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I’ve met with a few people lately to counsel them about family issues. I had my fair share of them growing up so I have quite a bit to say on the subject. Here are some tidbits I share from my own experience of coping with the hard times:

1. Make a list of the type of person you want to be when you’re 25. This isn’t about what job you want or if you’ll be married with two kids. This is more about character traits. How do you want to be perceived and how do you want to treat others? This gave me a goal to work toward regardless of the direction my family chose to go. I found that, by developing these character traits, my family relationships improved.

2. Decide your happiness in life will not be dictated by your situation or your past. As you look to who you want to become and work toward reaching that goal, those other things tend to take a back seat. In my own life, the further I got from them, the more they seemed unrelated to who I am. They are encapsulated in a painful past I chose to leave behind.

3. No matter what type of parents you have, you have to respect them. That might look different from one scenario to another. Quite honestly, there are some scenarios where a student will have to be removed from the home for protection. However, the general rule is respect and obey. Many of the tensions in families arise from a tug-of-war over who has the strongest will. Once the student chokes down pride and stops tugging, the war usually fades and more rational decisions can be made by everybody.

4. Find a model. Get in a small group with a leader you respect, latch onto a family with a healthy home life, or find an adult mentor who exhibits the traits you want to acquire. This was the single most helpful part of my growing up years. I learned from observing others and by the Klumas family taking me under their wing.

5. Realize situations are only temporary. People grow up and move on with their lives and eventually make their own decisions. The decisions you make largely depend on your determination to develop good character and follow Christ. As difficult as life can be in the growing up years in an unhealthy family environment, it’s amazing how freeing this realization can be.

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