Q: This will be my first Father's Day (our daughter was born four months ago). Quite frankly, the entire concept scares me. Who thought it would be a good idea to let ME be a dad? I don't think I have what it takes.
Jim: If you're not a little scared at the thought of being a parent, there's probably something wrong. It's a tough assignment -- but it's also one of God's greatest gifts!
Years ago, my friend, Dr. Ken Canfield, wrote a book called "The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers." Perhaps you'll find these principles empowering as you start your journey.
First, effective fathers are committed to their children. Nothing else can fill a dad's role -- not TV, not school and not even Mom. Fathers need to be there for their kids.
Second, effective fathers know their children. They ask them questions, spend time on their turf, and help them develop their own talents and interests.
Third, effective fathers are consistent in their attitudes and behavior. They keep their promises. Their lives are characterized by regularity and predictability.
Fourth, effective fathers protect and provide for their kids. This means not only putting a roof over their heads, but also knowing their emotional needs.
Fifth, effective fathers love their children's mother. Dr. Canfield calls this "one of the best things you can do for your kids." Dads need to go on dates with their wives, and show them affection in front of the kids.
Sixth, effective fathers are active listeners. They pay attention when their kids talk to them, and block out distractions.
Finally, effective fathers spiritually equip their children. They take them to church, and teach them to pray.
Some of these principles won't apply until your daughter is older, but ingrain them in your mind now. Happy Father's Day, and may God bless you in your role as a dad!
Q: My husband and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have two children together, and we have just grown apart. We live under the same roof, but don't seem to communicate. Recently I've started voicing my unhappiness, but my husband doesn't seem to be too concerned, and if anything, seems shocked that I'm unhappy. What do I do?
Juli: During the busyness of raising kids and managing life, it's pretty normal for couples in your life stage to feel like the connection has gone out of your marriage. It is also common for you to be more sensitive to this lack of intimacy than your husband is. In general, women desire more emotional intimacy in marriage and are the first to notice when you begin to drift apart.
You didn't mention any major conflicts that are contributing to "drifting apart." This is good. However, if your marriage continues to drift, you'll become more and more vulnerable to a crisis like infidelity. Now is the time to change things.
Since your husband doesn't think there's a problem, he may not be interested in marriage counseling. However, he might be willing to read a good book together on marriage or even attend a weekend marriage conference.
One of the simplest and most important things you can do is to start investing time in one another. Plan a date night at least twice a month. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to check in with each other. Go out of your way to connect during the day with a quick text that says "I'm thinking about you" or a sweet note with lipstick on the mirror. These might seem like very minor adjustments, but they can make a big difference in working toward intimacy.
Finally, don't give up. Many couples go through stretches in which marriage is not fun or emotionally fulfilling. Investing through these rough spots will build an even deeper emotional connection for the future of your marriage.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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