Q: Our son is in the military, and he's now stationed overseas with his family. We realize that for the next few years we won't see our grandchildren in person as often as we're accustomed. We're going to miss a lot of key moments in their lives. How can we stay connected and engaged with them?
Jim: One writer called grandparenting the greatest job on earth, handed to you wrapped in a blanket. But staying in touch can take a lot more work these days. Families used to reside in the same community for generations, but not anymore -- and of course, situations like the one you described have always been tough. Here are a few ideas:
First, if your grandkids are old enough to be involved in social media, join them. Send emails, exchange text messages and friend them on Facebook. These can be some of the best connection tools available.
Second, embrace technology. It's easy to video-call over the internet. This gives you and your grandkids a good way to bridge the miles and "see" each other. Ask questions about their friends, school and sports activities. You might even want to take notes, so you'll know what to talk about the next time you call.
Third, send the occasional surprise "love package." It doesn't have to be expensive. Try coloring books, or chewing gum, flower seeds, Easter candy, puzzles and so on. It's a terrific way to say, "I miss you and love you."
Fourth, consider giving each grandchild a gift subscription to an age-appropriate magazine -- and doubling up a copy for yourself. When each issue arrives, you can discuss it by video or phone call, read articles together, etc. Younger kids may enjoy doing hands-on puzzles and activities "with" you as you chat. (See FocusOnTheFamily.com for various publications.)
Grandparenting across the miles takes a little effort, but it's worth it. You and your grandchildren will be the richer for it.
Q: We have some friends who don't think twice about taking their young children with them when they go see PG-13 or even R-rated films. They argue that it's cheaper to bring the kids than to get a baby sitter for the evening. Am I right in being concerned?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: One of the most baffling things to me about parenting today is that many dads and moms who would take a bullet for their young children don't think twice about taking those kids to movies that could cause serious emotional and spiritual damage and influence them in untold negative ways.
At a recent screening of a film I knew was going to contain problematic content, I asked the mother next to me, "Since you haven't seen this movie, do you worry that some of the messages onscreen will be detrimental to your child?" Her response was telling. The mom made a sweeping gesture and said, "Look at all the children here." In other words, her justification had nothing to do with the welfare of her child, but simply the fact that she wasn't alone in her decision.
I believe responsible parenting involves being informed about what your kids might be exposed to before it happens. It's not enough to buy into the "logic" that just because so many parents do it, it's OK. Numerous studies have shown that movies often act as a "super-teacher." And let's be honest here, Hollywood is not the super-teacher most of us really want for our children.
To help parents make informed decisions, PluggedIn.com offers comprehensive reviews of movies, TV, music and video games before you watch, listen or play.
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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