Q: I have been through some very difficult experiences in life. For the most part, I've been able to set them aside and move on, but sometimes I still struggle with my emotions. Do you have any advice for getting past the hurt?
Jim: Life can be tough, and it inflicts wounds in us all. The question is: What do we do with the pain?
On a summer vacation several years ago, my wife, Jean, and I relaxed by the pool while our boys splashed around in the water. At one point, I watched my son Trent wrestle with a beach ball. Again and again, he'd muscle the ball under the water, then struggle to keep it there. Eventually, he'd exhaust his strength, and the ball would pop back up to the surface. As I sat there and watched, I realized that my son's game was a striking metaphor for life.
Throughout our lives, we can suffer any number of deep emotional wounds. In many cases, the only solution we know is to push the pain beneath the surface of our hearts and minds. We think that if we can just block out our negative memories, the bad feelings will go away. And they do -- temporarily. But eventually a crisis occurs, and the stress brings our pain right back up to the surface.
The truth is our wounds need to be healed, not ignored. Embracing our pain is an important first step. As we receive healing support from professionals and those who care about us, the air is slowly released from the beach ball. Over time, we no longer need to rely on willpower to keep bad thoughts pushed beneath the surface. They'll heal and sink from memory all on their own.
Focus on the Family's licensed counselors would be happy to help you get started on the path to healing. You can call 855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (MT).
Q: How do we handle our kids' obsession with their phones? It seems like they're always on their devices, and it's hard to have a conversation with them.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Texting is the primary means of communication for today's preteens and teens. Many kids have multiple text conversations going on all day, impacting already scattered attention spans. There's a new term for the interference that technology can cause in family relationships -- "technoference."
One study found that tweens spent an average of more than four-and-a-half hours with screen media each day; for teens, the average was more than six-and-a-half hours a day. Unfortunately, parents sometimes spend more time with screens than their kids do.
To reduce technoference, we parents need to set boundaries and guidelines for technology use. That means investing time and energy into modeling, teaching and consistently guiding our kids with sensitivity and understanding -- not just controlling them. This requires candid conversations about your concerns and exploring the reasons why your kids are so enamored with their phones (escapism, social connection, etc.).
One great way to establish boundaries is to create a contract that spells out expectations for how technology will be used -- and what happens when it's mismanaged. Start that contract by establishing that technology is a privilege, not a right.
Of course, since we're models for our children, they need to see that we're willing to limit ourselves as well. Establish an example by consistently setting your own phone aside during dinner and family time.
A parent's main goal should be teaching children to manage life and make healthy decisions. When your kids make mistakes, help them work through the consequences. Then take time to celebrate as a family when you conquer technoference issues in your home.
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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