Q: My mother has always been a sweet, caring and soft-spoken woman -- but she's developing Alzheimer's disease and becoming increasingly disagreeable and demanding. I know I'm supposed to honor my parent, and I really try. But what does "honor" mean in this situation?
Jim: My heart goes out to you. Caring for an aging loved one involves self-discipline and sacrifice, especially in scenarios like the one you have described.
Let's start by defining "honor." Honor implies choosing to give great respect and care to someone -- not grudgingly, but built on a foundation of love and genuine concern for their needs and best interests. True honor is placing the highest value on our loved ones, regardless of whether or not they "deserve" it.
Once this decision is made, the key issue is knowing how to carry it out. The biblical commandment to "Honor your father and mother" doesn't mention specifics. There's nothing about pensions, nursing homes or Medicare. Nor does it necessarily obligate you to take aging parents into your home.
Instead, the art of honoring a challenging elder is based on intuitive knowledge. That knowledge, in turn, is rooted in your love for and commitment to your mother. Out of that commitment -- and your day-to-day interactions with her -- you'll develop an awareness of practical ways you can serve her and care for her immediate needs. This might mean sharing your home and offering financial support. It could also involve seeking support services, filling out endless health insurance forms, providing transportation and communicating with doctors.
Keep in mind that it's never too late -- or too soon -- to love and honor your elders. As you seek to honor your mother, your love for her will grow and your relationship with her will be enriched, even as her health may decline.
Q: I've heard that social media can lead to depression and mental health problems in kids. Is that really the case?
Adam Holz, Director, Plugged In: There's a growing consensus among health care experts and social scientists that social media can indeed lead to adverse mental health outcomes -- including depression, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm and even suicide.
Some might think that sounds alarmist. But the evidence is piling up. Smartphones and social media use became the norm for teens around 2012. Since then, San Diego State University professor of psychology Dr. Jean Twenge has been at the forefront of academic concern regarding the sharp uptick of these mental health problems. In her widely hailed 2017 article for The Atlantic titled "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?," Dr. Twenge said bluntly: "Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy."
Researchers like Twenge believe screens and social media influence teens' mental health adversely in several ways. Social media, in particular, is often about comparison. Teens who don't feel they measure up can suffer self-esteem problems. Related to that is the need for affirmation via "Likes." If adolescents don't reap those coveted upvotes of approval, that can contribute to depression as well.
Online bullying is another important concern, in which a teen's reputation can be tarnished instantly in a very public way, leaving them with little recourse. Furthermore, simply staying up late texting and interacting online can lead to sleep deprivation. Finally, almost by definition kids who are interacting online are less likely to be developing face-to-face relationships -- and thus learning the important social skills that come with that interaction.
For all of these reasons, social media combined with smartphone use can be a problematic combination for adolescents' emotional and relational development and maturity.
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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