Q: As a 50-something single woman with no immediate family (I never married), the past few months of forced isolation have really ramped up my concern about how I'll cope as I age. I worry that no one will be there for me when I'm no longer able to do everything for myself. I don't want to grow bitter about my circumstances; how can I find peace?
Jim: This year has highlighted how our society is becoming increasingly atomized and isolated. And you're not alone; many unmarried adults are looking around and realizing that they're living in a very scary world, often without anyone to help or support them.
Thankfully, you can proactively improve your prospects and prepare for your future. Start looking now for people who can become the support group you will need in later years. Church is a great place to explore opportunities for relationships, but don't necessarily stop there. There are lots of special-interest clubs, service organizations and charitable societies that you may be able to join. Supportive friendships are cultivated over time through shared experiences.
What are your hobbies? Do you enjoy painting, quilting, reading, stamp-collecting or bird-watching? Are you interested in political activism or social relief? Could you benefit by enrolling in a nutrition-and-fitness class, a book club or a discussion group of some kind? The possibilities are almost endless. Any of these activities could become the basis for several deeply meaningful long-term friendships.
Here's a key thought to keep in mind: Don't limit yourself to your chronological peers. You're positioned now to encourage and help new friends who might be older than you are. And if you stretch your comfort zone to get to know younger people, those connections could prove to be especially important to you in years to come.
Q: Our strong-willed toddler has been attacking other people with his teeth with increasing frequency the past couple of months. How do we stop it?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting & Youth: While I can't fully cover this topic in this short column, here are some quick thoughts.
With toddlers, one way to eliminate negative behavior (including biting) is with swift consequences followed by reinforced and repeated teaching. One effective tool with kids this age is "timeout from positive reinforcement." Remove your child from the situation he wants to be in and confine him to a very boring location for a short time period.
A portable playpen can be helpful. Put the playpen where your child is away from the action but you can still watch him. Then require him to stay there until he's calm enough for teaching time. A good rule of thumb is one minute of timeout for each year of a child's age; so, a 2-year-old would receive a two-minute timeout.
Don't give the child access to toys during this time, and don't interact with him at all (lecture, scold, etc.). Just ignore him. In a toddler's mind, even negative attention is better than no attention at all and gives him the illusion of control. He'll likely throw a tantrum in a desperate attempt to regain control, but don't give in to the temptation to engage.
Once he has calmed down, let him know he gets to try again by regaining your trust. If you're patient, consistent with your follow-through teaching and don't give in to whining, screaming or temper tantrums, you should find that the biting behavior decreases fairly rapidly. But if this doesn't happen, there's a remote possibility your child may have a more serious developmental problem, which would best be addressed with your pediatrician and/or child psychologist.
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.