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One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Your Kids in 2014

Happy New Year!  If you’re a parent, here’s one of the best New Years’ resolutions you can make.  It’s giving your kids your TIME.

A few years ago, some so-called parenting experts who told us that our kids really need is QUALITY time, not QUANTITY time.

I’m convinced they came up with that slogan to make overworked, overcommitted parents feel better about themselves.  They also wanted them to feel less guilty about sticking their kids in daycare from sunrise to sunset.

But the reality is you can’t have QUALITY time without QUANTITY time.  Quality time only occurs in the context of QUANTITY time.

For some of us, that means we need to take a hard look at our schedules.  We may need to cut back on some of the activities we enjoy or that we think are so important.

And yes, that might even mean cutting back on ministry activities, if they are interfering with our ability to be available to our kids.

And just because you are PHYSICALLY present, doesn’t mean you are truly present.  Technology and entertainment are big culprits in that area.

Research shows that in the average American home, the TV is on 49 hours per week.  But sadly, the average parent only spends 39 MINUTES per week in meaningful conversation with their kids.

And how much time are you spending on Facebook these days?  In a recent survey of social media users, more than 40% of women referred to themselves “Facebook addicts.”

For more advice on spending quality AND quantity time with your kids, go to focusonthefamily.com.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

“Help—My 12-year-old Daughter Needs Me to be With Her All the Time!”

Dear Dr. Bill,

My middle child is a 12-year-old girl named Audrey.  Over the past few months she’s been dealing with separation anxiety — she doesn’t want me to leave the house without her.  She says she misses me and that when we’re apart, she feels like I don’t love her.  Nothing has changed in our family life during this time, and our household seems “normal” with a great husband and three children.  What should I do?

–Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

If it’s true that nothing has changed at home, then there is a possibility that something has changed in your daughter’s school environment or that she’s experienced some type of stressful event that you don’t know about.

The first thing to do is to talk your daughter about the changes in her behavior.  You might say something like “Honey, lately I’ve noticed that it’s really hard for you to do things on your own or be apart from me.  I’m wondering if you’ve been feeling scared or worried about something in your life.”  If she says “no,” don’t push her, but reassure her that she can talk to you about anything at all, anytime.

Also, could it be that you aren’t actually spending enough time with her?  If you work outside the home, have your hours increased?  Have you or your daughter become so busy with activities outside the home that you spend very little time together?

If it’s simply a matter of clinginess, make sure to praise her when she acts independently or succeeds at doing things on her own.  Even if she takes small steps in that direction, let her know that you’re proud of her for showing initiative and independence.

Also, schedule regular mother-daughter time with her.  This should be one-on-one times, with no other family members present.  It can be as simple as taking a walk together one day each week, reading a book together for 30 minutes on a weeknight evening, or a trip to the grocery store together.

If the problems persist, I would encourage you to consult with a family therapist.

Thanks for writing, Stephanie.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

New Year’s Advice for Christian Parents

As we get ready to kick off a new year, here’s a question for you:  do you want your kids to grow up with a strong, vibrant, Christian faith?

If so, you’ll need to be intentional about building healthy, lasting relationships with other Christian families.

When I was growing up, we knew our neighbors.  My parents watched out for the other kids in the neighborhood and the other parents on the block watched out for us.

If my brother and I were doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing and someone spotted us, my parents would get a call from one of those neighbors.

I believe my brother referred to them as “snitches” or “narcs.”  ;-]

But today, the sad truth is that in most suburban neighborhoods we DON’T know our neighbors—or at least we don’t know many of them.

Neighbors come home at the end of the day and the garage door goes up, the car pulls in, and the garage door goes down.

In our disconnected world we need to be deliberate about building solid relationships with other Christian parents who share our values regarding things like entertainment, internet use, drug and alcohol use and sexual purity.

By the way, new research has found that if teenagers have other Christian adults in their life who care about them—in addition to their mom and dad—they are much LESS likely to abandon their faith when they go off to college.

Drs. Chap Clark and Kara Powell at the Fuller Youth Institute recommend that in addition to their parents, every Christian teen should have 5 other adults in their life who will commit to building relationships with them.

