Q: I'd say my marriage is healthy overall. Still, being closed up together in recent weeks has shown we have some work to do. My husband and I both want to grow from this time and improve our relationship moving forward. Do you have any practical advice?
Jim: Here's an illustration. Any fruit farmer will tell you that if you want a larger crop with better tasting fruit, you have to prune some branches. It seems counterintuitive, but it's true. Here's why. As we all know, a tree needs water and nutrients to grow. But it needs an abundance of water and nutrients to produce quality fruit. A tree with too many branches will use all its energy for survival. The fruit, if it grows at all, will suffer.
Marriages can have the same problem. People say yes to too many things. Before long, a couple has branches of activity stretching every which way. But the relationship is deprived of the time and attention it needs. The marriage may look healthy on the surface, but it really won't grow the way it should.
While none of us wanted a societal shutdown, now is a great time to give your relationship some extra care. Use the unexpected space and time to talk about the issues you're noticing. In short, do some trimming.
And as you recalibrate going forward -- if you recognize that you've been overstretched, prune back some branches of activity. Maybe skip that weekly TV show and reserve the time for conversation. Say no to an evening with friends in favor of a date night. Build some breathing room into your schedule, and your marriage will do more than just exist, it'll thrive.
For more ideas to help your marriage come alive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: Being stuck in the house for weeks, everybody in our family has spent more time than normal using tech devices. I want to reclaim our media limits; any advice?
Adam Holz (Director) and Paul Asay (Senior Associate Editor), Plugged In: We all know that setting boundaries on screen-time use is hugely important for the sake of our kids' mental, emotional and spiritual health -- even (and especially) in this unprecedented season of disruption. But admittedly, that's been difficult of late.
And now it's hard to eliminate anything we like without a concrete plan for replacing it with something that offers a different kind of satisfaction. For parents, resetting our kids' screen-time limits demands something more than just a parental edict that they're not going to do "X" anymore. When we remove something from our children's lives that they enjoy and are used to doing, it's going to create a vacuum that we have a responsibility to help them fill. That requires planning and intentionality.
Whether it's games, making music, puzzles, drawings, various crafts, cooking new recipes, drawing contests, etc., your family's replacement strategies may look very different than someone else's. But the point is, we're not just dropping screen-time regulations on our kids and expecting them to naturally know what to do with the empty space we've just created. Instead, we're actively and intentionally engaged as parents, brainstorming and modeling non-screen-related activities. And the more offline fun you have, the better memories you'll create.
In truth, as scary as the coronavirus shutdown has been for many of us, it can also be an opportunity to create new, special moments with our children -- moments forged over a book or board game or saucepan, moments they'll treasure forever. Because in the end, those familial, face-to-face experiences we have with our kids are way more memorable than a binge-worthy show.
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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