Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash
Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash



I divorced several years ago and my ex and his new wife allow our 12-year-old daughter to wear clothes, watch movies, and go places that aren’t good for her.   What is the best way for me to handle this without my daughter feeling caught in the middle?


The best first step will be for you to get together with trusted friends, especially if some of them know your husband, to prayerfully discuss your concerns.  Do you know any others that God has helped navigate these potentially difficult situations?  Their input can be invaluable for you.

The next step is for you to set up a meeting with both your former husband and his new wife, to discuss how to best manage some of the differences and, for the sake of your daughter, to get on the same page for parenting. Given the nature of your relationship it may be helpful to bring in a wise and trusted third party.

When you meet make sure you have a prioritized list of no more than five concerns, rather than a laundry list, and ask them to do the same.  This shows respect for their concerns and will make them more open to respecting yours.

Before you meet immerse this time in prayer.  Ask some close women friends to covenant with you to pray before, during, and after you meet.  James 5:16 tells us that, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”  I’ve seen God take situations that seemed “impossible” and turn them around and that miracle was attributed to the power of prayer.

At the same time be sure to, in the spirit of Colossians 3:2, continue to help your daughter set her mind on things above, and in the spirit of Philippians 4:8, to help her focus on things that are right, pure and lovely etc.  Faithfully model for her the difference that Christ can make in a persons life.  As she consistently sees the “real thing” in you, it will be easier for the Holy Spirit to speak to her about the unhealthy things that concern you.

Another helpful step other single moms have found helpful is to seek out a mature Christ-like high school girl in your church who might be willing to meet with your daughter for friendship and discipleship.  In addition to this, ask God to help you discern teachable moments when you can help her (not lecture her) think through some of the consequences of certain lifestyle choices.

One of the most important developmental steps is for a young person to learn how to make wise choices around morals.  If over time what she hears from you and sees in you is a consistent reflection of our Lord, it is much more likely that over time she will get the message and choose to live her life the same way.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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