Q: How can I forgive my deceased father for his cruel words and behavior? He treated me horribly when I was a kid, so my relationship with him was strained and distant until the day he died. I never worked things out with him in person, and now I'm struggling with feelings of anger, bitterness, guilt and remorse.
Jim: It's always difficult to lose a family member, but it's even harder when we have unresolved issues with the person who has passed on. Psychologists call this "complicated mourning."
One way to begin working through your complicated mourning is to write a letter to your father as if he were still alive. Try to express the full range of your emotions. Besides the anger, bitterness and guilt, there may be a sense of deep sadness and irretrievable loss, along with frustration that you can't fix things now that he's gone. Put all this down in writing, as clearly and thoroughly as you can. After composing the letter, you might even want to visit your father's grave and read it "to him" there. That's purely symbolic, of course, but some people have found it liberating.
Once this is done, it may also be helpful to see if you can gain some insight into the workings of your father's mind. If possible, talk to your mother and other relatives who knew your dad when he was younger. What kind of relationship did he have with his parents? Did he feel loved and accepted as a child? If not, it's possible that he was simply passing this legacy on to you without fully realizing what he was doing. Sometimes knowledge of another person's background can give us empathy for them. In turn, that empathy can grant us a new perspective on the person's behavior toward us, and start to heal our own psychological wounds.
Above all else, I think there's a very real spiritual component to all of this, so I'd encourage you to talk to a pastor or Christian counselor for further insights. You can start by calling our counseling team at 800-232-6459.
Q: I'm a first-time parent, and my son is just getting to the "toddler tantrum" stage. I'm a bit overwhelmed -- how do I handle these episodes?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: That may depend on the reason for the tantrum. Is your child hungry or tired? If so, offering a snack or a nap may be all it takes to nip a tantrum in the bud.
However, if your child is frustrated over not getting his way, the best thing to do is ignore the outburst. The last thing you want to do is give in or drop everything in an effort to appease your little one. This will teach him that negative behavior pays off.
Once your child does calm down, explain that screaming won't work and that you need him to use words.
If the tantrum continues, however, you may need to use a time-out. Place your toddler somewhere without toys or entertainment, and wait for him to quiet down before allowing him to rejoin the family.
It can also be helpful to identify those triggers that set your child off. If, for instance, your toddler tends to throw a fit when it's time to leave a fun setting, prepare him in advance. A five-minute warning can go a long way toward heading off a tantrum.
Finally, remember that toddler temper tantrums are perfectly normal. And, if they're handled correctly, your child will soon learn healthier ways to express emotions. For more ideas about raising young children, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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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