Q: Now that my kids are grown, I have more time on my hands and want to invest it in something else meaningful. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: We often place great emphasis on the next generation: The children growing up today who will become the leaders of tomorrow. That's certainly very worthwhile, but what about the previous generation?
In many Western nations, the birth rate is declining while the elderly are the fastest-growing segment of the population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people 65 and over will double by 2050. By 2030, one in five Americans will be elderly.
Unfortunately, our culture prizes those who are young and beautiful. But there's great value in every human being, no matter their age.
Investing in the older generation is about more than spending time with your own parents and grandparents, although that's definitely important. Think about the thousands of men and women around us -- veterans, nursing home residents, shut-ins, etc. -- who are growing old alone. One survey of more than 16,000 care centers in the U.S. found that only 15 percent of the residents received visitors. Eighty-five percent didn't receive visits from anyone ... not friends, not family, not even a chaplain. We can do better. We must do better.
So I hope you'll consider investing a little time, energy and love in the elder generation. We can all gain a lot from their wisdom, experience and example. And they'll benefit from our love and appreciation.
Q: My ex-husband is a convicted felon serving a long prison sentence. How should I respond to my son's questions about his dad? He has some great role models in my father and my brothers, but I'm worried that he will somehow end up identifying with his father's example.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: It makes sense for your son to have questions; he wants to get to know a part of his story that he does not know well. He's blessed to have a mom who loves him so much and is intentional about this situation.
Be honest when your boy asks questions about his dad. Explain that his father made some bad decisions in the past and is facing the consequences, which includes being in jail for a long time. Above all, make sure your son understands that his father is absent because of his own mistakes; kids often tend to assume the blame for any kind of brokenness in the family structure.
It's natural for your boy to be sad, even angry, about his father being in prison. But you should also help him grasp the point that resentment only hurts the person who nurtures it. So help him develop healthy ways to deal with these emotions (exercising, hobbies, talking to someone he trusts, etc.). You're in the best position to help your son build a plan for who he wants to become rather than defaulting to repeating his dad's mistakes.
Keep in mind that he may ask to write to or visit his father -- or Dad might want to initiate contact. Talk this through with a counselor. Some kids are in a good place emotionally to do this, but some aren't.
Meanwhile, it's encouraging to know that your son has been blessed with so many other positive male role models. As he grows, encourage these men to spend special one-on-one "guy" time with him. Their affirmation and attention will give your boy a deeper sense of how special and valuable he is.
If you'd like to discuss these ideas further with one of our staff counselors, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
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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