Q: I'm a divorced single mom trying to find another relationship and develop a social life. But my young son doesn't like to "share" me with anyone else. He disliked my last boyfriend so much that I was forced to end the relationship. What can I do?
Jim: Re-entering the dating arena can be a real challenge for single parents. We usually recommend that they don't involve children in the process until the relationship is well established and the couple is seriously considering marriage. Otherwise, the child may get accustomed to his parent's dating partner and begin to form an attachment — and then the relationship ends, resulting in yet another experience of significant loss in the child's life.
I'd suggest that the next time you become involved in a romantic relationship, don't push your son to get to know your boyfriend until the two of you are sure that you're moving toward engagement and marriage. At that point, have a heart-to-heart talk with your boy. Assure him of your love and commitment to him, and that you realize no one could ever replace his dad. Explain that you don't expect your boyfriend to be his father, but that because you love this man very much, you want him to have a place in the family.
So, take it slow and gradually introduce your child to the new relationship. Don't expect instant bonding, and don't pressure your son and your boyfriend to become instant buddies. You might start by including your boyfriend in some activities that your son enjoys.
Above all, carefully consider whether the man you're dating has what it takes to become a positive influence in your child's life. Your primary responsibility is your son — so it's critical that you determine whether your romantic interest has the depth of character to become a good stepparent.
Q: We've always tried to encourage our kids to set goals and work toward them. But these past 18 months — our whole family just feels stuck. Do have any suggestions that can help us get unstuck?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Every living thing in the universe (including your family) is moving in some way and has momentum. The question is whether your family's momentum is positive or negative.
Positive momentum builds relational stability and health, while negative momentum moves toward dysfunction and dissatisfaction. A family's negative momentum can be tough to change, especially when working against unhealthy patterns and habits. But here's the good news: Every day is a new opportunity to move toward the positive.
Think of your situation. Are you overwhelmed and exhausted? Have you surrendered on some important boundaries for your children? Have certain circumstances intensified momentum in the wrong direction? Consider these ideas for shifting momentum in your home:
Look in the mirror. It's easy to blame others and circumstances for our difficulties, but we can change this by redirecting our own thoughts and actions.
If you're married, love your spouse. The relationship between a husband and wife is foundational to the home. When that relationship is going well, it is more likely that parents will have the mental and emotional energy to love and guide their children.
Smile. Even if things aren't going well, smiling can help loosen up your mind toward possibilities rather than getting stuck on limitations. Experiment with the ripple effect of a genuine smile on your family.
Make time to talk. Conversation that is loving, warm and understanding can create positive momentum, regardless of your circumstances. Use life-giving words that bring truth, encouragement and, when needed, loving correction.
Carve out time together. Play board games, exercise together, take walks or cook as a family. The key is doing things together.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.