"I really want my two children to love the Lord, but when they spend time with their dad and stepmom, they are exposed to a lifestyle that goes against what the Bible teaches. What can we do? I'm tempted to discourage them from going to see their dad."
One challenge of faith training has always been how to minimize the world's influence upon our children. Sometimes, however, the "world" is another parent or household. This presents some very difficult challenges to faith training since children internalize each parent and their values. It's one thing to say, "don't listen to the world"; it's another to say, "don't listen to your dad."
Let's first address Judy's temptation to limit the contact between her children and their father. While the desire to protect the faith of her children is understandable, becoming a barrier between the other biological parent and their children is not recommended because it usually backfires. As children become aware of the parent's hindrance, they usually grow to resent them and, ironically, shut out the parent's value system, judging it as hypocritical. In addition, when an ex-spouse feels cheated out of time with their children they may retaliate, exposing the children to more parental conflict. Instead of limiting contact, you must find other ways of influencing your children. Here are some suggestions.
First and foremost, admit that you cannot control what is taught or demonstrated in the other home. Many of the battles between homes are essentially about power and control. Trying to control the environment of the other household only invites between-home hostility. Stop trying to change your ex-spouse. (If you couldn't change them in your marriage, what makes you think you can change them in your divorce?) Letting go of control forces you to let God manage what you can't change and make the most of your time with your children.1