Q: When my father died recently, I was struck not only by my own loss, but also my children's -- now they won't have Grandpa around anymore. Dad was a huge influence on me, and it hurts to think that my kids will miss out on his wisdom and encouragement as they grow. How can I replace that?
Jim: I'm very sorry for your family's loss. Losing a treasured loved one is always difficult, but especially when there's been a close relationship with multiple generations sharing in each other's lives.
You obviously can't "replace" Grandpa himself, but perhaps you can find someone else to help fill the gap. There are thousands of folks around us -- veterans, nursing home residents and others -- who are growing old alone. One survey of more than 16,000 care centers in the United States found that only 15 percent of the residents received visitors. In other words, eighty-five percent didn't receive visits from anyone -- not friends, not family, not even a chaplain. We can do better. And it's a natural fit for our children.
In that vein, perhaps you could consider "adopting" someone in the elder generation, and giving your kids the chance to build a relationship with a surrogate grandparent. Your children can gain a lot from seasoned wisdom, experience and example -- and brighten someone's world in return.
Meanwhile, if you need to talk to caring person about your Dad's death -- and even how to help your children process it -- I hope you'll feel free to call our staff counselors at 1-800-232-6459. They would be happy to help.
Q: I'm horrified whenever I see something in the news about cyberbullying; my son is about to start middle school, and he's fairly sensitive. I want him to enjoy making new friends and connecting with people through various means, but I'm also worried. How can I help guard his heart without being over-protective?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: I wish I could help alleviate your concern by citing statistics showing that cyberbullying is a rarity, like being struck by lightning. Sadly, that's not the case; 40 percent of all teens have been cyberbullied at least once. One out of five teens has been cyberbullied on a regular basis. A whopping 95 percent of social media users say they've witnessed it online.
First, you need to ask your son if he's ever felt bullied in a general sense. Then transition to cyberbullying. Has he been affected or has someone he knows? How has he responded?
Let your son know that should it ever happen (or if it already has), you want to be aware and help him walk through it. Make sure he understands that depending upon the severity, there are times when a bully's parents should be notified, possibly school administrators, sometimes law enforcement. Assure him that you will help facilitate this process.
Furthermore, help him gain a sense of confidence. While we all know the middle-school years can be rough, your son needs to realize that confidence is a life skill that can be developed. I suggest a two-fold approach. Make sure he grasps that all human beings have a God-given value, independent of what others think or say, and independent of what he can or will accomplish.
That said, in a parallel fashion, it still helps if your son can feel good about a special talent. Can he play the piano well? Does he have a good jump shot? Can he solve computer problems like Steve Wozniak? Make sure he can hold his head up high because of these gifts. When others tell him he's not much -- either in person or digitally -- he can trust that the error must be with the bully, not with himself.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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