Q: I'm usually so busy with work that I'm not around my children that much. They're used to Dad not being home. But being "stuck" home together these past weeks has reminded me that they're really fun kids. How can I keep up the relational momentum once things get back to "normal"?
Jim: One of the key building blocks to build a strong relationship with our children involves discovering new interests and activities together -- and making memories in the process.
Trying new experiences with your child, where both of you have to rely on one another, is a good way to forge lasting bonds. If you're still stuck inside, play challenging games that require teamwork. Do web searches for online scavenger hunts or virtual tours of museums. Research something and cowrite a report about it. When in doubt, read a book together.
Once you're back outside, extend yourselves. Attend a sporting event; take a cooking class; ride horses at an equestrian center; try rock climbing... The possibilities are endless. Obviously, some kids are a little more cautious and may need a "nudge" to be more adventurous. So be sure to explore activities that fit their interests and personality. But get creative.
Whatever activities you do, there's one underlying principle that should guide you. It's crucial for the parent-child relationship to be based on unconditional love and acceptance. Kids need Mom and Dad to be their biggest cheerleaders, affirming them when they succeed and encouraging them when they fail. Love, approval and verbal affirmation are crucial ingredients to a healthy relationship. Not only will your children be more apt to step out and try new activities, but your relationship will flourish when they know you're completely with them.
So, no matter the circumstances, keep finding things you can learn together. For more ideas to help your kids thrive, see FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My husband's employer shut down due to social distancing. The company may go under completely before it's all over. I think we can make it financially, but how can I help him as he grieves the loss of a treasured job?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Your goal is to show you care -- at the deepest emotional level -- how the loss is affecting your spouse. There are many facets to this, but here are just a few thoughts to keep in mind:
Your spouse needs your care before your solutions. Avoid using phrases like "at least" as a way of placing a silver lining around the loss. Saying "At least we have savings" or "At least you don't have coronavirus" won't help.
Resist the urge to problem-solve before you empathize with your spouse's pain. Problem-solving or trying to fix the problem usually leads to relationship disconnect. Hearts connect when you spend time caring and empathizing with your spouse's feelings during a loss. Sympathy is when you feel bad for your spouse: "I'm so sorry that you lost your job." Empathy is feeling bad with your spouse, connecting with his broken heart: "I can only imagine how devastated and overwhelmed you must feel right now. I don't know what to say, but we'll walk this out together."
Give your spouse a safe place to hurt in a way that's unique to him. Don't take his feelings personally. However, it's never OK for anyone to express their feelings inappropriately at your expense.
If he doesn't want to talk about the loss yet, give him space to internally process his feelings. Something like, "I would love to better understand what you're going through and how you're feeling. Let me know when you're ready to talk."
Our staff counselors would be happy to help you both; call 855-771-HELP (4357) for a free consultation.
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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