Q: Do you have any advice for an older couple who have long-term custody of their grandchildren? Our two young grandkids are living with us and probably will be for some time.
Jim: First, I commend you and thank you for having the courage to assume the responsibility of giving your grandchildren a loving, stable and family-centered home life. I can only scratch the surface here of what your question deserves, but here are a few thoughts.
You've likely already recognized that raising kids can be a very different proposition when it's tackled for the second time in midlife. Your energy levels aren't what they were back in your 20s and 30s, and you might even be dealing with health issues of your own. So, remember that if you don't take care of yourselves, you won't be in any condition to take care of the kids.
You'll need a strong support system. Don't let the renewed demands of parenting cut you off from existing friends, neighbors or family members who understand what you're facing and can come alongside you. Admit your limits and seek some outside help. One way to do this is to join a support group through church, social club or even local government programs.
Never feel guilty about getting away for a break. Taking some time off for yourself is not a sign of weakness, and it will help you (and the children) more than you may realize. Hire a sitter, and/or swap out caregiving with another family. Take advantage of day-care centers, summer camps, church youth groups, after-school clubs, sports programs, etc.
Finally, I'd strongly recommend connecting with a professional counselor on a semi-regular basis. Whatever was involved in you getting custody of your grandkids, there was likely some sort of difficult or even traumatic experience. I invite you to start by calling Focus on the Family's counseling department at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: After years of being single, I looked forward to being married because I thought I would finally be happy. That's what marriage is all about, right? So why isn't it working -- why don't I feel happy about being married?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: We've all heard: "...and they lived happily ever after." It's the stuff of fairy tales and the hope of every couple standing at a wedding altar. But I don't think it's wise to make happiness the primary goal of marriage. In fact, I think it's unrealistic.
Here's the problem. Happiness is a fickle emotion. It comes and goes with nearly every change of our circumstances. When good things happen, we're happy. When bad things happen, we're not. That's why there's one thing you can count on: Our spouse cannot make us happy all the time. No matter how hard they try, over the course of life, they'll disappoint us sometimes.
There's also a deeper issue to consider: Making my own happiness the primary goal for marriage shows I'm in the relationship for me -- for what I can get out of it. Simply put, seeking to gratify ourselves at the expense of our spouse will destroy a relationship.
Now, I'm not suggesting we shouldn't want to be happy in our marriage. We certainly can be happy. But that shouldn't be our primary goal. True happiness comes from a deep commitment to place the needs of our spouse above our own.
That said, in order to sacrificially serve our mate, we need to ensure we have something to give. So, seek a balance with things that recharge you and allow you to love your spouse from a store of abundance. When a husband and wife devote themselves to each other in this way, they'll truly live happily ever after.
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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