Family decision means change

Q: We’re considering taking my elderly mother into our home, rather than placing her in a nursing facility. This decision is especially difficult because we still have three children living with us. Would this new arrangement impact family dynamics?

Jim: In a big way – and you should be prepared for blessings, as well as challenges. On the plus side, you’ll have the emotional and practical support of your family as you take on the weighty task of meeting your mother’s needs. There’s also the potential of realizing a strong sense of family unity and cohesiveness as you share in the caregiving responsibilities.

Then there are the potential benefits for your kids as they experience firsthand the importance of sacrifice and service in the interest of others. This can become a vital part of their character growth. There’s also the opportunity for them to develop a special relationship with their grandparent.

On the other side, the stability of your family will likely be affected. With these changes, your children’s social lives will probably be disrupted and their personal freedom may be restricted in some ways. And you and your spouse will at times be caught in between the competing needs of your kids and your mother, while your own needs frequently take a backseat. This is what people have in mind when they talk about the “sandwich generation.”

There’s obviously a lot here to pray about as you consider the equally legitimate questions of your responsibility to your mom and your family’s well-being. In short, there are no simple solutions to the challenges you’ll face if you take her in. It will involve a delicate balancing act and place you in a position where you will have no choice except to rely on the grace and wisdom of the Lord from one moment to the next. And that’s a good place to be.

Q: My teenagers often go to films that have racy content. My heart tells me that it’s probably not a good thing, but I have nothing more to go on than that. Can you help?

Bob Waliszewski, director, Plugged In: I recently received an email from a young man who explained how his struggle with lust was linked to his television and movie choices, and not surfing inappropriate Internet sites. He’s not alone. Hollywood has become a super-teacher to an untold large number of young people. As Tinseltown instills its own brand of sexual “values” via motion pictures, young people are embracing what they’re being taught.

This isn’t simply my opinion; mounting research is saying the same thing. For instance, two RAND Corp. studies found that teens exposed to sexualized television and music were more likely to become sexually active compared to their peers who had limited exposure. Researchers at Dartmouth College had similar findings regarding the power of sexualized motion pictures.

I believe that your teenagers already have a tough fight in guarding their hearts and minds without consuming risque media. Once, after a speaking engagement, a young man came up to me to argue for a film that I had labeled as inappropriate. His view was that the “art” trumped content. My response was to completely ignore the acting and special effects. Instead, I asked him if a certain sex scene and another involving nudity had ever caused him to struggle with his thought life. To this day, I’ve never had an answer. The man lowered his head and walked away.

Armed with the research, which is easy to find online, I’d suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with your teens. It’s never too late to lay down safe boundaries.

Q: How can we help our son have a successful prom night? He’s excited about this event, but I’m afraid he may also be a bit naive, both about the cost and the potential pitfalls.

Jim: The success of prom night begins long before the tux is put on. You can get things off to a good start by sitting down with your teen and talking about his thoughts. In situations like this, disappointments and letdowns are usually the result of overblown, unrealistic expectations. So do what you can to help your son put things in perspective.

Here are some other things to consider that will help make the experience a positive one for your teen and his date:

Discuss a budget. Life goes on after the prom. So do payments for flowers, photos, rentals, etc. Your son may be feeling pressure to make a big splash, and you can help relieve him of that burden by sitting down together and devising a plan that will be both economical and memorable.

Establish an itinerary. When will the evening begin and end? Where will dinner be? Who will be in the car? Who’s driving? Get him to pin down all of the specifics, and have him communicate the details to his date’s parents also. Feel free to verify the information with a couple of phone calls throughout the evening.

Have a heart-to-heart talk about sexual self-control. Your teen should commit to respecting both his body and his date’s. (Young ladies in particular should be careful about what they wear. Modesty and good taste should be the rule.)

Provide support. Let your son know that you’ll be praying for a safe and enjoyable evening. Encourage him to call “Dad’s All-Night Taxi Service” should plans turn sour. Teens need to know that you’ll be there for them without creating a scene.

– 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.