Q: From what I've heard about your organization, I suppose helping people with their marriages is a good thing. But why don't you put all that effort toward something really important like combatting poverty?
Jim: I appreciate the question. Since this column is such a limited venue, I'll summarize our perspective with an illustration. The late novelist Pat Conroy described a broken marriage well when he said, "Every divorce is the death of a small civilization." I think that's absolutely right.
Divorce doesn't just split up a husband and wife or separate kids from their parents. The breakdown of the family is one of the most overlooked contributors to the poverty rate in America.
I saw that firsthand as a child. My own father abandoned our family when I was just five years old, and we quickly slipped into poverty. My mother was forced to work full-time to make ends meet. I seldom saw her; she was usually not home afternoons and evenings, and I was off to school in the mornings before she woke up. That was our routine, and it's the routine for thousands of other families as well.
Consider some of these factors:
-- Families that were not poor before the divorce see their income drop as much as 50% afterward.
-- Almost half of the parents with children who go through a divorce drop below the poverty line.
-- In general, children of divorced parents have lower test scores in reading, spelling and math.
-- These kids also are more likely to repeat a grade, have higher dropout rates and lower rates of college graduation. Low education rates perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
So, while it doesn't get reported in the media very often, if we want to decrease poverty, we need to save marriages. Stable families form the bedrock of any society. That's part of why we do what we do at Focus on the Family.
Q: My child seems more depressed during this time of year. What can I do to help him overcome these feelings and be happy again?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: It's common for preteens and teens to encounter fluctuations in their feelings and mood as the seasons change. This time can be known as the "winter blues." In fact, my teen daughter and I have both recently observed how our moods shift when it gets darker earlier in the day during winter.
If you're noticing mood changes in your child, you might also see them struggling a bit more with irritability, having difficulty concentrating or just not wanting to get up in the morning. In extreme situations, these symptoms might reveal a more diagnosable condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
To help your child combat their feelings, consider developing a menu of options to cope with their emotions. Your "Winter Blues Menu" can include things you enjoy doing together or individually. Encourage your child to pick one thing from the menu to do each day. Here's a sample Winter Blues Menu:
Painting or other arts and crafts
Cooking or baking
Playing board games
Going on a walk together
Picking a movie to watch together
You give your family the best chance to beat the winter blues by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, eating healthy, exercising and spending quality time together. Commit to creating a rhythm for maintaining your family's health this winter season.
If you think your child needs more help coping with the winter blues, call our counseling line at 855-771-HELP (4357). To learn more about creating a mentally healthy home for your family, go to FocusOnParenting.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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