Q: I've read that, as parents, we should "engage our children" to stay connected. As a dad, I really do want to make my kids a priority. But I just don't have time! What can I do?
Jim: I've heard many parents talk about how hard it is to find time to engage with their kids. I get that: Life is busy, and it's difficult to balance work, home and the kids' activities. But I think the opportunity to engage is often right in front of us if we'll just watch for it.
I was an assistant coach for my son's football team when he was in eighth grade. It was during a time of year when several sports were in action. So every time we pulled into the park where practice was held, there were a lot of kids and a lot of cars. But I noticed something. As Troy and I walked to the practice field, we passed car after car with a parent sitting inside. They were talking on their phone, looking at social media or playing a game to pass the time. Occasionally, I even saw a dad taking a nap.
I felt like those parents were missing a golden opportunity. They could have been cheering their kids from the sidelines. So what if it's not an actual game? Even when the activity is something we might consider "insignificant," it's not insignificant to our children. And most importantly, it's a chance to be engaged in their world.
Sports practice is one of those areas, but there are others as well. Spend 10 minutes reading to younger kids before bed. If they're older, maybe grab a few minutes with them at breakfast before you rush out the door. Find what works for you; the key is to look for small moments that might otherwise go to waste and choose to spend time with your children.
For more ideas to help your family thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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Q: My wife and I get along pretty well, although we fuss a lot about little things. That's normal, right? I mean, my parents did it all the time and they seemed OK.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: The small things you bicker about may seem harmless, but they can put your marriage at risk. Petty arguments -- somebody not taking out the garbage, somebody else leaving clothes in the middle of the floor, etc. -- can be dangerous. Let them go on long enough and all of those "small" things can take down your marriage.
That's because petty arguments aren't really what's wrong with your marriage. They're just masking deeper issues in your relationship. Somewhere in your past your spouse may have said or done something hurtful to you, and now you're covering up that pain with anger.
That's why that sock on the floor gets you lashing out. Anger is easier than vulnerability. It's safer to argue about a sock than it is to talk about your deeper hurts and fears. Some couples spend years senselessly fighting about small, unimportant irritations, all the while ignoring the deeper cancer that's killing their marriage from within.
The next time you get into a petty argument, ask yourself, "What is this really about?" Get to the deeper issues and heal those. You'll feel freer in life, and you won't get so agitated over small things. When couples resolve their deeper conflicts, the petty disagreements usually dry up on their own. And that makes for a much healthier relationship.
Our staff counselors would be happy to help if you'd like to discuss this matter further. Feel free to call them at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).