Communication

1Oct

9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age

I’ve had several conversations with parents over the last few weeks about frustrations, concerns, and questions about how to lead and their love their kids well in the digital age.

These parents are caring, loving, and simply want some help in tackling the ever-changing frontier of cell phones, social media, sexting and pornography. See: You Can’t #EndIt and Keep Porn

As a childless pastor I do not yet have personal experience in this area. But that’s no excuse to punt. Just like it’s no excuse to bypass having these tough conversations with your kids. New studies show that the average age of exposure to pornography is now eleven. ELEVEN. That means if you’re waiting to have these conversations until then you’re too late. But even late is better than never.

Even if I had personal experience as a parent, I have no reason to think it would be particularly helpful. Pastors don’t necessarily make great parents. But I would love to pass along a wealth of practical resources from a source I know well and trust tremendously. These are not my work – but they are the first place I would turn for help if I were in many of the situations you find yourself as a parent of a kid with a cell phone, iPod, etc. etc.

The 9 resources from the link below include:

  • Trend Alerts: ask.fm and the Bang with Friends app (can’t make this stuff up)
  • Parents’ Guides to Internet Pornography, Sexting, & Cyberbullying
  • Primers on Electronic Addiction, Social Networking
  • Family Digital Covenant of Conduct (If you don’t use this exact one, you need to be using something)

Find these resources and much more at the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding’s Digital Kids Initiative.

25Sep

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist

It’s Friday morning and I’m already excited for date night! I hope you are planning for a date night with your spouse as well.

This is the companion article to our first post. If you missed that one you can read it here: 7 Questions to Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist. If dating your spouse is a new concept for you, our hope is that these two articles give you a great starting point to pursue the one person that matters most in your life.

Once again I’ve teamed up with my friend and licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Feero, to help me come up with some practical advice for date night newbies. If you’re in the River Valley area you can schedule a counseling appointment with Carrie by clicking here and/or follow her blog here.

Just like there are questions that are great to ask on date night, there are just as many you should never ask. Date night is about connecting with your spouse while pushing pause on your incredibly busy lives. Some questions/conversations allow aspects of that busyness to creep into date night and can ruin the evening.

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night

  • How do you think ________ and _________’s marriage is doing?

Date night is about your marriage, not anybody else’s. Many of you know what it’s like to walk with friends through an unhealthy marriage, maybe even one that ends in divorce. As painful as it can be to watch your friends fail to honor their commitment to one another, their marriage is not fodder for your date night conversation. Those conversations are important to have, especially if you are genuinely trying to plan how to help, and not just gossiping.

P.S. Celebrity marriages (no matter how comically brief they may be) are also off the table for date night discussion.

  • How can we improve on our budget for next month?

Have a set time to discuss finances and other household responsibilities. While budgeting can definitely impact your marriage, date night is not the time to focus on finances. It’s about each other.

Read about how getting on a budget helped our (Steven & Hayley’s) marriage here: The 1 Thing We Fight About.

  • What did our daughter’s dance teacher say after her lesson?

Date night isn’t about the kids either. It can be hard to separate your marriage from the rest of the family, but research shows that healthy families require healthy marriages. Your kids learn from you; give them a good example. Often the best way for you to love your kids well is to model for them a healthy marriage, one where spouses see and treat each other as more than co-parents.

  • What are we supposed to bring to the tailgate on Saturday?

This is not the time to catch up on errands, to-do lists, and social responsibilities. You have plenty of time to do that stuff, like during the sermon at your church, on your way home from work, or after the kids go to bed.

  • What’s the score to the game?

Your date night should be focused on your spouse. If you’re on a date night, keep focused on each other, not the TV’s on the wall or music playing from the speakers. If that becomes too much of a distraction for you, find a place where you can have these types of conversations without all of the distractions. It may take some creativity.

When our date night takes us to a place with sports on the TV’s, I (Steven) try and make a point to sit on the side of the booth where I can’t see the game(s). With that said, we can never have date night at Buffalo Wild Wings, where there are no less than 83 TV’s in the main dining area.

  • When are we going to have kids?

Or insert any question that sparks debate or conflict here. Old wounds, hot topics, and points of contention are off limits for date nights. While there are absolutely times and places to have these discussions, date night is focused on being a positive, bonding experience where you can connect with each other, not start a heated or hurtful conversation.

  • Wanna swing by Wal-Mart on our way home? We’re out of __________.

In Arkansas, our love for Wal-Mart runs deep. But date night is for date night, not grocery shopping. If you’re out of bug spray, order from Amazon. They’ll ship to your door in 2 days for free! Nothing kills the mood on the way home from a great dinner quite like restocking on orange juice and toilet paper.

Click here to catch up on the first post in this series, “7 Questions to Ask on Date Night”

Feedback: What question(s) would you consider adding to this list?

22Sep

7 Questions to Ask on Date Night (From a Pastor & a Therapist)

I have written about the need for married couples to have a regular date night on several occasions. (See: Nobody Owes You Happiness and Who Has Better Sex?) However, I realized that I never really discussed practical advice about what to do on date night.

So, I asked my friend and licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Feero to help me come up with some practical advice for date night newbies. Carrie has more letters after her last name than Jarrod Saltalamacchia has on the back of his baseball jersey so you know she’s good. If you’re in the River Valley area you can schedule a counseling appointment with Carrie by clicking here and/or follow her blog here.

Two quick thoughts before we get started.

  1. Date night as discussed in the questions below is specifically focused on married couples. If you’re not there yet, read here: How to Date as a Christian.
  2. Date night is not a substitute for counseling. If your marriage is unhealthy, date night is not the solution and can actually cause some harm if you view it as such. See: 13 Questions to Gauge if You Need Marriage Counseling.