These adults can pray for that young person, be a listening ear during times of conflict, and reinforce the values held by the teen’s own parents.

To learn more about this research, go to stickyfaith.org.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The “Jesus” vs. “Santa” Controversy

Dear Dr. Bill,

Before our kids were born, my wife and I decided we wouldn’t teach them about Santa Claus — because we didn’t want him to replace Jesus as the reason for this season.  But we’ve been getting criticism from our family, friends and now even from members of our own church.  They say that we’re spoiling our kids’ imagination.  I’m frustrated because I feel like my church, the one place that should encourage the truth, is betraying me!  What should I do?

–Sam

Dear Sam,

I appreciate your dedication to biblical truth, but frankly, I think you need to relax.  Here’s how you might talk to your kids about this the Santa vs. Jesus controversy:

“It’s fun to believe in Santa, but we know that believing in Jesus is what’s most important.  He is our Lord and Savior, and a relationship with him gives our lives true meaning and purpose.

Families all over the world have stories about a person like Santa Claus, and young children love to believe in him.  Santa represents good things, like kindness, generosity, and joy.”

You can also tell your children about the real Saint Nicolas, who Santa Claus is based on.  He was born in Turkey, about two hundred years after Jesus.  He was a Christian, and when he was a teenager he heard about a poor family that couldn’t afford to buy food.

He sneaked up to their house one night and tossed a handful of gold coins through the window. They were overjoyed when they found the coins the next morning, but they never learned who did it.

Nicholas was so thrilled about helping a family in need that he dedicated his entire life to giving to others.

Thanks for writing, Sam.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give Your Kids This Year

What’s one of the best Christmas gifts you can give your kids this year?

Well, it’s NOT an i-phone, i-pod, or i-pad…or a deluxe Rainbow Loom set for your 7-year-old daughter!

It’s making faith relevant in your home.

Unfortunately, several studies show that a large number of Christian teens are abandoning their faith in college.  And new research indicates that many of these kids aren’t coming back to the church—or to Christianity.

That’s why it’s crucial for us to be intentional about passing our faith to our children.

If our Christianity is limited to an hour or two on Sunday mornings, our kids will come to view our faith as hypocritical and meaningless.

Also, research conducted at the University of North Carolina shows that teens who are actively involved in a faith community are much less likely to be involved in some of the risky behaviors that so many kids fall victim to these days.

Also, if you have a tee or pre-teen at home—it is VITAL for them to be involved in a healthy, discipleship-oriented youth group.

And of course PRAYER is critical in making faith relevant in your home.

Pray for your kids, and pray WITH your kids.  And as you pray, ask God to help you provide your children with the kind of unfailing love and clear moral guidance that they’ll need to survive in a world that is full of a bunch of dangers and temptations.

An excellent place to go for resources that will help you be more intentional about passing on your faith is Focus on the Family.  I’ll admit that I’m kind of partial to that ministry since I worked there for 8 years.  You can reach them at 1-800-A-FAMILY and find them on the web at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

A New Report For Parents On The Dangers of High Chairs

If you have a baby or toddler at home, listen up.  A new report is out on the dangers of high chairs, and the news is not good.

According to a story from Reuters Health, every hour, on average, a child ends up in a U.S. emergency room with an injury associated with a high chair.  And the risk seems to be increasing.

The most common injuries associated with high chairs were so-called “closed-head injuries,” such as concussions. Those were followed by cuts and bruises.

Dr. Gary Smith of  Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio was the study’s senior author.  He says “one of the things we need to be aware of is a high chair elevates a child above what a typical chair—and they are often used in dining areas with hard floors.”

Hospital records show that two thirds of the kids injured were either climbing or standing in their high chairs.

Dr. Smith says “The restraining systems are there for a reason. The tray won’t keep a child in a chair. The restraints must be used and used correctly.”

The biggest danger is when kids aren’t strapped in properly.

One of Dr. Smith’s colleagues, Tracy Mehan, says, “The important thing is the crotch strap. You want to make sure that this strap is here because it helps keep the child in the chair so they don’t slide out from underneath.

