Q: How can I help my adolescent son settle on a vocation and make wise plans for the future? He seems to be thinking more seriously about career choices and wondering what to do with his life.
Jim: First, I'd suggest exposing him to as many different occupations as possible. Give him a taste of the wide variety of career choices available today. Help him discover his God-given talents, interests, abilities and strengths. If he's fascinated with medicine, set up a time for him to talk with your physician about the demands and rewards of this profession. If he's mechanically inclined, arrange to have him spend time hanging around the local garage. The same approach can be taken with almost any type of career your son might find attractive.
As you do this, make a conscious effort to avoid projecting your personal expectations on your child. If you're an accountant but your son has difficulty with math, don't push him into a career that would make him miserable. If you're an attorney, but he wants to be an artist, don't try to make him force his "square peg" temperament into the "round hole" of a legal career.
As your son starts to feel a clear sense of interest and direction, help him access the guidance and training he needs to pursue his career objective effectively. School guidance counselors should be able to offer insights. Career-testing services can help your son determine what job options best fit his personality, temperament and interests. Young people who are somewhat aimless may find these test results useful in identifying a goal. Others — who are blessed with many different interests — might benefit from tests that help them focus on their areas of greatest strength. This can spare them from changing majors multiple times during college, which can prove both expensive and time-consuming.
Q: My wife and I are usually pretty good at having constructive disagreements, but sometimes our arguments become overheated. What can we do to keep a lid on things?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: It's easy to lose control when emotions are running high. Any of us can become irrational if we feel overwhelmed, threatened, provoked, criticized or just misunderstood. These feelings may not be wrong in and of themselves, but they can be expressed in inappropriate ways.
Before getting involved in a confrontation with your spouse, examine yourself to make sure that your heart and intentions are in the right place. If either of you is afraid that the argument will spin out of control, or that issues from the past will be dredged up yet again, the openness and honesty required to make the discussion a success may be hopelessly squelched.
In most marriages, one spouse tends to be more of an aggressive pursuer in arguments while the other adopts a quieter, more passive method of nagging or blaming. Both approaches are destructive. Sober, straightforward honesty is the most effective policy.
Let me emphasize: Physical violence is NEVER OK. If you feel threatened, put distance between you and the person endangering you. Call the police if necessary. And remember, physical violence doesn't stop without intervention.
No matter how much you and your spouse love each other, no matter how understanding you try to be and no matter how strongly you want to avoid hurting each other, there will be times when arguments get heated. Whatever happens, make forgiveness your No. 1 priority. This doesn't mean that you'll necessarily agree. It certainly doesn't imply that abuse should be ignored or excused. It does mean giving up your determination to get revenge.
If you need help putting these concepts into practice, don't hesitate to call our counselors at 855-771-HELP (4357).
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.