If date night is unfamiliar for you or if it has simply been far too long, our hope is that these questions can be a great starting point to have a meaningful evening together!

7 Questions to Ask on Date Night

(Stay tuned for part two of this series, “7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night”)

  • If you could only have 3 things on a deserted island, what would you pick?

Asking questions like this (and even funny ‘Would You Rather’ questions) help you learn more about your spouse in a fun and playful way. Not all questions during date night have to be super serious; it’s a time to play, have fun, and grow together.

  • What can I do to make you feel loved?

Sometimes being upfront and asking can be the greatest way to get feedback on how to love and serve your partner. When answering, it’s important to remember kindness, compassion, and humility – this is not a list of demands or time to criticize potential past mistakes.

  • What are some of your favorite days in our marriage so far?

Revisiting memories can be a great way to spark up feelings and moments of connection that you had perhaps forgotten. These memories don’t have to be big landmark moments like anniversaries or trips. It is just as important to celebrate the spontaneous and seemingly mundane, which are much more the norm in any marriage.

  • Who has helped contribute to strengthening our marriage the most?

Thinking and pondering about who has helped pour into your marriage can be a great way to process how far your marriage has come, weaker areas that have become stronger, and how you can continue to grow from this support.

  • If you could describe our life together right now in one word, what would it be? Why?

These relationship inventories can be good ways for each spouse to see how the other is currently perceiving the state of the marriage. It can also be an exercise on gratitude and contentment as you learn, together, how to cultivate an appreciation for where you are in life today, not tomorrow and not the next stage. Today. Together.

  • Where is somewhere you’d love to travel with me?

Dreaming together about future plans can be a fun way to learn more about each other and think about your future together. It’s not just pulling from the past, but living in the present and planning for the future that makes a marriage successful.

  • When have you felt closest to me?

This is helpful for both partners. For one, it helps to revisit and rekindle a time when she/he felt loved and connected. For the other, it helps to remind and refresh what he/she was doing or not doing so it can be repeated again.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, “7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night”

Feedback: What question would you consider adding to this list?

1Sep

Stop Doing This One Thing in Your Marriage

When we were in premarital counseling, our leader told us many wonderfully helpful things. However, this one thing seemed to stick out from all the rest:

Don’t talk bad about your spouse.

It’s one thing that seems so simple, yet something at which so many seem to fail. Because it’s so easy. You see, we forget that gossip is still gossip even if it’s true. It’s slander if it’s false. If your spouse does something that ruffles your feathers, you still don’t have a license to go “vent” or “unload” or “blow off steam” with your friends. It’s just not okay.

I see this happen all the time with men and women.

At some point, it became popular among men to complain about their wives. They paint pictures (no matter how accurate they may be) of nagging wives who only have more chores or tasks for them to do. Who does this help? How does this convey marriage to the next generation?

More importantly, when you joke or complain about your spouse, what image does that convey about them as a person, as your person? What do your co-workers think about the one you’ve sworn to love and serve when you talk bad about your spouse? What about your mutual friends? What about your own kids?

Some studies have concluded that on average women speak 13,000 more words per day than men. The studies do not venture a guess at how many of those “bonus” words are used to speak poorly of their husbands. Sitcoms have set a bad precedent, portraying husbands as little more than bumbling buffoons who want little more than sex and a sandwich.While this may be the reality for some, it is definitely not for all. Many women are married to hard-working, kind-hearted, dedicated men who love and serve their wives well.

Both men and women frequently talk about their spouses to co-workers, friends, and family. These conversations can be harmless: recounting the weekend’s activities, keeping a friend updated, or answering a co-worker’s caring questions about one’s spouse.

Yet words spoken about a spouse can also quickly become harmful. I think this frequently happens accidentally, but it still needs to be fixed. With friends and co-workers, you should never even give them a chance to see your spouse as anything less than the way you see them, or should see them if you don’t currently hold your spouse in high regard.

However, family is different. When Hayley and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor especially stressed the importance of not speaking poorly about your spouse in front of our family. Parents, imagine if your child called you, hurt or frustrated by their spouse. Maybe it was a simple misunderstanding and feelings were unintentionally hurt or maybe it was an intense argument and deep seeds of conflict were sown. Either way, your child has not worked this out with their spouse yet and they’re passionately recounting the events to you over the phone…what’s your reaction? You will probably side with your child, even if they’re wrong. But that can make things really hard for a married couple, especially when newlyweds are trying to establish new relationships with in-laws.

So who can you talk to about with your spouse? You know it’s not good to keep some of those bitter thoughts bottled up. I would recommend two sources:

1.) Marriage counselor. These people are amazing. Super smart and super caring. They’ll sincerely listen and understand your frustration but they will also point out where you are off track and walk you through ways to make things better. Sharing openly and honestly about your spouse to a professional counselor shows you care enough to work at your marriage because you know it doesn’t just happen (See: Nobody Owes Your Happiness)

2.) A trusted marriage mentor couple. Hayley and I have unofficially had these at every stage in our marriage thus far. You’re looking for an older couple who you know cares about both of you and is not afraid to hold you accountable. They’re also not afraid to walk you down the wise path in your marriage. They are right there with you in the trenches. They are not just giving you trite marriage truisms. Instead, they regularly share real life advice born from real life relationships.

No matter the situation, never talk bad about your spouse. You don’t need to vent to your girlfriends or complain about your wife with the guys. When conflict arises in your marriage…

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

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