By the way, the researchers found that more than 3.4 million high chairs had been recalled since 2008 due to faulty designs.

You can check to see if your child’s highchair has been recalled by going to: www.recalls.gov.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

How To Help Children Cope A Parent’s Impending Death

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have a 4-year- old daughter at home.  Her father and I were divorced when she was a baby, but we’ve maintained good contact and my daughter adores her dad.  But now my ex-husband is dying and I don’t know how to prepare my daughter for this.  She knows he’s very sick, but how should I help her through this traumatic situation?

–Michelle

Dear Michelle,

I’m so sorry to hear about the impending loss of your ex-husband.  Even though you have divorced for several years, I’m sure his death will be difficult for you as well as your daughter.

Very young children don’t really have the capacity to understand abstract concepts like life and death.  It’s likely your daughter may not fully understand what is happening to your husband, and that she won’t be able to understand the permanence of his death after he is gone.

It’s important to remember that your daughter will look to you for “cues” about what emotions to feel and how to respond.  I believe you should be honest about your feelings and acknowledge your own grief.

Also, let your daughter know that you understand that this is a very confusing and sad time for her.

If your ex-husband is a Christian, you can assure your daughter that her daddy is going to live forever with Jesus, even though she won’t be able to visit him or talk to him after he dies.  You might read bible passages to her about God’s promise of eternity for all who believe in Him.

Also make sure to allow your daughter to ask questions and discuss her fears about this situation.  An excellent book that will help you is “Someone I Love Died” by Christine Harder Tangvald.

Thanks for writing, Michelle.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Could Your Teen Be Using The Drug Ecstasy?

Could your teen be using the drug Ecstasy?

According to a new report, the number of U.S. teens who wind up in the emergency room after taking the club drug Ecstasy has more than doubled in recent years.

HealthDay.com is reporting that drug abuse experts are very concerned about the huge increase in kids taken to hospital ER’s after taking MDMA— known as Ecstasy in pill form and “Molly” in the newer powder form.

Steve Pasierb, president of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, says “This should be a wake-up call to everyone, but the problem is much bigger than what the data show. “These are only the cases that roll into the emergency rooms. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

In the past year there have been a string of Ecstasy-related deaths in different parts of the country.  Organizers closed the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City in August following two deaths and four hospitalizations caused by Ecstasy overdoses.

The deaths came a week after another young man died from Ecstasy overdose at a rock show in Boston.

Ecstasy produces feelings of increased energy and euphoria, and can distort a person’s senses and perception of time. It works by altering the brain’s chemistry.

The drug can cause potentially harmful physical reactions.  Users can become dangerously overheated and experience rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure and dehydration, all of which can lead to kidney or heart failure.

Alcohol also appears to be a factor, as one-third of the emergency room visits involving Ecstasy also involved alcohol.

If you’re a parent, I’d encourage you to learn more about this health danger by going to DrugFree.org.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Making The Right Choices For Children’s DVD Viewing

Dear Dr. Bill,

Recently my 5-year-old daughter has been crying and getting hysterical at bedtime.  A couple weeks ago, we checked out a “kids movie” from the library that involved witches.  Now every night, she’s afraid witches are going to get her.  Last night I did something my husband and I vowed we would never do — I slept in their room.  But I was desperate, because it was 11pm and she had to get up early for school the next day!  What should we do?

–Debbie

Dear Debbie,

It’s clear that this so-called “kids movie” really scared your daughter.  Unfortunately, as parents we can no longer trust ratings or descriptions of films.  We need to research movies and DVD’s ourselves, using a trusted source like Focus on the Family’s “PluggedIn.com.”

Since your daughter was obviously traumatized by the witches, the first thing I would do is sit down and discuss the movie.  Ask her what she saw, what she thought about it, and what she felt.

Don’t dismiss her fears as silly or immature.  After all, she is only five years old, and it sounds like she has a very sensitive spirit.

Then reassure her that it was only a story, just like the stories in her story books.  Explain to her that God will protect her and pray with her about the scary movie and her fears.  Also, encourage her to pray on her own when she becomes frightened at night.

