Q: A young man in our extended family seems to have lost his way in life; he's behaving in ways that are completely foreign to our values. I'd rather not say more. Still, this situation grieves me deeply, and I'm wondering if you have any advice.
Jim: This is a difficult scenario that many families encounter. I'd suggest you not give up on your loved one -- you never know when a seed may take root and bloom. Let me share a story as an example.
In the mid-1960s, an archaeological dig in Israel revealed a cache of date palm seeds nearly 2,000 years old. Most experts logically assumed that, having lain dormant for so long in such an arid climate, the seeds were dead and useless except for their historic value. But then some professors at a Jerusalem university were given a few of the seeds to conduct scientific experiments. Surprisingly, the seeds germinated soon after being planted. In fact, within a few years, the date palm tree they produced was thriving and stood nearly 8 feet tall.
That's a powerful reminder for families with a loved one who's gone astray. When someone's life seems barren and directionless, it can feel as if their circumstances will never improve. But our lives are often like that desert seed that blossomed into a beautiful tree against all expectations. Even when it seems like nothing is happening, you never know what potential may already be stirring inside someone's heart.
Obviously, we can't be naive when a loved one is making poor choices. Wisely enforcing appropriate boundaries is important. But through it all, we have to remain hopeful that a wonderful transformation could be underway. And I can't overemphasize the importance of praying for our loved ones and letting God work in their lives in His timing.
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Q: Our kids are usually honest, but sometimes we catch them saying something that's not true. We've always taught them to tell the truth. So far this hasn't been a big deal, but I'm concerned. What can we do?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Your kids are human! It sounds like you've taught them well, but it's not unusual for children to stretch the truth, exaggerate and even flat-out lie. Of course, that's pervasive in our culture -- some studies indicate that people in general are dishonest in one out of every five (20 percent) of their daily interactions. And, of course, we're misled constantly through advertisements, social media, etc.
So how do you know if your child's fibs are "normal" or part of a bigger problem? It's important to determine why your child has decided to lie, and then consistently lead him or her back to the fact that truth fosters trustworthy connections and relationships.
Kids generally don't lie to hurt others. Usually, they are trying to manage emotions such as fear, anxiety, insecurity, desire, anger, selfishness, etc. In short, dishonesty is about trying to get control of something. As parents, our challenge is to guide our children to healthier ways of managing these feelings. The goal is to help them learn self-reflection and self-awareness about what they're trying to control, why they're concerned about it, and how to accept and adjust to things that are out of their control.
If lying is becoming or has become a real pattern with your kids, there's no shame in asking for professional assistance. You may need to work with a trained therapist to sort out what is driving your child's need for dishonesty and equip them to pursue honesty. We can help. To speak with one of our counselors, or to find one in your area, call us at 855-771-HELP (4357). Or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for more information.