Q: Our kids made their Christmas lists early this year. Reading through them, I'm taken aback at how ... well, self-centered they are. How can we adjust their point of view?
Jim: Most children have a tendency to feel that the world revolves around them. Our culture encourages this problem by telling kids -- and adults, frankly -- to be self-centered, to look out for No. 1. As parents, we have to work hard to help our kids look beyond their own interests and to develop empathy for others.
Author Silvana Clark addresses this issue in her book "Fun-Filled Parenting." She suggests that one of the best antidotes for self-centeredness is to volunteer as a family. It might be donating some items to a local shelter, or hosting a neighborhood car wash and giving the proceeds to charity. Picking up trash at the park, taking part in a church service project, putting together care packages for the troops ... the possibilities are endless.
According to Clark, volunteering can help children learn four valuable lessons. First, it helps them understand that they're not the center of the universe. Second, it enables kids to learn responsibility and gain self-confidence. Third, it puts them in touch with community resources and groups that depend on volunteers. And finally, volunteering helps children build relationships with positive role models -- men and women who have invested their lives in reaching out to others.
It's important that we as moms and dads model service and self-sacrifice for our children, but it's even better if we can get the kids involved in the same activities. Make volunteering a family affair! It will draw you closer together, and you just might make some lasting memories in the process.
For more tips on how to help your family thrive, go to FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My marriage of 17 years is basically dead. My husband and I are both done with it, but we have agreed that we'll stay together for the children (ages 15 and 13) until they're both out of the house. That will at least be a positive for the kids, right?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: That's what a lot of couples on the verge of divorce say. According to a number of studies, they're right. But there's a lot more at stake here.
Children whose biological mother and father stay married are less likely to get into trouble, to use drugs or to be sexually active at an early age. They're also more likely to complete college and to enjoy a successful marriage of their own. Those are the kinds of positive results we all want for our children. It all starts with keeping your marriage together.
BUT -- even better is to get your relationship on a path toward healing. Staying together for your children but fighting every night in front of them is counterproductive. Severe conflict in your home can unravel all the good you're trying to do on their behalf.
A healthy home environment is one where children see their mom and dad work through their differences and live out their love for one another. Don't stay together for the kids' sake only to stay miserable in your marriage. Seek help for your problems and find common ground.
If you and your husband are both willing to try, I would strongly suggest one of our Hope Restored Marriage Intensives (hoperestored.focusonthefamily.com). At the very least, please call our counselors at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
You and your spouse don't have to be strangers living together under the same roof. Do yourselves and your children a favor: Stay together and get your marriage healthy.
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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