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Coping techniques help keep stress levels in check


QUESTION: I have a lot of stress in my life and just don’t know how to cope with it. Any suggestions? When the roof caves in at your house, when your little girl gets the measles, when your teenager flunks a course in school or your spouse gets laid off at work, how do you cope with the stress?

DR. DOBSON: Your question reminds me of an old baseball story about Bill Clem, a famous National League umpire. He used to have a habit of hesitating a minute before signaling a ball or a strike. It was just a quirk of his. One day there was this hotshot young pitcher on the mound who would fire away, and Bill Clem would take his time calling the pitch.

Finally, in about the sixth inning the kid was getting irritated. He threw a crucial pitch and then just couldn’t help yelling, “Come on, Bill. What is it?”

Clem pulled off his face mask, stared the kid down, and said, “It ain’t nothing ‘til I call it something.”

Well, that’s kind of the way it is in life. We can’t stop the curveballs from coming our way, but we do get the privilege of deciding what to call them. You can determine whether a stressful time is the most horrible, terrible, unfair thing that ever happened to you; or whether it’s just another common problem that you’ll manage to get through somehow.

Remember, also, that the way you react is being watched carefully by your kids. If we show them that we can cope, they’ll also be more likely to handle their stress more easily.

QUESTION: How do you feel about “no-fault divorce” laws, which allow for the dissolution of marriage without cause? If one party wants out, he or she can get out. Has that been a good policy?

DR. DOBSON: The concept of “no-fault divorce” was introduced in California in 1969, making it the first jurisdiction in the Western world to radically alter its divorce law. Over the next 15 years, every state in the United States adopted some form of no-fault legislation. The idea took the nation by storm.

Statistical evidence in the past three decades verifies that no-fault divorce has been a disaster for the family. According to Statistical Abstracts of the United States, the number of divorces in this country has increased by 279 percent since these laws began taking effect in 1970. The number of children living with a divorced parent has increased 352 percent in that same period. Demographer Dr. Paul Glick has predicted that one-third of all children will live in a stepfamily before they reach their 18th birthdays. I agree with those who contend that the liberalization of divorce laws undermined the sanctity of the home and condemned millions of children to a life of poverty and heartache.

In essence, no-fault divorce laws have effectively nullified the act of marriage, making it an unenforceable contract. A person can abandon his or her family more easily than that person can abrogate any other agreement that bears his signature. Of greatest concern is the welfare of the husband or wife who is unwillingly confronted with divorce, custody battles and rejection. That individual has absolutely no power in the dissolution of the family. But the other spouse, even the person who chases after a younger playmate or a “grand new freedom,” is the one in charge.

There is a lesson to be learned from this regrettable exercise in social engineering. The institution of the family is the basic unit of society – the ground floor on which the entire culture rests. If it collapses, everything of value will go down with it. We should never tamper with it frivolously or undermine its rationale for existence.

Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Copyright 2004 James Dobson Inc.