Q: My husband and I agree that overall, our marriage is in good shape. But we know we can probably do even better. What are some simple things we can try?
Jim: I like the analogy presented by author Kim Wier. This is the time of year when we think about "spring cleaning" around the house. It's a concept that applies to marriage as well.
Living in the South, Kim understands that cleaning house in the spring is necessary due to her allergic reaction to the pollen in the air. She also realizes that marriages can often be, in her words, "plagued by irritants." Pressures at work, raising children and financial stress all lead to petty annoyances that, over time, can grow into serious relational problems. To keep things fresh, Kim offers three simple suggestions:
-- First, de-clutter. Agree on at least one thing you can cut out of your schedules to minimize stress. Also, work on eliminating grudges (toward each other or someone else). If you need to work through deeper hurts, don't be afraid to ask for help.
-- Second, polish. As Kim says, care for yourselves "like you did when you longed to catch each other's eye." Commit to focused communication, as well –- face to face, with no distractions.
-- Third, make room. Take time for just the two of you, even if it means squeezing in a five-minute walk here and there. If one of you is traveling, talk by phone or video chat.
Every relationship could use a good spring cleaning from time to time. Taking a few moments to sweep away the dust and cobwebs can leave you breathing easier -- and your marriage stronger.
Q: Now that my adolescent son has his learner's permit, how can I adequately prepare him to drive? I'm more than a little apprehensive about him becoming a driver at such a young age.
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting: It's no coincidence that automobile insurance rates are greatly increased for adolescent drivers, especially males. But most teens do really want to learn how to drive safely. This is a time to influence a young driver's behavior for life, passing on skills and knowledge that may save lives many years in the future.
First, be patient. Helping your son learn to drive may be a nerve-wracking experience for you, but it's even more so for him. Give directions calmly and clearly, and be generous with encouragement and praise.
Second, it's important to model safe driving habits yourself. Observe traffic laws and be courteous of other drivers. For better or worse, kids imitate their parents.
Third, consider granting driving privileges on an incremental basis (some states do this as part of the licensing process). For example, initially allow your son to drive only in the day, and then progress to letting him drive at night with adult supervision. This allows him to gain experience while reducing some of the risks.
Fourth, emphasize basic safety rules (seatbelts, etc.). This is another area where your example speaks louder than your words. And your son should never drive if he is drowsy or otherwise impaired. While there are many good reasons for him to abstain from alcohol and drugs, let him know that he can always call you for a ride in order to avoid being in a car with an impaired driver -- whether himself or someone else.
Finally, if he refuses to correct unsafe driving patterns or habits, don't let him have the keys. He needs to learn that driving is a privilege, not a right. Your first priority is to keep him -- and others on the road -- alive and well while he learns to drive safely and skillfully.
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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