Q: I've heard that your organization supports foster care and adoption. I'm somewhat curious, but also a bit hesitant -- and our family already has a lot on our plate. Should we get involved?
Jim: Both of my parents died by the time I was 12; I was an orphan in elementary school. So my heart goes out to the 143 million children worldwide who hunger for the chance to call someone "Mom" and "Dad." I know what it feels like to drift through life without the anchor of a parent's love. That's why Focus on the Family began the "Wait No More" campaign.
When we think of orphans, we often picture poor kids in Third World slums. That's certainly a serious global issue that deserves more attention. But there are more than 100,000 orphaned children in the American foster care system. They go to sleep at night dreaming of real homes full of hugs and laughter. They long to be accepted.
Our American culture embraces a "me first" attitude that rejects the idea of self-sacrifice. We're faced with endless opportunities to entertain ourselves with sports, movies, hobbies and possessions. Those things aren't inherently wrong. But when we pursue them so much that we fail to love and care for those among us who are hurting, we need to rethink our priorities.
Adoption certainly isn't for every family. But I'm guessing there are many couples who might find room in their hearts for a child who doesn't have a place to call home. And there are numerous ways that families who don't adopt can help those who do. For more information, contact your local social services department or visit Focus on the Family's special website, ICareAboutOrphans.org.
Q: How can we get our finicky 4-year-old to eat what we give her? Her selective eating habits are driving us crazy. I see this as disobedience, but my spouse fears that making an issue of it will lead to eating disorders later. Help!
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting: First, make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page and can work as a united team to map out and follow a plan of action. And rest easy: responding to mealtime willfulness with appropriate consequences will not cause an eating disorder later in life.
Begin by setting firm guidelines as to what she eats, how she eats it and how long it takes to finish a meal. Make it clear that you expect her to eat what you prepare. You can offer a choice between two equally nutritious options -- say, broccoli or beans as the vegetable -- but don't allow her to pick between beans and crackers.
Most importantly, don't turn meals into power struggles. Just give clear, simple instructions about your expectations and then move forward with your normal mealtime routine. If you provide a wholesome selection of foods and she isn't interested, don't fight or force her to sit for hours at the table until she eats it. Give her a reasonable amount of time to finish her food, then put it in the refrigerator until she's hungry. Don't allow her to become stuck in a rut of three or four foods that are "the only things she ever eats." She won't starve if you hold your ground.
Note: Be aware if she's responding to certain textures -- some children can be more reactive than others in their sensory world, including food.
Remember, Mom and Dad must agree on how to respond to this issue, and each of you needs to stick with the plan and follow through on it. Otherwise, the problem will persist and your mutual frustration level will only increase.
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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