Q: This social distancing thing has dragged out SO long; just when we think we're easing back to a routine, something else sets us back. As a family, we've done all the virtual alternatives and time fillers until we're sick of it (and each other). Do you have any advice?
Jim: We're all hoping for a return to normal — whatever "normal" will look like going forward. But I've got three simple ideas for you to consider doing now, and also moving forward.
First, eat together. For most of us, the usual tendency — and especially in times like this — is to eat in front of each other while watching television or using our phones. As often as you can, sit down and connect over a meal. Family dinners aren't about the food; they're about the connections that take place around the table. Don't feel pressured to fix a gourmet meal every night. The main thing is to look each other in the eyes and to connect.
The second idea is to look back and reminisce a little. Pull out the old photos and videos. Tell your kids stories about their childhoods and yours. Family history connects your children to something beyond themselves and deepens their bond with you.
Finally, look ahead. Crises have a way of resetting our priorities or giving us a new perspective on things. Is there something that you've wanted to do for years — a big goal you've put off? Maybe now is the time to go for it. And if you're going right back to what you were doing before, it's healthy to look forward. Start planning now for everything you hope to do as life opens up again.
For more ideas to help your family thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: How can I help my children manage feelings of anxiety?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Anxious feelings are something all kids must learn to navigate. To help them, you should know that:
Anxious feelings rely on how we interpret reality.
They occur automatically and often unexpectedly.
They can be created by experiences, biology, perceptions and overall personality.
As we mature and get older, the brain either adapts and learns to manage anxious feelings or becomes more and more controlled by them.
Feelings provide important input for thoughts and decisions, but usually don't deliver enough information to produce an appropriate response. You have to learn to interpret your experiences and thoughts properly.
For example, if a child is very anxious about being rejected, she is most likely expecting — and is hypersensitive to — signs of rejection. Her thoughts ("I'm not good enough") can produce anxious feelings when she's with others. That insecurity can be self-fulfilling — until she learns that her value isn't dependent on other people's input, and she can confidently thrive in her unique giftings.
Thoughts and feelings dance together. Help your kids see the "thought themes" that anxious feelings can create, and what thoughts may be creating their anxious feelings. Help your child learn how to bring truth to their thoughts. For example, some kids are afraid of the dark, but darkness doesn't necessarily mean danger.
Teach your children how to know and communicate their limits. Kids shouldn't be forced to satisfy competing anxious feelings. For instance, some children may be afraid of heights, but may also be anxious about looking weak when their friends are climbing higher. Kids can learn to stretch their boundaries in healthy ways and develop limits that are based on freedom — freedom from needing to impress or gain acceptance, as well as freedom from avoiding everything that sparks anxious feelings.
We have plenty of practical resources at 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.