Q: My father-in-law took his own life about four years ago. At the time our kids were very young, so my wife and I simply told them that Grandpa died because he was sick and elderly — without providing details. Our two oldest are 12 and 9 now, and they want to know more. What should we say?

Jim: A great deal depends upon what they already know, so start by finding out what snippets of information they've picked up on their own. Sit down with them and ask, "What have people said to you about Grandpa's death? How does that make you feel?" It's important to get a sense of their emotional reaction to this family tragedy before moving forward with the discussion.

Feel free to speak honestly about your emotions; it's OK to be open with your own pain and sorrow. Now that your kids are older, they deserve to know the truth. Do what you can to provide them with some helpful insights into who their grandfather was, the issues he was wrestling with and his reasons for feeling so hopelessly hurt and wounded.

Emphasize how sad the suicide made you feel, and that you couldn't bear it if something like that ever happened to them. Assure them that they can talk to you about anything in their lives, anytime, no matter how sad, scary or embarrassing it may seem.

You can also use this situation to stimulate constructive thought and conversation. For example, you could ask, "What are some other ways Grandpa could have dealt with his pain? What can you do if you feel that depression is becoming a serious problem in your life?"

If you'd like to talk about this at greater length, please call and speak with one of our counselors for a free consultation; the number is 855-771-HELP (4357).

Q: My husband and I are newlyweds and are thinking seriously about having children. We're wondering when to start, how many kids we should plan on having, how far apart, etc. Do you have any insights?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There's no "one size fits all" answer to prescribe for you when to have children, or how many to have. But there's one thing I can tell you: These are points on which you and your spouse need to be in agreement.

Your relationship is unique, as are the concerns, perspectives, goals, beliefs and values each of you brings to it. No one else can dictate precisely how these factors ought to influence your decision to begin having children. But whatever you do, you need to be on the same page. So don't assume anything. Talk as long, as deeply and as often as you need to in order to come to a meeting of the minds.

Of course, not every couple gets to choose whether and when to have children. So, you're blessed even to be in the position of wrestling with these questions. That said, here are some principles to keep in mind.

• Children need to be born into secure homes with loving parents. Make your marriage a priority.

• The spacing of children depends more on the parents' emotional stability — and sometimes economic circumstances — than on an arbitrarily chosen number of years between births.

• Children need your time. Are you committed to frequent business travel or generally overcommitted to your job? If so, you need to reevaluate your lifestyle before becoming a parent.

• There's a price to postponing parenthood. As couples put off childbearing, they often discover that it's harder to conceive — and that the chances of miscarriage increase — as the years go by.

Children are a blessing if you can have them, and they deserve your absolute best.

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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