomorrow, Danny's going to get very practical about how we actually do that. How do we calm down? How do we stay in control so we respond better? The transition that could come with navigating not only yourself, but also your family through something like blending, all of a sudden finding yourself with a new spouse, new step kids in a new situation. It could be difficult. And Danny Huerta has helped us to understand and navigate that difficult transition. No one's denying that it's difficult at all.

But being persistent, being caring, being Christ-like in these situations is often what goes the farthest distance. We just need to keep looking for opportunities to move towards not only our new spouse, but our new kids as well. Blending families is unique, but it's also a tremendous blessing. I come from a blended family myself. And I'm really excited to tell you that the 2022 blended and blessed live stream and live event is coming up this April 2nd.

You can attend both live at Houston's first in Houston, Texas, or you could stream it from anywhere in the world in both English or Spanish. Our speaker lineup this year are people like Ron Deal, Kathy Lip, Gayla Grace, Willie and Rachel Scott. For more information about the blended and blessed conference and live stream event, you can register at familylifetoday.com.

Family life is the kind of ministry that wants to help you not only in areas like blending, but also in your everyday life, what it means to pursue the relationships that matter most. And we hear from you regularly about how important it is for resources like these, conversations like these, that help all of us think wisely, biblically and compassionately on subjects like blending. We just want to say thank you to the listeners who make these kinds of conversations possible for all of us. Those of you who are regular partners, who donate monthly to support Family Life Today, and for those of you who just make an occasional contribution. Every donation we receive helps extend the reach of this ministry, making it possible for us to regularly interact with more people, more often, around important subjects like this. You can go to our website familylifetoday.com to make a donation of any amount. And when you do, we'd love to send you a copy of The Power to Bless as a way to say thank you for your donation to this ministry. The Power to Bless shows you how to craft a positive, faith-filled blessing to the people closest to you in life, and even perfect strangers.

We, as God's children, are blessed in order to be a blessing. So again, if you head over to familylifetoday.com and make a donation of any amount, we will send you a copy of The Power to Bless as a thank you. Or you can give us a call at 1-800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY. We look forward to hearing from you. If this content today or any of the Family Life programs have been helpful for you, we'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend or family member, and wherever you get your podcast. It can really advance the gospel effort of what we're doing in this ministry if you'd scroll down and rate and review us. Tomorrow, we're going to hear more from Danny Huerta as he points us to the fact that the Holy Spirit can guide us when we're reacting to our kids, how we can love them well in the context of disrespect and bad behavior. That's tomorrow. I hope you can be with us again. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-18 11:52:02 / 2023-05-18 12:03:36 / 12

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