It’s definitely NOT a good idea for you to sleep in her room or let her sleep in your bed.  That will only reinforce her behavior, encouraging her to act helpless and dependent.

Instead, find another way to make her feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting her take a special stuffed animal to bed with her.

Thanks for writing, Debbie.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Lisa’s Home School: Twist on Christmas Giving

A mom says that her boys have way too much stuff! For Christmas, they will not be getting toys but another form of a gift. Lisa shares the twist on giving this season!  Listen here!

 

Lisa’s Home School: Twist on Christmas Giving

Read this mom’s full blog here!

We’re pretty lucky in our family. I can cross off three out of four of our birthdays in May alone! Then Christmas and the fourth birthday are taken care of in December. This makes for a lot less time worrying about buying and giving presents and a lot more time thinking about how much stuff we have.

In fact, all of that thinking about not buying presents gave me a thought: I really can’t imagine having more things in my house. More toys, clothes, sippy cups… we’ve got so much already. I’m constantly packing and donating toys my boys no longer play with, it seems. Now, I don’t want to diminish or sound ungrateful for the amazing generosity of our friends and family, we’re beyond thankful for all they’ve given us… but it’s just… so much. So much more than they need.

My boys really do not need for another thing.

I know my favorite thing about presents… it’s giving them. I spend extra time and care thinking about giving gifts to my own family, to our friends and to their families. I try to be thoughtful about my own gift-giving and I know how difficult it can be to find that perfect gift sometimes. Occasionally, before a birthday party or event, I get overwhelmed and buy something just to bring it… and maybe that’s not the right approach.

What if…

What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.

The gifts of experience, adventure and more importantly, familiarity that they truly need. Instead of the things (toys, games, clothes) that they didn’t even really know about or want? The only thing I truly think my boys need to have is more time with their family…

So, starting now, this year, before the holiday season begins, I’m beginning a new tradition. Although we’ll always be grateful for the presents we and our boys receive, I’d ask that our friends and family offer these experiences and time spent with our boys instead of money spent on them.

I’m not going to tell you what to do, or what to buy… but here are some suggestions:

Instead of buying my boys a toy lion, why not take one (or both) of them to the zoo to see a real one? To spend some time with a family member or friend would mean so much more to them than another toy.

Not a lot of time to give? What about contributing towards one of the (shockingly expensive) activities the boys will be participating in? Piano/drum/guitar lessons. Swimming lessons. Summer soccer season. Dance lessons.

Don’t have a lot of money? (Hey, neither do we! No big!) — How about just spending some quality time with the boys? Set a day and take them to the park. Take one of them on a bike ride. Take one to the movies. Take them to a local play center. Instead of in

We have a really good friend who, back in May, couldn’t make it to Cash’s third birthday. She said she wanted to drop off a present at another time and I said, “He really doesn’t need anything, but we’d love a visit! Actually, instead of a present, why not just take him and do something with him just the two of you?” In the end she, her boyfriend, and their friend and her daughter ended up going to the zoo with Cash and he LOVED it. He asks about this friend a lot now, and wants to spend time with her again because he enjoyed it so much.

This is what I would like for my boys to grow up with. Not mountains of toys (which are growing bigger by the minute, I swear!) but experiences and close relationships with the people in their lives who matter most.

Here’s the thing: I always think about the what ifs: what if something happened to me? What if something happened to their dad? They’ve built strong bonds with some family members, but others are only seen on occasion and only for short periods of time. They’re unfamiliar and being young, the boys often don’t remember them on special occasions and it breaks my heart. Building relationships now with these family members and friends will only benefit them in the long run if something were to ever happen to us.

These are the things I think about, people. Deep, I know.

But seriously, if you’re in our circle of friends or family, please don’t buy my kids presents but instead give them the gift of your time and love. It doesn’t have to cost anything, but it’s really the ONLY thing they need.

Christella Morris blogs regularly at www.crawltheline.com, where this piece first appeared.

vesting in their toy collections, invest in your relationship with them.