Q: After the disruptions of the past couple of years, we're wanting to do something special for our kids' spring break from school. However, we don't have a lot of money to spend. Do you have any ideas for affordable ways to strengthen our relationships and have some good old-fashioned fun?
Jim: It seems like "spring break" has come to mean "skiing" or "trip to Florida" in many people's minds. But a lot of families can't afford expensive options like these, especially with young children in the mix. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things you can do with a week off from school.
The way I see it, the main purpose of spring break is to provide a needed pause in the schedule for students (and teachers) before things gear up for the hectic last couple months of school. When viewed that way, it's actually a relief to recognize that there's no need to pack the week with too many activities; in fact, doing so might be counterproductive. Far better to just make it an opportunity to chill out and spend some quality time as a family.
A few ideas:
-- Plan a couple of stay-at-home movie nights, or hit an afternoon matinee (see PluggedIn.com for film reviews).
-- Check out inexpensive attractions like local museums and art galleries.
-- Weather permitting, try to get outdoors as much as possible -- picnics, Frisbee in the park, hiking, a drive in the mountains, etc.
-- Reserve time to play, laugh, talk and dream together.
The best things in family life tend to happen when you aren't expecting them. So, I'd suggest keeping loose, staying open and leaving margin to just sit and listen to your kids. Let them tell you what they'd like to do and how they want to spend their time away from school. I predict you'll be glad you did.
Q: My daughter is entering high school and starting to show more interest in dating. How will I know if and when she is ready to date?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: I can still remember the first time my son asked my wife and me when he could start dating. Before he'd broached this question, we had many ongoing conversations on topics like friendships, sex, attraction and relationships that I hoped would prepare him for this new stage of life.
There's no universal way to know if your teen is ready for dating. But even if you've never had conversations about these topics with your teen before, it's never too late to start.
As you begin to have these conversations, help your teen focus on answering this question: "Am I a contributor or a consumer?" The good news is that you can help your teen think through the purpose of dating and make sure they know the difference between being a contributor and a consumer.
Signs of a consumer:
-- They can ACT friendly, kind or compassionate to get something they want.
-- Transactional and self-focused approach to dating.
-- Motivated by getting rather than giving.
Signs of a contributor:
-- They ARE friendly, kind and compassionate out of love for someone else.
-- Others-focused and grateful approach to dating.
-- Focused on giving rather than receiving.
Another important element in seeing if your teen is ready to date is communicating clearly about boundaries and expectations. Using a dating contract can be a helpful way for you to get on the same page with your teen.
You can go to FocusOnParenting.com to learn more about creating appropriate boundaries for your teens and also explore our dating contract to help your kids enter into new relationships with healthy boundaries and expectations.
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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