Get your kids involved with helping others.
I recently heard that a survey on happiness reported the one thing happy people have in common: They each help someone else.
There's great reward in selflessly helping another. My kids have shoveled snow for elderly neighbors free of charge, visited senior centers, and helped me clean homes for new moms and sick folks. It's actually easier to get your kids to help others than it is to get them to clean their own rooms! After volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center and at the hospital, my kids were able to see others hurting because of poor choices. It helps them re-evaluate their own activities.
Use yourself as an example.
Consequences don't just affect the offender. My children suffered because I was sexually active before marriage. I got pregnant, and although I married, the union ended in divorce. Now my children suffer from the absence of their father. My two younger children are also without their big brother, who decided to live with his father in another state. Without emotional or financial support from their dad, they must do without many things.
My children see how the consequences of my own actions continue to affect many others, including themselves. I trust this will help them realize they should make wise choices—including sexual purity until marriage—so they can break this senseless cycle in our family.
Following these guidelines doesn't guarantee my children will choose the wiser path. But it does give them tools to evaluate their behaviors. When they were young, it was my responsibility to help them make appropriate decisions. As they mature, it becomes their responsibility to choose right from wrong. Hopefully, I'm planting the seeds of character—no matter what lies in my personal past—while trusting God will cause them to grow.
-Kelly J. Martindale lives with her family in Colorado. This article originally appeared in Single-Parent Family (February 1996).