Q: What does it take to be a good father? I grew up without a dad. Now I'm married with a baby on the way, and I'm feeling anxious and unprepared. Do you have any advice?
Jim: I get you. That was me. That is me. Being a dad is tough enough. But for guys like us whose fathers were physically or emotionally absent, the job seems especially daunting. You and I understand -- perhaps in ways other men cannot -- just how important it is for kids to have a healthy male role model in their lives.
Thankfully, God has been gracious to put some wise and solid men in my path to instruct, encourage and support me along the way. Realizing what a difference maker they've been, my first suggestion would be to find a mentor -- an experienced older man who can help you discover what it means to be a good husband and father. A good place to look may be a church that has a strong men's ministry. Another excellent option is the National Center for Fathering. Visit the organization's website at fathers.com for information about its Dads of Destiny program and other great resources.
It's also possible that your experience as a fatherless child has left you with some unresolved emotional issues. I'd encourage you to work through these as you seek to become the best dad you can be for your own kids. We'd be happy to provide you with referrals for qualified counselors in your area.
Finally, as my Father's Day gift to you and any other dads who can use encouragement to face today's challenges of fatherhood, I'd like to give you a copy of my latest book, "The Good Dad: Becoming the Father You Were Meant to Be." Just call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) and request a copy with my compliments as supplies are available.
Q: Sometimes my husband and I talk about sensitive issues while out on a date. We're so busy that this is typically the most convenient time for us to discuss problems and concerns. Is this a good idea?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: King Solomon wrote, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which (God) has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life..." Although his admonition was offered thousands of years ago, current research confirms what the wise king understood and knew in his heart: Spending time enjoying your spouse is critical to a healthy marriage.
Marital research experts Dr. Scott Stanley and Dr. Howard Markman conducted a survey to discover what creates a "strong" relationship. To their surprise, the amount of fun couples had together emerged as the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.
If time spent together having fun is this important, then we must jealously guard these moments against invading distractions. Allowing conflict or unpleasantries to creep in is like throwing a red shirt into a washer full of white clothes. It's only one small shirt, but it's enough to ruin the whole load.
Conflict during dates can have the same destructive effect because it intensifies emotions, making it difficult to relax and enjoy each other. If the pattern becomes a practice, your mate may lose the desire to do fun things because the experience ends up turning "pink."
Before that happens, we encourage you and your spouse to set aside difficult conversations during date night and reschedule them for when you can give them your undivided attention. Focusing on the fun during dates will strengthen your bond and enable you to deal with the difficult issues better at the proper time.
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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