Q: This past year both our adult son and my brother have experienced job loss and hardship. We have the resources to help; do you think it's wise to loan money to either or both of them?
Jim: Financial counselor Ron Blue highlights a critical point to consider in any situation like what you're envisioning: Whenever money is loaned, that changes the relationship between the parties involved. The dynamic is no longer simply brother-sister, father-son, or friend-friend -- it's borrower-lender. When you loan money to a family member, you've introduced another level of complexity into the relationship.
This also applies in the case of cosigning on a loan for a family member -- in other words, putting yourself in the position of guaranteeing that person's debt. In effect, it's the same thing as lending the money yourself.
So, if your family members are truly in need, you may want to seriously consider the option of simply giving them the money. Giving generously, with no strings attached, is a commendable and positive virtue.
However, if you have reason to believe this would be impractical or unwise, then Ron Blue recommends that you establish a formal borrower-lender relationship with repayment terms and interest rates clearly defined. Both parties should understand and agree to these terms upfront. Don't leave anything to uncertainty or chance (as in, "Oh, just pay me back when you can"). The terms should be documented -- in writing -- so the expectations for repayment are plain to all concerned.
Again: However you approach the situation, lending to (or borrowing from) family members is a potentially dangerous thing to do precisely because of the way it changes relationships. It will almost certainly introduce tension at some point or other. I'm not saying it's wrong to enter into an arrangement like this, but it's something that needs to be approached with caution and discernment.
Q: I'm concerned about my preteen daughter's self-image. The other girls in her peer group are so focused on being thin and wearing the right clothes. I don't want her to get caught in that trap; what can I do?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Ironically, many magazines and websites aimed at girls often reinforce the flawed message that women must be physically beautiful to have worth. But as a parent, you're positioned to counter these damaging messages and the confusion they create in a young woman's mind. It's about finding a healthy balance between affirming your daughter's physical appearance and nurturing her character.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you walk with your girl through this very real cultural minefield:
Compassionately listen to your daughter's frustrations and anxieties related to these pressures.
Little girls naturally want to be told they're pretty. Acknowledge that without conveying that her worth is strictly based on her appearance.
Emphasize virtue and character over appearance -- strongly commend her whenever she is truthful, kind, trustworthy, empathic, humble and helpful.
Praise her for her accomplishments in areas involving her mind -- ideas and opinions as well as math, science, reading, art, music and other "cerebral" disciplines.
Seek out female role models who exhibit strong character and creativity.
Help your daughter recognize that images of models and celebrities are almost always "digitally doctored."
Help her discover and develop her own fashion style that blends modesty with personality.
Spend consistent time with your daughter to foster relationship and open, ongoing communication. Parents have more influence on their preteen's development, perceptions and beliefs than you might think.
With a little guidance and a lot of love, we can defuse our culture's negative messages about femininity and help our daughters develop a truly healthy self-image. For more practical tips, see FocusOnTheFamily.com/Parenting.
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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