Q: The past couple of months have been so hard for everyone. Beyond the immediate thought of "just get through it," I'm struggling to grasp a lesson out of this time. What's your take?
Jim: We're probably all guilty of taking our blessings for granted. So, I think the biggest challenge we face may be to live every moment focused on what truly matters. For example, each time a natural disaster occurs, I listen to the wisdom of those who survive. These good folks stand in the rubble of their lives and, almost without exception, share the same perspective about what's really important. Though they've lost everything from a material standpoint, they express deep gratitude that their loved ones are safe.
That type of reaction makes sense. After all, tragedy has a unique way of bringing clarity into our lives. But I'm troubled that it often takes a crisis for us to see clearly. We get distracted, and family priorities soon begin to erode. For example, studies have shown that on average, fathers spend less than 60 seconds in daily conversation with each of their children!
Our culture constantly offers a skewed idea of what's valuable, and we buy into that hype far too easily. Parents work longer and harder in a never-ending quest for bigger houses, newer cars and the latest technology. Eventually, the "stuff" of life overshadows what really matters, while time with our family dwindles away.
When crisis rocks our lives at a foundational level, we need something to comfort us that goes even deeper. There are only two things in life that we can count on to do that — the love and support of family and friends, and, most importantly, the bedrock of faith. Nothing besides love and an eternal perspective can reach into our suffering and bring us true comfort.
Q: No matter where we have turned these past weeks — TV, internet, social media — it's just nonstop bad news all the time. I'm concerned about how such things impact my kids. Do you have any advice?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting & Youth: This world can be a scary place. Even "normally," media is constantly filled with bad news — from acts of violence to natural disasters to (now) a pandemic. It's tough enough to deal with these tragedies as adults, let alone talk to our children about them.
While parents shouldn't draw attention to every troubling event in the news, some are so widely publicized they can't be avoided. In those circumstances, it's a good idea to proactively talk to your kids using age-appropriate language. In as simple terms as possible, explain that hurt and pain are parts of our world. But strongly reassure them that you'll always do everything in your power to protect them. Remind them that dedicated people (first responders, medical professionals, law enforcement, military) stand ready to help us. Most of all, model faith and hope in God.
Keep in mind, too, that physical touch is an important part of these conversations. When children are feeling uncertain, a parent's hug can go a long way toward calming their fears.
It's important to invite your kids to share what's on their heart as well. Allow them to question or comment, but don't overload them with information. Be sure to limit exposure to ongoing coverage, particularly graphic video images. Finally, remember that various personality types and ages handle such events differently. Many children want to know how it all applies to their own lives, if they are safe and what they can do to help.
Helping kids navigate troubling news isn't easy, but caring, faithful parents can be a key source of strength, comfort and security. For more, see FocusOnTheFamily.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.