Q: Our 14-year-old son wants to start playing football. My husband is all-in, but I'm reluctant due to the injury risk. Do you have any advice?
Jim: I personally love football, but I also know firsthand how rough it can be -- my playing days ended with a broken collarbone in high school. Football is a great sport that teaches kids many good qualities, including teamwork, and helps them get in shape. But parents and children need to be aware of the risks associated with such a rough contact sport.
According to the journal Pediatrics, football accounts for about 22 percent of all concussions among 8- to 19-year-olds. In fact, the study's researchers found that 27 percent of football players ages 12 through 17 have had a least one concussion.
Other research has identified a serious condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), which can develop after repeated concussions and trauma.
On a broader scale that encompasses all sports, studies by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons show that young people are facing more serious injuries than ever before -- torn ligaments, dislocated shoulders, neck and knee injuries and strained muscles and joints -- all from high school athletics.
I'm certainly not slamming youth sports. But as parents, we may need to help our kids find a balance between athletics and other less physically demanding activities. If your children are involved in high-impact sports year-round, you might encourage them to take a season off to pursue other interests and allow their bodies to heal. Even though they're young and energetic, teens need time to rest and recuperate, just like the rest of us.
If and when our kids get hurt, we shouldn't push them back out on the field too soon. Playing when you're injured isn't tough -- it's negligent. Along those lines, make sure that coaches and trainers are properly qualified to assess injuries (especially concussions), and are fully committed to placing player safety above any other outcome. If the coach's perspective is "win at all costs," your child will be better off playing elsewhere or trying a different activity.
Q: My husband and I are having some real difficulties in our marriage. We want to fix things, but we're overwhelmed trying to figure out how. Help!
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: When your marriage is in crisis, it can be overwhelming. You and your spouse probably have a lengthy list of complaints about one another, and neither of you knows how to resolve them -- or if you should even try. I'd humbly suggest that you don't begin with the "how"; start with the "why."
The "how" details are important, of course, because we do need practical solutions to our problems. But the mechanics of fixing a relationship won't typically breathe life back into your marriage.
So, in addition to the nuts and bolts, give special attention to the why. Think (and talk) about why you fell in love in the first place. What were the dreams you once held for your relationship together? What do you hope your marriage could look like if it were healthy and whole?
Answers to the "why" questions are what revive desire between a husband and wife. They also motivate couples to work hard at healing their relationship. As the well-known saying goes, "Where there's a will, there's a way."
Once you have that foundation re-established, then work on the "how." We have plenty of tips and resources available at FocusOnTheFamily.com/marriage -- including the Focus on Marriage Assessment, which evaluates the strength of 12 essential traits of your relationship (it's free and takes about 10 minutes to complete). For couples on the brink of divorce, we offer Hope Restored Marriage Intensives. And our staff counselors are available to help by calling 800-232-6459.
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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