QUESTION: After the Boston Marathon bombings, I’m feeling more anxious about world events and the possibility of terrorist attacks in our country. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with these fears?
JIM: Many Americans report feeling stressed out by the potential for terrorist attacks at home. But our counseling team suggests that these feelings are normal.
One of the best ways to deal with them is to talk with someone you trust. We all need “safe” people in our lives — friends with whom we can be honest without having to worry that they’ll judge us or make us feel ashamed. If you know one or two people like that, give them a call, get together for coffee, and tell them how you’re feeling.
If you don’t have any safe people in your life, you need to find some. Church is a great place to start. Many churches sponsor support groups where honesty and vulnerability are encouraged. And if you’re spiritually inclined, bringing your fears before God in prayer and meditating on Scripture can provide great comfort.
Also, while the events in Boston and elsewhere are tragic, they are also, mercifully, rare. Keep in mind that our media and the relentless 24-hour news cycle can contribute a great deal to anxiety in the wake of terrorist acts. Sometimes it’s best to just tune out.
Finally, if you’re experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety — shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweaty palms — you should talk to your physician. You can also contact Focus on the Family for a free consultation with one of our licensed counselors.
QUESTION: How can I help prepare my daughter for the physical, emotional and psychological changes that adolescence brings?
DR. GREG SMALLEY, Vice President of Family Ministries: I have two teenage daughters of my own, so I’ve had a bit of experience in this area. My advice is for you to get out of the house while you still can. Ha.
Seriously, while navigating a young girl through the emotional teen years might seem daunting, it can be a beautiful experience for both parent and child.
First, open communication is the key. You need to help your daughter understand the physical changes her body will experience. Girls need to know about breast development, new hair growth and the reproductive cycle. The first menstrual period should be viewed in a positive light, as a passage into adulthood rather than a burden or a “curse.”
It’s also important to talk to your daughter about her increasing interest in the opposite sex. She’ll need to be prepared to deal with attention from boys. This is an important time to review specific guidelines about relationships, affectionate touching, the progressive nature of sexual contact and the spiritual, physical and emotional advantages of saving sex for marriage.
Ideally, you want to create a home environment where talking is the norm. Plan on having a series of conversations with your prepubescent girl, perhaps at age 9 or 10. Some parents plan a special weekend away from home in order to have undistracted, one-on-one time during which these discussions can take place. If you’re a single dad who feels uncomfortable discussing these matters with your daughter, consider seeking help from an adult woman who not only shares your values, but has enough rapport to talk with her about these topics.
Other issues to talk about might include the importance of friends, the need for independence and your daughter’s desire to form her own identity. If you will stay in communication about the changes she’s experiencing, the teen years have the potential to deepen your relationship considerably. Remember, you’re on the same team.
Jim 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. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus