Focus on the Family Magazine - October/November 2021

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics. Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics.

Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

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Helping Families Thrive in Christ

OCT / NOV 2021






M eet





pg. 24

October / November


Difficulties in a marriage

often affect the whole family

You can give couples the help they need when life gets difficult and

tensions arise. Your donation will make sure couples have access

to articles, broadcasts, digital video series and other relevant tools

they need to strengthen and improve their relationship.




A marriage insight from Sue Mellema


Appreciating your spouse will

strengthen your marriage—and

change you

by Gary Thomas


Five strategies for strengthening

your relationship

by Holley Gerth


After two kids and 25 years of

marriage, Mike told his family he

was leaving. They all thought it was


by Thomas Jeffries

In Every






Faith & Inspiration


The mealtime blessing that

drew my neighbors together

by Farrah Adkins


ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada’s

new president shares how his

complicated past has given him

a passion for helping families find

hope in Christ

by Amy Van Veen and Todd Foley


Letting go of my grudge helped me

appreciate my husband and focus

on God’s character

by Krystle Porter

Kids & Teens


A parenting activity

from Linsey Driskill



Get to the heart of what’s

bothering your kids with simple,

nonthreatening questions

by Michelle Nietert



Three tips to help your teens

become screenwise

by Jonathan McKee


How to help children placed

through foster care feel safe, valued

and welcomed into your family

by Johnston Moore


How to respond if your kids are

isolating themselves from social


by Mike Bechtle

Will you consider supporting hurting couples

with a donation today?

Simply visit ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Give or call 1.800.661.9800.

October / November 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 3


Hacks & Facts

president Jim Daly

chief operating officer Ken Windebank

publisher Steve Johnson


focus canada president Jean-Paul Beran

editorial director Sheila Seifert

managing editor Andrea Gutierrez

copy chief Scott DeNicola

contributing editors Ginger Kolbaba, Vance

Fry, Jennifer Lonas, Thomas Jeffries,

a new


Marianne Hering and Jeff Masching

art director Brian Mellema

designer Anneka Jack

cover The Beautiful Mess

media publishing director Kevin Shirin

editorial assistant Kat Bittner

print production Gail Wise

Jean-Paul Beran is

president of ong>Focusong> on

the Family Canada.

IN 1983, six years after ong>Focusong> on the

Family began their ministry in the U.S.,

ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada opened

their doors to serve the unique needs of

Canadian families. Terence Rolston, who

faithfully served for many years as president, stepped down

at the end of 2020. Bob Cheatley, a long-time board member

of ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada, stepped in to serve as

interim president.

During that time, the Board of Directors began their extensive

search. I am humbled and honored to be selected as the

new president of ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada.

I am thankful for Terence’s legacy of faith and heart for helping

families thrive. I am also grateful to Bob for stepping in to

lead this ministry through a time of transition.

Jesus is my Lord and my Savior; he’s my everything. As I

look ahead to this new chapter of serving as president, I look

to Jesus as my example of leading with wisdom, service and

grace. On page 24, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more

about my story and understand my passion for serving families

in broken places and difficult seasons. It is my desire that every

family, regardless of what they’re walking through, will experience

the hope of Christ.

I pray you find encouragement and guidance in the many

excellent articles within these pages, and I look forward to serving

you in your journey of building a thriving family.


Jean-Paul Beran


circulation Sandy Grivy

Thank you!

ong>Focusong> on the Family provides this magazine and

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like you. ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Donate

For a subscription, go to ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/


ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine October/November

2021, Vol. 6, No. 5 ISSN 2471-5921, © 2021 ong>Focusong> on the

Family. All rights reserved. Published by ong>Focusong> on the

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Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are

from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ® ).

Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry

of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text

Edition: 2016.

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A Gourd of


To help foster an attitude of gratitude in our family, I placed

a medium-sized pumpkin in the center of our dinner table

and, starting the first of the month, we used it to record

things for which we were grateful. At dinnertime, each family

member shared something he or she was thankful for.

Starting at the top of the pumpkin, we wrote down each

item using a black Sharpie. We added to it every night until

Thanksgiving, eventually covering the outside of the entire

gourd. The kids looked forward to writing something each

evening (so did I!), and the pumpkin became a wonderful

reminder and centerpiece of our many blessings.

—Tien-Yee Hillman

4 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY October / November 2021

October / November 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 5





During one particular Christmas season, my husband

and I felt that our kids were being less grateful than

we would have liked. So starting in January, we had

them write a letter every month to someone, telling

that person why they were thankful for him or her.

They chose to write to teachers, ministers, grandparents

and friends’ parents. We taught our kids how to

properly address the envelopes.

At the end of that year of letters, we donated blankets

and coats to the local homeless shelter. It was a

full year of thankfulness, with monthly reminders of

gratitude and an ongoing heart change.

—Rebecca Hardie

People who send thankyou

notes report a mood

boost of two points on an

11-point scale.

Source: Psychological Science, 2018

Gratitude Journal


A Lesson in

Finger Painting

One day we let my daughter totally paint her hands

with finger paints. When it was time to wash the

paint off, we explained that germs can be all over her

hands just like the paint; the only difference is that

she can’t see the germs.

So when she washes her hands, it’s important to

scrub with soap and rub all over (getting between

fingers, on top of hands, etc.). As she washed off the

paint, she was so excited to get her hands clean. Now

when we want her to wash her hands properly, we

remind her of the paint.

Sneeze Beneath

the Collar

—Autumn Shaffer

I taught my three boys to sneeze into the inside of

their T-shirts by lifting the collar over their mouth and

nose. That way the germs stay where they’re at . . .

with them. As odd as it sounds, this practice has been

well received. And because their clothes are getting

washed regularly, I can ensure that other people aren’t

being subjected unnecessarily to my kids’ poorly

directed sneezes.

—Joanna Sanders

Healthy Hands

To avoid the spread of germs, I insist my children

wear clothes with pockets. This way, whenever we

go out, I ask them to keep their hands tucked in, and

we avoid a lot of unnecessary touching. At times, I

put a coin in their pocket and allow them to keep it if

I don’t see their hands. The money motivates them to

keep their hands out of sight.

—Allison Struber

My husband and I taught our kids to keep a

personal gratitude journal for jotting down

encouraging thoughts, ideas and prayers.

These became conversation starters at dinner

every evening, and we brainstormed

how to turn them into actions: calling a

friend to say we care, emailing a word of

encouragement, saying thank you for a

kindness, helping a sibling with a task or

drawing a picture for grandparents.

We also found that making Thanksgiving

a truly special time, rather than simply a

steppingstone to Christmas, led our children

to understand and value the significance of

gratitude well beyond the holiday season.

—Nancy Koenig




Our children washed thoroughly if their hands

“looked” dirty, but if they didn’t see dirt, they would

skip washing. One day we looked online at pictures

of germs magnified by a microscope. What a sight!

That day changed my girls’ understanding about

germs, and they now wash without being told.

—Ashlie Gillit



October / November 2021

October / November 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 7



‘Do Unto Others . . .’



I’ve marveled at how teaching

my kids to have simple, kind

conversations can help them bridge

their differences with their peers.

When our youngest son butted

heads with a classmate and the

situation verged on bullying, the

classmate’s mother and I arranged

playdates for the boys. It worked.

They learned to embrace each

other’s differences and found

common ground, too.

Every Saturday, I sat my children around the table for our weekly Bible

reading and Scripture memorization before they went out to play. One

particular Scripture verse, “Do to others as you would have them do to

you” (Luke 6:31, NIV), particularly encouraged my 7-year-old son.

After school one day, my son told me he’d made a new friend. She

was a classmate who used a wheelchair. The other kids ignored or

mocked her, but he wanted to treat her as he would have wanted others

to treat him, so he befriended her. Slowly, some of his classmates

decided to befriend the little girl, too.

—Dianna Lefas

—Kristi Woods



Between Kids

Instead of focusing on the

differences my children notice

between themselves and others,

I encourage them to look harder

for the similarities between them.

For instance, one of my sons

recently saw a boy about his age

with a pacifier in his mouth. He

immediately pointed it out (quite

loudly) and asked if he was a baby.

Instead of hushing or shaming

him, I pointed out how he looked

about my son’s age and probably

also enjoyed playing with cars

and dinosaurs, too. Then I gently

reminded him that he used to use

a pacifier, as well. Reminding him

of the ways he was the same as the

other boy helped my son view him

in a new light.

—Elizabeth James





On his first day of third grade, my

son complained about a new kid

who “messed up everything for

everybody.” I discovered this child

had ADHD, and there were times his

mother forgot to give him his medication.

That night I read my son

the Bible story in Luke 10 about the

good Samaritan, stressing that we

don’t know what this little boy might

be going through in life and that we

always need to show compassion

and kindness regardless of how he

might act. My son said he’d try.

That spring, I volunteered to

chaperone a school field trip. I was

surprised when the boy’s mom

took my hand. “I want to tell you

how wonderful your son is,” she

said, her eyes glistening. “I know my

son can be difficult, but when none

of the other children will play with

him, your son always does.”

As I said good night to my son

that evening, he asked me if I had

fun that day. I told him it was the

best day ever.

—Linda Breeden

Changing Unfair Labels

One day, when my 10-year-old daughter, Julia, and I were out shopping,

a girl from her school said hello. Julia barely acknowledged her. When

I asked her why she’d acted that way, my daughter said, “She’s one of the

bad kids, Mom.” By bad, Julia meant that she didn’t turn in her homework

or get good grades, and she often got into trouble in class. I was

concerned that my daughter was labeling kids in such a negative way.

When we got home, I handed Julia a notepad and said, “I’d like you

to make a list of everyone in your life who has helped you become who

you are.” Her list was long, filled with parents, grandparents, aunts and

uncles, her youth leaders at church, teachers and friends. I looked at her

list and said, “We need to remember that a lot of kids can’t make a list

like yours. Some kids don’t have anyone to help them with homework or

teach them how to behave. Who would you be today if no one had ever

helped you?”

Julia nodded. “I’ll remember,” she said.

After the list experience, Julia told her teacher that if anyone needed

help with homework, she would stay inside during recess to help.

She’d always assumed that when kids didn’t do their homework, it was

out of laziness or bad behavior. After our conversation, she often spent

recess helping the girl with her math homework, explaining homework

in the same way I explained it to Julia the night before. It helped her

see that we shouldn’t judge other people’s situations because we don’t

know all the facts.

—Diane Stark



October / November 2021

October / November 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 9





I know I should be using parental controls

on my kids’ accounts and devices, but I’m

unsure where to start. What should I do?

Great question because, let’s face it, that’s

where a lot of us as parents are today. Yes,

we know—in the abstract—that parental

controls are available. But implementing

them can seem intimidating and overwhelming

because, well, we don’t know where to begin.

The good news is that using parental controls is

actually pretty simple once you get over that understandable


I’d suggest starting with a streaming service you

use, which will give you a quick “win” and boost your

confidence. Let’s take Netflix as an example: First, log

on to your account from your computer. (Note that

the procedure will be a little different if you log on

from a mobile device or smart TV.) Hover over your

profile pic in the upper right-hand corner, and you’ll

see the word “Account” appear in a drop-down menu.

Click on it. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see the

header “Profile & Parental Controls,” as well as different

profiles for your family members (if those are

set up). Click on one of your children’s profiles, and

you’ll see a section for “Viewing Restrictions,” which

takes you to a bar with movie and TV ratings that you

can restrict. Save. Boom. Done.

Once you’ve mastered one service or device, you’ll

have growing confidence to move on to another. The

settings won’t be exactly the same, but they’re all generally

similar. Most importantly, you’ll see that taking

advantage of these content-restricting features is a lot

easier than you may have realized.

—Adam Holz, director of Plugged In

For reviews of these and other

titles, visit PluggedIn.com, ong>Focusong>

on the Family’s media review and

discernment website.


Will the cat lover in your

family want to give this

third-person adventure

game a try?

Scheduled release: October


Are the battle scenes in this

Marvel superhero flick too

intense for younger viewers?

Scheduled release: Nov. 5


Does the magical backdrop

of Disney’s latest animated

film overshadow the familycentered


Scheduled release: Nov. 24



3tips to

live by

A marriage insight

from Sue mellema


TOGETHER has turned into

happy moments for my husband,

Dan, and me. Without the distraction

of cellphones and emails, we actually

talk about what’s going on in our lives.

Recently, we discussed the constantly

changing seasons of life. We’ve

had busy and fun seasons—watching

our three sons marry, start careers

and become the fathers of our nine

precious grandkids. And we’ve had

challenging, heart-wrenching seasons

when we lost three of our parents to

cancer, lung disease and Alzheimer’s.

Dan and I came up with three

golden nuggets that God has

impressed on us to live out through

each season of life:

Love Jesus. Sounds basic and simple,

but if we truly love the Savior,

we’ll want to get to know Him by

meditating on His Word and being

obedient to what it says.

Love others. Dan and I are intentional

about making time for family

and inviting friends over, whether

it’s sending a quick text or enjoying

a game night together. When God

puts someone on our hearts, we try to

bless that person.

Preach the Gospel to yourself daily.

When we stop to think about what

Jesus did for us on the Cross, we can’t

help but be humbled, thankful and

filled with hope.

None of these golden nuggets are

new truths. But when we commit to

living them out, they can change our

marriages and prepare us for the next

season of life God brings our way. •

Sue mellema is a retired elementary school

teacher and now a full-time grandma. Her

husband, Dan, is the chief financial officer for

ong>Focusong> on the Family in the U.S.



October / November 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 11

cOuples / THanKFULneSS

THanKFULneSS / cOuples




Take charge of your mind

One of the most helpful verses for

marriages isn’t, in context, about

marriage, but when applied to

marriage, it’s revolutionary. In

Philippians 4:8 (NIV), Paul says we

are to think about things that are true,

noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable,

excellent and praiseworthy. This calls

us to take charge of our minds. In

other words, we need to think about

what we think about. Rather than letting

our thoughts run off on their own,

we need to rein them in.

If we want to be healthy physically,

we won’t eat everything that looks delicious;

we’ll exert self-control. In the

same way, if we want to be healthy

relationally, we shouldn’t think about

everything that demands our attention.

We need to exert the same self-control

with our minds that we exhibit with

our bodies. Philippians 4:8 implies

that we shouldn’t dwell on whatever

is dishonorable, distasteful, frustrating,

shameful or deserving of censure.

While we can address these issues in

counseling, they shouldn’t be things

we ruminate on.

To build your marriage with gratitude,

don’t listen to yourself; talk to

yourself. Reject negative thoughts

and pivot to the positive. You may

have to think consciously about doing

this at first, but in time it will become

second nature. As a result, you will

feel more content, and your spouse

will feel more noticed and cherished.

Praying involves thinking. If you

pray only about what needs to change,

it can foster an unhealthy attitude

toward your spouse. Before I bring up

any issues about my wife with God,

I list things I’m thankful for. After

all, I’m talking about His daughter

(1 John 3:1; Ephesians 5:1), and no

dad wants to hear his son-in-law

focusing on his daughter’s weaknesses

while ignoring her strengths. >>>

Appreciating your spouse will

strengthen your marriage—and

change you






I could read the expression on my

wife’s, Lisa’s, face: “Why would you

give this to me?”

Lisa held the stationery-store

journal and thought (she later told

me), You know I don’t like to journal.

Please don’t ask me to do this.

But then she noticed it was

stamped for the previous year, and

the entries were already filled in.

The first page read, “Lisa’s Lovely

Ways.” Each day that year, I’d written

down something about her I was

thankful for or some quality I

admired that blessed me.

When she saw that, she cried.

“You found 365 things to say? Like,

even on my ornery days?”

My daughter said, “Sheesh, Dad,

that’s like something you see in a

Hallmark movie that nobody ever

really does.”

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally

to me or most people. The way our

brains work, we tend to stop noticing

the commonplace. For instance,

if you live by railroad tracks, trains

likely don’t keep you up at night

because your brain has learned to

ignore the sounds.

The same thing can happen in

marriage. As the years go by, we

tend to stop noticing our spouses’

strengths. If your spouse has a great

sense of humor or a deep faith, or

is an incredible parent, eventually

your brain won’t register these

strengths as special. The things

you once admired most about your

spouse become commonplace, and

you stop noticing them. As a pastor,

I regularly see people who are

acutely aware of what their spouses

aren’t doing and are blind to what

they are doing.




OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 13

cOuples / THanKFULneSS

COnFLiCT / cOuples

Why my wife cried

Filling in that journal for Lisa was a

powerful experience for me. Every

morning, I had to come up with

something new. In expressing my

thanks for Lisa, I couldn’t write

down the same thing 10 or even five

times without it losing its power.

As the months passed, I asked God

to remind me of something praiseworthy

Lisa had done. By summer,

I started “scanning” Lisa throughout

the day, eager to catch something

I could write in the journal. I was literally

training my brain to look for

the positive and ignore the negative.

What happens to a husband when

his first thought each day is focused on

something wonderful about his wife?

Here’s what it did for me: It

changed the way I thought about

Lisa, talked about Lisa, prayed for

Lisa and talked to Lisa. That journal

was a gift to me long before I

presented it to her. It fostered an attitude

of gratitude in me. It made me

feel like a different husband who had

a different wife.

Expressing thankfulness for your

spouse is like feeding your lawn.

Your marriage may be dry and

malnourished, but you can restore it

to a lush green. Our first summer in

Houston, when our lawn-care knowledge

was a bit lacking, we awoke to

a brown wasteland. My wife did her

research for the area and discovered

that the lawn just needed to be fed.

Two weeks later it was fine.

As we approach the holidays, let’s

consider how we can feed our marriages

with thanksgiving. •

Gary thomas is the author of more than 20

books, including Sacred Marriage, Cherish, and

the recently revised and updated bestseller A

Lifelong Love: Discovering how intimacy with

God breathes passion into your marriage.



5 strategies

for strengthening

your relationship



neighborhood Christmas get-together,”

Therese told her husband, Heath. “I think

it’s important for us to get to know our


Heath looked up from his book. “Why?

We don’t do anything with those people all

year long. I’d rather stay home.”

“We don’t do anything with them

because you never want to.” Therese loved

hanging out with people, but Heath, after

working long hours at his job, preferred

staying in. Frustrated, Therese stared at

her husband and wondered, Why can’t

you be more like me?

As a counselor and life coach, I’ve

encountered many people struggling in

their marriages with similar situations.

We think if our spouses would be more

like us, life would be better. >>>



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 15

cOuples / COnFLiCT

COnFLiCT / cOuples

From “I do” to “I don’t”

When we meet our future spouses, our differences

often draw us together. She’s loud, and he’s quiet.

She’s dramatic, and he’s dependable. He loves

adventure, and she loves an evening on the couch

watching a good movie. Perhaps we love these differences

when we say, “I do,” but over time, we may

unintentionally start saying, “I don’t.”

• I don’t understand why he acts this way.

• I don’t know how to love her well right now.

• I don’t think he’s happy, even though I’m

trying hard.

This disconnect can happen for many reasons,

but one of the most prevalent I’ve seen in my work

is that each spouse has a different personality type.

A people person is married to a private person. The

life of the party is married to a wallflower.

When I look at the Creation story in Genesis,

I see many complementary pairings—day and night,

land and sea, masculine and feminine. I believe

God made another complementary pairing—introvert

and extrovert.

You may have married someone you wish were

like you. But you can actually become a more powerful

team by understanding and embracing your

spouse’s differences. Here are five strategies to help

you appreciate your differences and leverage them

to build a stronger marriage.

Understand what makes

your spouse different

EXTROVERT DAVE married introvert Sarah.

Sarah loves Christmas, so Dave planned a surprise

holiday party. He worked on it for weeks and

invited all of Sarah’s friends and acquaintances.

After the party, Sarah walked into the kitchen and

said, “I’m exhausted.”

Dave hoped to hear, “That was so fun. You’re

amazing!” Disappointed, he said, “Nothing I do is

ever good enough for you.”

Sarah felt misunderstood; Dave felt unappreciated.

No one was happy.

For introvert-extrovert couples, having a happy

marriage may mean two very different things since

the ways they experience happiness is different.

Extroverts, who rely more on dopamine to

energize them, usually experience happiness as

enthusiasm and excitement. While introverts, who

rely more on acetylcholine to relax them, often

Learn what happiness

means to your spouse

experience happiness as calm and contentment.

If Dave and Sarah had known the difference

between introvert and extrovert happiness, they

could have avoided misunderstandings and hurt

feelings. Dave might have considered, How can I

help Sarah experience more calm and contentment

during this crazy holiday season? Then, instead

of planning a surprise party, he could have taken

Sarah out for a quiet dinner for two or given her

time alone to enjoy wrapping Christmas presents

and getting into the Christmas spirit.

To understand your spouse’s version of happiness,

ask, “What does happiness actually feel like to

you?” As your spouse describes the experience of

happiness, encourage him or her to use synonyms,

such as calm, exciting or any other happiness words

your spouse can think of. Then share your happiness

words as well.

THE FIRST STEP to embracing the

differences in your relationship is

overcoming myths and misunderstandings

about what it means to

be an introvert or extrovert. It’s not

about how much someone likes

small talk. Instead, our brains and

nervous systems determine whether

we are introverts or extroverts.

Neurotransmitters are chemical

messengers that help shape our

responses and behavior. Extroverts

feel their best with a neurotransmitter

called dopamine, which acts like

caffeine. It revs us up and is released

when we have a lot coming at us from

the outside, like at a dinner party.

In contrast, introverts feel best with a

different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine,

which works more like herbal tea. The

chemical is released when we do things

like turn inward, focus on a project or

have meaningful conversations.

Nervous systems. In general, extroverts

expend energy and introverts

conserve it. The autonomic nervous

system includes two divisions: sympathetic

and parasympathetic. While

we all use both, Dr. Marti Olsen

Laney says in The Introvert Advantage,

“Extroverts are linked with the dopamine/adrenaline,


sympathetic nervous system, [and]

introverts are connected with the

acetylcholine, energy-conserving,

parasympathetic nervous system.”

Brain pathways. An extrovert’s primary

pathway for processing is shorter,

more straightforward and externally

focused. Extroverts rely more

on short-term memory, the here and

now. An introvert’s primary pathway

for processing is longer, more complex

and internally focused. It draws

more from long-term memory, taking

into consideration the past, present

and future. Because of the way they

process, introverts often need longer

to respond.

These biological differences matter,

because without understanding

the wiring of introverts and extroverts,

we can easily assume that our

spouses act in the ways they do simply

out of preference or stubbornness

rather than because God intentionally

designed them to be that way.

MICHELLE, who is an extrovert,

and John, who is an introvert, work

together in a family-owned business.

They’ve made it through a challenging

year, and Michelle wanted John

to know how much she appreciated

his hard work and commitment.

On the next team Zoom call, she

publicly praised John, and then asked

him to say a few words. Put on the spot,

John felt awkward and couldn’t wait to

Adjust your lovelanguage


get off the call. Michelle spoke his love

language, words of affirmation, but

she spoke it in a volume that was hard

for him to receive. He wished that

Michelle had expressed her affirmation

privately or in a handwritten note.

Many couples who try to make

their marriages happier turn to

the five love languages Dr. Gary

Chapman identified—words of affirmation,

quality time, acts of service,

physical touch and gifts. But sometimes

extroverts can unintentionally

“shout” their love at their introvert

spouse, as Michelle did with John.

Though she expressed love in his language,

it would have been better if

she had toned it down so he could

accept it.

Once you know your spouse’s love

language, ask yourself, What volume

will work best? >>>



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 17

Take our





to have activities most evenings.

Amanda, an introvert who interacts

all day with their two kids, hits

her social limit by the time Paul gets

home from work. When she tells

Paul, “I need a break from the kids,”

he interprets that as a desire to get

out of the house. So he tells Amanda,

“We’re having dinner with the Smiths

Friday night!” She feels guilty for

needing time alone, so she replies,

“Great!” Over time, Amanda is

headed for burnout and resentment.

Because of the way they’re wired,

extroverts are more energized

by external stimulation (what’s

happening around them), while

introverts are more energized by

internal stimulation (what’s happening

within them). Extroverts

become drained when they

don’t have enough going on, and

introverts become drained when too

much is happening.

Introvert-extrovert couples need

to be strategic about getting both

of their energy needs met. A starting

place can be an energy audit.

Individually, write down everything

you do for a day or a week. Put a plus

sign by what energizes you, a minus

sign by what drains you and a question

mark if you’re not sure. Then take

time to go through your lists together.

The goal isn’t for you both to eliminate

all your minuses; those are part of

life. It’s seeing whether you can make

some changes that will help each of

you get your energy needs met. If

you’re an extrovert, that may mean

you both go out Friday night, but then

you take the kids to the park Saturday

afternoon so your introvert spouse can

enjoy a nap. Both of your energy needs

are equally valid; they’re just different.

Embrace the power

of those differences

COnFLiCT / cOuples

Start today!



Pay attention to your

different energy needs

A TURNING POINT in introvert-extrovert marriages

happens when you can see as strengths what

you typically view as your spouse’s weaknesses or

struggles. For example, if you wish your spouse

were more outgoing, remind yourself how his or

her calm, steady presence brings peace to your

home. When you’re caught in critical thoughts,

ask yourself, What’s the hidden strength in this?

and How was I drawn to this quality when we were


God placed you with your opposite to make

you stronger. When you stop focusing on your differences

and allow them to motivate you instead,

you’ll find you can accomplish more as a team than


My husband, Mark, and I have gone on a breakfast

date once a week for nearly 20 years. Early in

our marriage we tried to communicate but kept

ending up disconnected. Our culture portrays love

as a feeling, but in many ways it’s a skill. And, like

all skills, it takes practice.

Mark and I needed uninterrupted, face-to-face

time with each other. Scheduling time together

allowed us to shift from reacting to responding in

our relationship. Gradually, we learned to have

conversations rooted more in curiosity than criticism,

and the skills we developed eventually spilled

over into other areas of our life.

From a brain-science perspective, when we sit

across from someone and deeply focus on that

person, we activate our mirror neurons. These neurons

allow us to “sync up” to another person in

God-designed ways that deepen our empathy and

understanding. Intentional time with each other is

one of the most transformational tools in any relationship.

And when you’re together, one of the most

powerful questions you can ask is, “How can I love

you well right now?”

When you begin to appreciate your differences as

a couple, you are also better able to extend patience

and understanding to each other. Ultimately,

embracing your differences will help you see your

spouse’s personality not as an obstacle but as a

God-given gift that makes you a more powerful

team. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two

are better than one, because they have a good

reward for their toil.” •

Holley Gerth is a counselor and life coach. She is the author of

The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the world needs you

to be you.

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 19

cOuples / reCOMMiTMenT

reCOMMiTMenT / cOuples

an unexpected proposal

After two kids and 25 years of marriage,

mike told his family he was leaving. they

all thought it was forever


mike and Julie





He’s not allowed to keep it loaded—

he’s only 8, after all—but today’s

events are making him reconsider

this particular policy. His parents

are screaming at each other, and he’s


The boy loads his gun, just in case

he has to protect his mother.

Of course his parents find out, and

Mike’s father insists he would never

hurt Mom. Youthful optimism hopes

things will improve, but the wallpaper

spattered with spaghetti attests to yet

another argument. Eventually, Mike

learns that his parents are divorcing.

Mike has no way of knowing what

his parents are teaching him by not

teaching him anything at all. He

never learns to compromise, to consider

others’ feelings, to share, to be

vulnerable. By age 9, what Mike has

learned is to internalize every concern,

to hold in every emotion—to

handle them by himself and within


“I learned early on how to build

walls,” he says, “to protect me and

to isolate me. I either dealt with

problems on my own or buried them.

Most got buried.”

Mike’s good friend is an older neighbor

girl. The two live next door to

each other in Dallas, attend the same

schools, grow up in the same church.

“Being friends with me meant you

only saw what I was willing to show

you, and that wasn’t much.”

He keeps building walls, and by

the time he’s an adult, Mike is living

behind a fortress. No one is getting in.

Building barriers

A girl named Julie sits in church. She

and her family attend every Sunday,

morning and night. Wednesday evenings,

too. From an early age, the girl

knows she wants a job as opposed

to a career, so she can devote more

time to family.

Julie likes spending time with

friends, kids like the boy next door.

She’s a couple of years older than

Mike, but that doesn’t really matter

once they are in college. They marry

in 1983, and Julie discovers that her

relationship with Mike is nothing like

her parents’ marriage.

“My parents were very selfless, so

that is what I learned by watching

them,” Julie says. “Mike’s parents

were very selfish, so that is what he

grew up absorbing. He brought isolation

into our marriage.”

Mike has no idea what a healthy

relationship looks like, no clue about

genuine intimacy, not a single notion

about resolving conflict and absolutely

no one to model it for him.

Instead, Mike shares with Julie the

skills he’s developed: Butting heads.

Acting distant. Leading separate lives.

Most of all, he shows her how to erect

emotional barriers of her own.

“I learned to build walls to protect

me from hurt and unmet expectations,”

Julie says. “Unknowingly, I

mentally compared him to how my

dad led our family, and Mike had

absolutely no role model for any of his

growing up, so he failed miserably.”

Julie can tell something is wrong,

yet has no idea how to fix it. All she

knows is that she grew up in a happy

home, and this one definitely isn’t.

Unsure of what to do, she responds

to Mike’s behavior with the silent

treatment. Another wall between her

and Mike. >>>



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 21

cOuples / reCOMMiTMenT

Faith & Inspiration

A surprise announcement

For 25 years they coexist. Their union

has become a chasm, their happiness

a charade. They even hide the

truth from their two children. In

December 2007, Mike makes a surprise


“My dad said he was moving to

Virginia, and my mom was not

invited,” says their daughter, Kelly.

“I think it was a shock to everyone.”

Kelly is in high school, her older

brother in college, the whole family in

free fall. Julie must navigate the chaos

in Dallas, alone.

After her husband leaves, she takes

a full-time job and sells their house.

She also starts listening to Christian

radio, in particular a program called

ong>Focusong> on the Family. As the years

pass, she pays special attention to

the shows in which couples discuss

the impact their family environment

had on their marriage. It has never

occurred to her before, but when Julie

considers everything that happened

in their dysfunctional, loveless relationship,

it all makes perfect sense.

In the meantime, Julie says, God

has gotten Mike’s attention. He

breaks up with the woman he’s been

mike and Julie (center) with family members randi,

craig, Kelly, cale and Hadley Grace (left to right)

seeing, and in 2015 he writes a nearly

2,000-word apology:

Julie, I want to tell you how very

sorry I am for what I did to you, for

how much I hurt you. You never

deserved anything like that. I know

you’re probably wondering, Where is

this coming from? Well, for the last

many, many months, God has been

working in my life. . . .

Mike and Julie start talking again.

Around 2016, one of them mentions

something they’d heard on the radio.

The other one says, “I heard that, too.”

“We came to realize that we were

both listening to the same ong>Focusong> on

the Family broadcasts every morning,

five days a week,” Julie says, “and had

been doing so for over a year.”

In 2017 Mike invites Julie to visit

Virginia, and they spend the time

walking and talking. Mike finally

reveals everything about his past—the

good, the bad and the tragically sad.

“After a few days, he said he felt the

Lord was leading him to remarry,”

Julie says. “I asked, ‘Oh, who do you

think you will marry?’ ”



Counselors Milan and Kay

Yerkovich discuss how to grow

your marriage in times of stress.


Tearing down walls

Julie is stunned. She wants to remain

friendly for the sake of their children;

remarrying Mike was never a consideration.

Still, Julie can’t deny she’s

intrigued by the idea of tearing down

past walls and rebuilding their family.

In 2018 they agree to meet up again

at a Disney resort. For five days they

talk and talk and talk some more. In

this fairy-tale setting, Julie realizes

she’s falling in love again—not with

the old Mike, but with this changed

man and his renewed heart.

Mike moves back to Texas in 2019,

and together they spend the next five

months in a re-engagement class.

Eleven years after they divorced, Mike

and Julie remarry.

“Never in my wildest dreams,” says

their daughter, Kelly, “did I think my

family would be whole again.”

Julie says their relationship today is

what the Lord originally intended for

their marriage. They regularly attempt

to “out-serve” each other, and they

use the inevitable challenges as

opportunities to love unconditionally.

Mike and Julie also practice what

they’ve learned via the radio, knowing

from experience how God can

use those stories to transform broken

people—people just like them. •




skipping grace?

the mealtime blessing that

drew my neighbors together




moved to a new state, our neighbors

welcomed us with open arms. They

had neighborhood get-togethers

and potlucks, and we were invited to

these frequent gatherings.

At our first event, my husband joined

the men in the living room, and my

daughter headed to play with the other

children. I ended up in the kitchen,

trying to fit in and make new friends.

Fitting in

When it was time to eat, everyone

came together, got their plates of

food and started eating as they continued

their conversations. Standing

and holding my plate, I didn’t give

much thought to anything but getting

to know my new neighbors—until I

heard a child’s voice behind me.

“Mommy, she won’t eat,” the child

said to her mother.

“Why not?” the woman asked. “Is

something wrong?”

“She won’t eat because we didn’t

say a blessing.”

The realization quickly dawned

on me. They were talking about my

6-year-old daughter.

Standing out

As I stood with my mouth full of food,

I was so proud of her and so ashamed

of myself. No one there knew I was a

Christian, but in that moment, they

all knew my daughter was.

Christianity was not as prominent

in our new northern town as it had

been in our previous city in the Bible

Belt. I had even heard one of our

neighbors vocalize her disgust over

the born-again stuff being “pushed

down her throat.”

Now I held my breath to see how

this group would react to my daughter’s

stand. Amazingly, everyone

stopped eating as someone asked

my daughter to thank God for the

food. It was a beautiful gesture from

kind people. And for the two years

we lived in that neighborhood, everyone

respected my daughter’s desire to

pray before meals.

Loving neighbors

I’ll never forget our last neighborhood

gathering. It was a Christmas

dinner our next-door neighbor

hosted—the same neighbor who had

initially announced her opposition

to anyone who tried to tell her about

Jesus and becoming a Christian.

With all our neighbors gathered

around her table, our host instructed

everyone to hold hands as we

thanked God for the meal. Through

a 6-year-old child, God had an entire

neighborhood holding hands and

praying together. That day I witnessed

a seed growing that God had used my

daughter to plant. •

Farrah Adkins is a freelance writer who

shares her faith through articles, stories and




OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 23



M eet



ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada’s new president

shares how his complicated past has given him a

passion for helping families find hope in Christ





THRIVE because we know first-hand how many of us

carry burdens from childhood into adulthood. Our family

of origin has a huge impact on how we build relationships

with others, participate in society and understand

who God is, but when our family of origin was not a safe

place, we don’t get that healthy foundation—and we

struggle with how to break the cycle of brokenness in our

own family.

This is something Jean-Paul Beran, ong>Focusong> on the Family

Canada’s new president, knows all too well.

“My heart for the importance of family and serving at

ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada stems from the brokenness

that happened within my family,” he explains. “That’s why

I’m honored to come to ong>Focusong>—to help people who are

struggling in their marriage and family relationships.”

As children, we believe our immediate family is normal

and we often don’t question if it’s healthy or unhealthy,

safe or unsafe. Many of us don’t sort through the patterns

we learned as children until well into adulthood. For Jean-

Paul, it wasn’t until his first daughter was born that he was

confronted with how his unresolved past was determining

the person he was becoming.

Growing up with brokenness

“My dad was a very successful businessman,” Jean-Paul

recalls, “but there was a lot of abuse, physical and mental,

from my father to me in particular and to my mother.”

In addition to abuse, his father’s alcoholism and continuous

infidelity resulted in his parents’ separation. Despite

his mom waiting for her husband to return, five years

passed with no change in his behavior. After meeting a

wonderful man, his mother divorced and remarried—they

have been married for over 30 years. As divorce was highly

frowned upon at the school she was working for at the time,

she was fired and stripped of her pension.

“She turned her back to the Lord from that point forward,”

he explains. Because of that, Jean-Paul’s heart also hardened

to the Lord. Thankfully when he was a young adult,

God opened his eyes to the truth, grace and beauty of a

personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.

As he began the next chapter of his life knowing he was

saved by the blood of Christ, sorting through the brokenness

of his past did not happen overnight. He was on a

challenging journey of discovering who God created him

to be.

Jean-Paul and his wife, Susan,

celebrate 25 years of marriage this year

Sorting through the past

“My dad was an abusive alcoholic, so he has addiction

issues and issues with staying with one woman,” Jean-Paul

explains. “Growing up, my relationship with him was like

any child’s—I thought he was the best. I thought that was

normal. Dad has girlfriends, Dad drinks, Dad hits you, Dad

yells at you. That’s normal because that’s all I knew.”

As a result, the first year of marriage to his wife, Susan,

was very difficult. They were both believers, but they came

into their marriage with two starkly different views of marriage

and family. “There was fighting every day, yelling—it

was just horrible,” he explains. “But again, my background

says that’s normal.”

Since they shared a commitment to the Lord, they knew

they needed help and found a Christian counselor to help

them sort through the brokenness. By God’s grace, they’re

excited to be celebrating 25 years of marriage this year.

As a young Christian still sorting through what he

thought was normal, Jean-Paul’s career was similar to his

father’s—it revolved around being outgoing with clients

and drinking a lot. It wasn’t until his wife announced she

was pregnant with their first child that he was forced to

question whose example he was following and why.

“I had a one-on-one with Jesus when my wife said she

was pregnant,” he recalls. “I got scared and thought, If I’m

going to be a dad, do I want to be like my dad? Or do I want

to be a father like my Heavenly Father? Which one am I

going to choose? It was a hard choice. However, I chose to

be more like my Heavenly Father for my family rather than



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 25



following my own earthly father’s model. I stopped drinking

completely over 15 years ago when my daughter was

born, and I refocused my career by no longer entertaining

clients with drinking. Honestly, I was fearful that my career

would go sideways.”

In fact, the complete opposite happened.

When he made an intentional choice to follow in his

Heavenly Father’s footsteps, his career took off, his relationship

with his wife grew stronger, his friendships deepened,

and he could be the father his daughters needed.

“Through that process,” he remembers, “I realized that

my role model of a dad that I thought was normal was distorted

and I needed to see that my role model is who the

Bible says my Heavenly Father is. God is who I strived to be

like. Then I could build a Christ-centered foundation in my

own family life.”

Being the dad God called him to be

As a child, his father’s career took priority over his relationship

with Jean-Paul. When his own daughters were young,

Jean-Paul felt God offering a different path—an opportunity

to break the cycle of brokenness that can so easily run

through our families. He sold his partnership in his firm

and became a stay-at-home dad.

“My children got to see me as the dad that does the cooking,

the cleaning, the driving to appointments, the dad that

they come to when they are going through issues and crying

on my shoulder,” he remembers. “It was an amazing

experience to build a foundation with them at that age.”

Now that his girls are teenagers, their relationship is

different from when they were young, but the most important

elements are there—trust, connection and safety. His

daughters are growing up in the home environment Jean-

Paul needed as a child—an environment where family is

priority, where they know they are loved, and where they

feel safe to share honestly what’s on their heart, without

fear of judgment or condemnation.

“I feel it is so important how ong>Focusong> helps and lifts up

those who are struggling in their marriage and family,”

he explains. “Regardless of where they’re at, there are

resources for them. It is so exciting that they can say, ‘I

need help’ and we can say, ‘I’ve got you.’ As someone

who’s been through that, I understand the importance of

first having the courage to ask for help, and second being

able to help people—not only with prayer, but with practical


Living a Christ-centered life

At the time of this interview, Jean-Paul’s father is in end-oflife

care. Since the beginning of this year, Jean-Paul has set

aside time to spend with his father at the care facility he’s in,

which has also allowed him to give his stepmother a muchneeded

break. “I’ve been able to spend more time with him

in the last year than I have as an adult ever,” he explains.

“This has given me the opportunity to heal my own heart

and tell him that I love him.”

When his stepmother asks why he’s doing this, he tells

her, “Why wouldn’t I? Because of my role model being

my Heavenly Father, I can be a son to my earthly father as

well, without anger and resentment.” By following Christ’s

example of grace, love and forgiveness, Jean-Paul’s children

are able to have strong relationships with their

paternal grandfather and step-grandmother—they call her

Babi (Czech for “Grandma”).

As he begins this new chapter with ong>Focusong> on the Family

Canada, Jean-Paul feels Jesus is teaching him to be humble,

to be a listener and to practice servant-leadership. He

is continually encouraged by the words of Psalm 73:23-24:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right

hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you

will receive me to glory.” •

Amy Van Veen is editorial manager and Todd Foley is a freelance writer

for ong>Focusong> on the Family canada.


Call ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada at

1.800.661.9800, email help@fotf.ca or visit

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Help to learn more.

Q&A with Jean-Paul

Q: What do the Berans do for fun?

A: We live in Vancouver, BC, so in the winters we

try to take advantage of the local ski hills, play

in the snow and have hot chocolate as often

as we can. We’re an athletic family, so I coach

my daughters’ soccer team. In the summers, we

go out on the water, go hiking and go camping.

We have a dog named Luna, so we walk a lot

in the forest, at the beach, and through our


Q: Why do you prioritize dinner as a family?

A: From day one, my wife, Susan, and I wanted to

have dinner as a family every night because we

know it is so important to have that time together.

Some days are filled with laughter, stories and

really great conversations. Other days, we may be

tired and the table is quiet—but sitting in silence

is good too because it will bring conversation

over time.

Q: What’s something people would be

surprised to learn about you?

A: Both my parents are immigrants to Canada—

my father is from the Czech Republic and my

mother is an Indigenous Venezuelan woman.

While I look Caucasian, with blue eyes and ginger

hair, I am very proud of my Latin roots. I am also

fluent in English, French and speak a little Spanish.

Q: Any words of encouragement for

the reader?

A: Don’t give up hope, don’t give up your trust in

the Lord. Jesus loves you for who you are, regardless

of your brokenness, regardless of the shame

you might feel. God loves you, period. That’s

coming straight from my heart. We all live in brokenness,

but God is with us at all times, from our

darkest and lowest points to our highest points.



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 27


Kids & Teens



Letting go of my grudge

helped me appreciate

my husband and focus

on God’s character



as though I haven’t had a decent

night’s sleep in more than 11 years.

My husband is wonderful—and a

great dad—but he’s a deep sleeper.

Combine sleepless kids with his deep

dozes, and it’s a recipe for marital


In those early years, I’d try to wake

him, but most often I was left to care

for a crying baby alone. When morning

finally dawned, I’d be physically

drained and jealous of my husband’s

glorious full night of sleep.

Hurt feelings

As our family continued to grow, I

developed an unhealthy way of voicing

my frustrations. I’d sarcastically say,

“How nice it must be to get a full night’s

rest,” or “You better not yawn today.”

I’m not sure my husband knew how to

respond. And my behavior did nothing

to solve my predicament.

I knew I needed to release the hurt

and bitterness I was harboring, but

I didn’t know how. As I began to seek

God more and reflect on the qualities

of humility, gentleness and patience

from Ephesians 4:2, He gently showed

me what I needed to focus on.

The Lord also showed me that my

husband had limitations—and that

was OK. I had my own set of limitations.

They just looked different

from his. I started seeing with fresh

eyes that my husband offered me his

best in other areas—things I equally

needed and appreciated.

A much-needed rest

My gratefulness for my husband and

my new gentler manner didn’t solve

the other half of the problem, however.

I needed sleep. After talking it

over, we agreed that I could nap in the

morning after he was up and I had

nursed the baby. This small change

allowed me to get an extra 20 minutes

of sleep—and wow, that helped!

Fast-forward 10 years. I no longer

expect my husband to respond to

my needs if I don’t voice them. I’ve

learned that if I set aside my emotions

when I talk with my husband,

he is better able to hear and address

the problem. When I stopped dropping

hints and started discussing my

needs and grievances openly, our

communication quickly improved. •

Krystle Porter is a co-author and contributor at

Help Club for Moms, a ministry for moms with

kids of all ages.


Tune in as Mari Jo Mast, Deb

Weakly and Krystle Porter

discuss the unique challenges of

motherhood, offering insights on

marriage and dependence on God.






A parenting activity

from Linsey Driskill


to spend more time appreciating one

another, so I cut out a bunch of small

tickets from yellow construction

paper and introduced my children to

Sibling Appreciation Week.

First we talked about the Golden

Rule (Matthew 7:12) and how Jesus

asks us to treat others as we want

to be treated. I then told each child

to look for ways their siblings were

nice to them or others and to write

what they saw on a golden ticket,

beginning with: “Thank you for ______.”

Using painter’s tape, they stuck the

golden tickets in their siblings’ bedrooms

(but not in hidden places like

inside drawers). Each day after everyone

had done this, I told my children,

“Go find your golden tickets!”

My triplets had so much fun

searching for and reading their tickets

that they kept them and then taped

them up again to reread. They also

surprised my husband and me with

golden tickets, and we wrote some for

them as well.

After our Sibling Appreciation

Week, I let my kids know they could

still surprise their siblings with tickets

whenever they noticed one of

them following the Golden Rule. My

daughter said to me, “Instead of

repaying wrong for wrong, it’s like

christian, Gracie, bates, brooklyn and Linsey

we’re repaying right for right.” •

Linsey Driskill is a speaker and author who

is passionate about encouraging families in

following Jesus. Her devotional, Beautiful

Hearted Women of the Bible: A creative

mother-daughter devotional, fosters connection

with one another and Jesus through stories,

questions, prayers and activities.





OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 29







Get to the heart

of what’s bothering

your kids with simple,






“MOM, I DON’T WANT YOU TO DIE.” My 10-yearold

son touched my arm to get my attention. I had

been on the phone with my sister-in-law talking

about wills, not realizing he was overhearing our


Turning to him, I said, “I know that’s an incredibly

scary thought. And I’m sorry you overheard

that conversation. While I can’t promise that could

never happen, I want you to know that losing a parent

while you’re still a kid is really rare. Although if

it did happen, who could help you with it?”

He thought a moment. “God.”

“How could He help you?”

“He would be there. He would listen to me pray.

He would know I would be sad.”

Because my son spoke up about something that

frightened him, we could begin to address and

defuse his fear.



Unfortunately, kids don’t always tell us what’s bothering

them. Their behavior or body language might

give us clues—like fighting, fleeing or freezing up.

But it’s often up to parents to figure out how to help

kids share and overcome their fears.

And it’s so important that we do. When fears take

root, they can evolve into anxiety, depression and

even suicidal thoughts. As parents, we long to provide

love and support to our kids. But when one of our

children is suffering, we can find ourselves feeling

lost without a map to help us navigate the problem.

As a counselor, I direct parents to ways they can

help their kids open up and overcome their fears.

Here’s how you can move in this direction:



When my daughter, then 7, landed a small role in

a community performance, she was really excited.

But as we drove home together after the first performance,

I looked at her face and could tell something

was wrong. My guess was that she was disappointed

that no one in the audience had come up to her after

the show to ask her to sign their program.

I asked, “Is there anything you wished were different


She looked at her hands. “No one came up and

talked to me after the show.”

First I let her tell me the problem, even though I had

correctly guessed it. I said, “I can see how that would

be disappointing because of all the times you’ve gone

to shows and have asked actors to sign your program.”

At the root of her disappointment was the fear

that she was invisible, that no one saw her. That’s a

dangerous lie. But I could easily have missed it.

Forcing kids to talk when they aren’t in the right

frame of mind rarely gets the right results. But when

we ask simple, nonthreatening questions, we can

invite them to share.


When our children are little, bedtime prayers, stories,

Scriptures and snuggles cultivate a peaceful

ending to long days. As kids mature, we can be

tempted to replace familiar bedtime rituals with a

quick hug and kiss good night. But don’t do it.

As kids—especially older kids—wait to fall asleep,

their brains keep going. Fears and negative thoughts

about themselves, their world and their future can

easily surface. So bedtime traditions can be reassuring.

Here’s a simple bedtime tradition I practice with

my kids. As we snuggle, I ask these questions:

• What’s something great about God?

• What’s something you can tell

God you’re sorry for that you

did wrong today?

• What’s something you can thank

Him for that He did for you today?

• What’s something you can ask

Him for?

Sometimes their answers reveal hidden fears.

One night my son answered the last question by

saying, “I can ask Him to help me sleep well tonight

and not be afraid when you leave.” That was a fear

I had no idea existed—and might not have discovered


Bedtime isn’t the only time to connect with our

kids. A friend told me she often takes her daughter

to paint pottery at the mall—especially if her daughter

seems troubled about something.

“When we’re painting, there’s no pressure to talk,”

my friend explained. “But the fact that there’s no

pressure to talk—along with the relaxing distraction

that painting provides—makes it pretty easy to slip

in and out of conversations about serious or intimate

topics.” >>>

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 31






A new series

for teen girls



I had gone to bed. She couldn’t fall asleep because

she was overwhelmed with the amount of schoolwork

she had that week.

Instead of delving deeper into her emotions, I

asked if I could pray for her. I embraced her and

asked God to give her peace, ease her stress, and

move on her behalf. When I pray with and for my

children, I often remind them that God answers

in His own timing and in His own way—and that

sometimes His answer may be different from what

we had hoped for.

But that night, God answered quickly, and in a way

that exceeded our expectations. While we were still

praying, a teacher sent out a late-night email postponing

a test that had been scheduled for the next

day. My daughter and I rejoiced together at God’s

speedy answer. Like my daughter, kids are often anxious

about areas surrounding their school life.


For some kids, school is a fun place. They feel successful

and embraced. For others, it’s a source of

anxiety—especially after their experiences with

online classes, masks and scary news. Here are

some conversation starters you can use to help your

child open up about school-related fears:

• Is there anything about school you

wish were different?

• How are you feeling about school this

year? What are you excited about?

What are you nervous about?

• Is there someone new in your class

that we could invite over this week?

• If you have a problem at school, what

could you do? Who could you tell?

• Do you ever think how God is with

you, even while you’re at school? How

might you act differently at school if

you truly believed this?

Dr. Josh and Christi Straub offer

ways to help kids navigate worry

in healthy ways.



Whether my kids’ anxiety stems from school or

something else—culture, news, failure, friends—

what they feel is real to them. If I sense that one

of my children is really worried, we worship God

through music. Worshiping God changes our focus

from us to Him.

Sometimes we do a simple exercise where we

inhale deeply—and imagine we’re “breathing

in” the love of God. Then we exhale—and imagine

we’re “breathing out” the worries of the world.

When my kids were younger, after having them

do this with me, I would ask, “Did that feel good?”

Once they answered, I’d ask them to do the same

exercise five more times on their own. I’d add,

“Maybe go outside. Close your eyes. Feel the wind

and sun that God has created.”

Sometimes now I’ll see my teenage daughter

standing on our back patio, eyes closed, completely

still, just breathing, and I know what she’s doing. >>>

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• What’s a Scripture you could remember

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• How can I pray for you while you’re

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School fears can look different for each

child. Here is how other parents have

helped their children:

responding well

to their fears and



be in the mood to tell us what’s bothering them. So when they do

open up, we don’t want to shut them down. In other words, how

we respond can make or break the rest of the conversation. Here

are some helpful tips to keep your child talking:

• Listen attentively, fully focused on your child. Let him see the

love on your face and your genuine interest in his words.

• Encourage eye contact. As your child is sharing, she may

look away, which may make it easier for her to talk. That’s fine.

But as you respond, encourage her to look at you. When she

can see in your eyes that you aren’t upset or disappointed, your

response can help break any shame she might be feeling.

• Embolden your child to keep sharing by reflecting what

you heard, such as “Can you tell me more about __?” and asking


• Normalize their struggles by sharing stories you’ve heard or

things you’ve read, or even by briefly sharing a similar struggle

of your own.

• Avoid judgmental facial expressions or comments. You

may not always realize what your facial expression is communicating

or how your kids are interpreting it. So focus on looking

attentive and showing interest.

• Avoid spouting quick fixes. No matter how quickly you may

want to react to something, breathe deeply and count to 10, if

you must, before you respond. There will be time for a discussion

later. For now, force yourself to listen.



Getting our children to open up about

their anxieties and worries—and

responding well so they keep talking—is

a great start. Sometimes just the act of

airing what is bothering them in a safe

environment is enough to cause their

fears and worries to dissipate, or at least

diminish power over them.

As our kids open up to us, we also have

a beautiful opportunity to broaden their

perspectives to include God.

Once again, use questions. You’ll

remember when I asked my son, “Who

could help you?” and he came up with his

own wonderful answer: “God.” Questions

often engage our children in ways that

help them come up with the right answer.

Try questions like these to help kids

focus on how good can come out of the

challenges they face:

• Can you think of a Bible story

in which someone faced a difficult

time, but in the end God

used it for good?

• Can you remember a time

when we prayed, and God

answered our prayers?

• What do you think God might

be saying to you?

You might be surprised at your children’s

answers. •

michelle Nietert is a licensed counselor and leads

a team of counselors. She is also a speaker and

an author. Her most recent book is Loved and

Cherished: 100 devotions for girls.



When our family moved across the country with our three

boys, one of our sons entered an intense season of battling

fear. Making new friends at school and joining sports

teams as the new kid left him wondering if he would be

accepted and invited or alone and misunderstood.

He started having trouble sleeping as his daytime worries

translated to nighttime fears. We looked up Scripture

verses on fear and taped them to his bedroom door and

headboard. We prayed those verses together every night.

My husband and I prayed about how to handle this fear,

and we believe the Lord gave us two tangible ideas.

First, we let the family dog sleep in his room. We were

skeptical in the beginning, but the next morning our son

reported his first peaceful night’s sleep in weeks. God

used the presence of our family dog to remind our son of

God’s constant presence and protection over him. Our son

remembered that he is never truly alone.

Second, I created a Scripture pillowcase. The first and

last thing my son saw each day was the Word of God

reminding him that God had not given him a spirit of fear

but of power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). It took

a few weeks, but his fears eventually disappeared. Our son

says the presence of our dog and the comfort of his head

resting on God’s Word helped him overcome his fears and

sleep in peace again.

—Renee Robinson


Both of my daughters have had unfounded fears of one or

more teachers. The best way to deal with this, we’ve found,

is to find out what those teachers liked best. Each daughter

had one week to ask the teacher what her favorite color

was, what she ate for lunch or what she did over the weekend.

At the end of the week, we bought a few small things

that the teacher liked, and the daughter delivered them to

school with a handmade card. Both of our girls gained a lot

of confidence and learned that when we get to know people

better, we find they are not as scary as they seem.

—Angela Pratt


A girl in my daughter’s class would tell my daughter that she

could be her friend and be part of her group during recess,

but the next day, without any explanation, the girl would

tell my daughter she could not be her friend. This happened

frequently enough that my daughter felt rejected and confused,

wondering what she had done wrong. Things were so

uncertain that she began to dread school.

So on the way to school each day, I prayed with my

daughter. Then, as I prepared to drop her off, I shared the

same short motto that she now knows by heart: “Be kind.

Do your best. Remember God is with you, and Mommy

loves you.” Through this experience, I taught her that showing

kindness, rather than being liked, is what matters most;

and doing her best, rather than performing perfectly, is

what makes me most proud. Praying together daily, followed

by sharing this simple yet meaningful motto, made a

bigger difference for her than I could have imagined.

My daughter came to joyfully embrace her school days.

She courageously smiled at and spoke to this girl with

kindness. Rather than seeking this girl’s approval, my

daughter began to look for someone else who was in need

of a friend.

—Lydia Powell


My oldest daughter was very nervous when it came to

speaking in public. I took the opportunity during the pandemic

to help address her fear by recording videos of all

my daughters reading books, telling stories and reciting

Bible verses. I asked them to research some educational

topics and share them in the video as if they were teaching

other kids.

I shared the videos with our close family members, and

the girls started getting a lot more comfortable speaking up.

I also saw them exhibit increased confidence when participating

in their virtual classes. When in-person learning

came back, my daughters were more at ease facing their

classmates and teachers. My oldest daughter even entered

an oratorical contest recently and took second place!

—Maria Elena Chua



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 35



3 tips to help your

teens become







Jonathan McKee’s newest book encourages

you to engage kids in conversations about

social media, entertainment and screen time

to help them navigate the digital landscape.






habitual her thumbs almost do it


Megan’s dog wearing a cute sweater.


Amari and her boyfriend laughing

while drinking a milkshake. 492 likes.

Elena wearing a new crop top. 646


Sidney clicks to her latest post, an

artsy photo perspective of her new

Vans . . . at least she thought so anyway.

If only everyone else did.

Only 134 likes.

Her neck and shoulders tighten,

and her heart starts beating faster.

She can’t put words to the feeling

if you asked her, but most counselors

would simply call it anxiety. For

some of her friends, it has become

something more severe, and sadly

far too common. It’s the overwhelming

feeling of not being good enough,

amplified by the pressurized environment

social media create.

The mental health of young people

today has almost been narrowed

down to two words: Likes and

Followers. And most parents have no

idea what to do about it.

It’s as simple as this: Kids want

screens. And when they get screens,

they want social media because that’s

where you connect with people. And

once you get on social media, the

comparison game begins.

Why don’t I have as many likes as


Why does Emma have so many

more followers?

Teenagers have always struggled

with feelings of insecurity, but never

before have those results been posted

for the entire world to see.



There’s always someone with more.

Researchers are coming to a consensus:

Today’s young people are

experiencing an unprecedented

increase of anxiety, depression and

suicidal thoughts . . . pre-COVID,

mind you. And the spike began when

social media found its way into everyone’s

back pocket.

One in five adolescent girls

experienced a major depressive episode

at some point during 2018.

That’s an 84% increase during the

past decade. And a report from

the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services revealed, suicide

rates among Americans ages 10 to

24 increased by 56% between 2007

and 2017. For some perspective, the

iPhone came out in 2007. The biggest

increases in suicide rates occurred

among the very young; the rate nearly

tripled during that time period in kids

ages 10 to 14.

And in 2020 researchers compared

their data and came to a consensus:

The hours young people spend

on social media strongly affects their

mental health, especially among girls.

They even got specific: Mental health

and happiness are the strongest when

teenagers spend just one to two hours

a day on social media. The more time

spent past two hours, mental wellbeing

decreases rapidly.

So what can Mom and Dad do

to help their kids, especially their

daughters? Here are a few tips most

researchers agree on:



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 37




before correction

The temptation after reading this kind

of research is to overreact and respond

with rules. But what your kids really

need is for you to interact with them and work on

responding relationally. The old adage is true: Rules

without relationship lead to rebellion.

We need to convert our overreaction into interaction.

So talk with your kids about the research in this article.

Take them through a book like my Teen’s Guide to Social

Media & Mobile Devices, engaging them in a dialogue

with the discussion questions. Owning a phone is much

like driving a car—it’s a privilege. We spend hours upon

hours talking with our kids about driving before they get

behind the wheel. Why is the smartphone any different?

worthy of love

How to help children placed through

foster care feel safe, valued and

welcomed into your family



Delay social media

until high school

I know, I know. This is extremely difficult

(and I can hear your daughter

saying it now, “All my friends are

on Instagram, Mom!”) But just like driving, owning a

smartphone is a privilege that comes with age.

At a bare minimum, don’t give your kids a smartphone

until they’re 13 years old.

Why 13? Because kids can’t be on social media until

they’re 13 according to the Federal Trade Commission’s

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the

U.S. Anyone who tries to sign up for social media has to

enter his or her date of birth and will be denied if under

age 13. COPPA doesn’t allow websites or social media

apps to collect personal information from anyone under

13 without parental consent.

The minimum is 13 but, as a guy who researches this

stuff all the time, I think that age should be 14 for most

kids. Groups of parents can unite and commit to waiting

until all their kids graduate from middle school to get

them smartphones. It’s much easier if their close-knit

group of friends are in the same boat.

Keep devices

out of the bedroom

I’ve heard hundreds of horror stories

from parents at my parent workshops

of their kids getting into trouble with

their phones. And in all those stories of kids streaming

inappropriate content or sneaking off with someone

they met on social media (often someone who turns out

different than who they thought), almost all of those stories

have a common phrase: all through the night.

They were messaging each other all night. He played

his games all night. She would wake up and check her

likes all night. He downloaded inappropriate pictures in

his bedroom late at night.

Maybe that’s because recent studies reveal 79% of

teenagers actually take their devices with them to the

bedroom each night, 68% of teens keep it within reach,

and 29% actually sleep with their device in bed.

Would you like to avoid a lot of grief?

Collect your kids’ phones every night about an hour

before bedtime. (I bet you can think of about 10 things

they can do instead.)

I can hear it now. “But Mom, I need it for my alarm

clock.” Keep their phone. Buy them an alarm clock. •

Jonathan McKee has authored more than two dozen books including

the newly released Parenting Generation Screen and The Teen’s Guide

to Social Media & Mobile Devices. He has 30 years of youth ministry

experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide.



son said, holding a shattered ornament

in his hand.

I told him to do his best to clean it

up and then ask Anna to come see my

wife and me in our room.

Anna had been in our home only

about an hour. Born in a country halfway

around the world, she had come

to the United States with her biological

father a few months earlier. Not

long after her arrival, she’d been

placed with a family that had taught

her how to speak English.

Unfortunately, this family had also

shown Anna what conditional love

looked like. They’d told her that if she

didn’t behave properly, she would

have to leave their home. Naturally,

her humanity, her traumatic past

and her age—she was only 6 at the

time—made it impossible for her to

meet their standards, and they had

requested she be placed elsewhere.

Anna had come to our home in

tears. She wasn’t crying because she

missed the other family, but because

children aren’t designed to experience

this kind of rejection. I am sure

the other family’s biological children

had misbehaved plenty of times. The

difference was that they didn’t fear

rejection. They were part of the family.

Anna wasn’t.

A few minutes after we sent our son

to fetch Anna, she showed up in our

doorway, petrified. Her eyes reflected

her distress as she admitted breaking

the ornament. Our hearts broke

for her. We sensed she feared being

rejected again.

We assured Anna there was nothing

she could do that would cause us to

make her leave. Upon hearing those

words, she physically relaxed. We

hugged her and then sent her on her

way to get to know her new siblings.

God used a broken ornament to

help us make our new daughter feel

valued and welcome. She needed

to see she was not an intruder but a

member of the family. Eventually we

adopted her. And she’s been a part of

the family for the past 15 years.

Whenever a new child is placed

in a home through foster care or

adoption, he or she needs to feel

safe, welcome and part of the family,

especially if that child has experienced

trauma. Here are ways other

parents have welcomed children

into their homes:



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 39



Unrushed, Day by Day

As adoptive parents through foster

care, my husband and I strived to

create a calm environment for our

children. I had to learn to take panicfilled

kids in my arms until they felt

connected and safe. Time stood still

as we rocked together. I waited with

them for as long as it took. I told them

it was OK to cry, and sometimes they

did. Other times we sat in silence.

As I helped my children identify

their feelings, repeating what I heard,

their countenances brightened.

Whether they were feeling scared,

worried, nervous, alone or hungry,

responding to them with understanding

gave voice to their feelings of

undiscovered or buried pain. As I created

a safe place where trusting me

was possible, they learned that my

love was genuine.

I’ve realized that my children don’t

need me to save them from all their

past traumas or fears. They need me

to walk with them, unrushed, day by

day. Doing that affirms their place in

my world.

—Kelly D. McManus

The Gift of Space

What my young ones need most is

space. Space to process. Space to feel.

Sometimes they just need my husband

and me to ignore the stares and comments

that show up when they can’t

hold themselves together any longer.

Some of the emotions they’ve held

inside are more powerful than many

adults will ever face. Regardless of the

pain they’ve already endured, being

taken from one family and placed with

another is traumatic—even if it someday

leads to healing, even if it assures

safety, even if their lives improve.

It’s not uncommon to find me sitting

in the middle of a grocery aisle holding

my boy when the experience is just too

much for him. Christmas sometimes

means ignoring the new toys for a

day or so until he is ready to play with

them. At a large dinner with extended

family, it might mean that we excuse

him from the table and let him sit quietly

in the next room. On vacations, it

means keeping his routine as close to

normal as possible. We teach manners

on quiet, normal days and expect less

of him on special occasions.

No matter how much better things

may seem, children still have memories

and questions about their lives

before. Every tradition feels new: the

foods, smells, voices, routines, love.

So as parents, we show them that no

matter how overwhelmed they feel,

they are loved.

—Shandy Hodsdon

Embrace Humility

One of the best things my husband

and I did to prepare for opening our

hearts and our home to foster children

was not being afraid of the messes

of life. We never expect perfection or

instant results. Every day we remind

our kids that they are safe, valued,

loved and a vital part of our family.

This is harder than it sounds

because kids in foster care have had

too many rugs ripped from beneath

them. Every day we reassure our

children that we can do hard things

together, that because of God we

hope big, and we believe the pain

and fear of uncertainty won’t always

plague them.

We also try to model a healthy

marriage and demonstrate humility.

Indeed, we notice less fear among

our children when we show them that

while married life has bumps and

misunderstandings, a husband and

wife can still come together in love

no matter what. My husband and I

humble ourselves in front of the kids,

apologizing to each other and making

up where they can see us. We try

to treat them the same way, asking for

forgiveness when we fail.

Our children need to see disagreements

that don’t end in abuse

or unsafe behavior. Allowing kids

into the process of working through

conflict, hurt feelings and differing

perspectives builds reassurance and

trust. And the best way to demonstrate

that is to never hold back on love.

—Kara N. Young

Honoring Memories

We learned early on in foster parenting

to treat every child who came

into our home, whether for days or

months, the same way we treat all

of our children. For example, if you

never buy used clothes for your children,

don’t do that for foster children.

I also learned to make a memory

life book for every child who lives

with us, documenting the child’s history

and time with our family. So

many children who spend time in foster

care lose track of those years. No

mementos, no photos, no memories.

If we are called to love and care for

these children, that includes helping

them preserve their past.

We adopted our fourth and fifth

foster placements. When they were

with us only a few months, they were

diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome

and some developmental

delays. I was angry. How could anyone

do that to a baby? How unfair!

Sessions with a therapist and lots

of prayer helped me work through

forgiving their mother. Eventually she

and I became friends, and today we

share the children we both love.

I’ve also learned to listen. My children

shut down if I talk too much.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of

extending grace and unconditional

love. It isn’t always easy, but it’s

exactly what God does for us.

—Tricia Couffer >>>

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 41





A gift that gives all year!



Be intentional about creating a welcoming

environment for a new child in your family:



Clubhouse Jr.

Faith-building fun

for boys’ and girls’

formative years

featuring stories,

craft ideas, jokes and

puzzles that teach

God’s truth.




• Establish and maintain routines that

are unique to your family. When a

new child arrives, include him or her

in those routines right away. That will

make him or her feel like an insider

more quickly and will create a sense

of belonging.

• Talk to your children about things

they can do to make your new child

feel welcome, such as sharing toys,

picking out movies and TV shows

to watch together and introducing

him or her to friends. Make sure your

children do not see this as something

imposed on them by Mom and

Dad (which they will possibly grow

to resent), but rather something the

whole family is doing for the benefit

of the new child and in obedience

to God’s call to love our neighbors as


• Talk to your parents, siblings,

extended family and close friends in

advance and ask them to treat this

child the same way they do your

other children.

• If possible, talk to the child’s social


OctOber / NOvember 2021

worker before the placement is finalized.

Find out what your child likes

(food, restaurants, clothes, music,

etc.), and then try to accommodate

as you’re able.

• Give your new child chores, just as

you do with your other children. That

will help him or her take responsibility

for being part of your household.

• As you’re able, build relationships

with your child’s siblings and

extended family, treating them as

part of your extended family. The

child needs you to adopt an “us”

mindset rather than an “us and them”


• Honor your child’s birth parents by

speaking of them in respectful terms.

Exhibit grace and compassion. Do

not vilify them. At the same time,

give the child freedom and a listening

ear to process his or her feelings

honestly and openly, without judgment

from you.

• Introduce your new child by name

to your friends, neighbors, family,

church family and others in your life.

Be careful not to saddle your child

with the foster label.

Children placed in your home for foster

care and adoption have often

experienced considerable trauma

and great loss. Their lives have been

upended, and they often feel unworthy

of love. They may think they are

one wrong move away from another


If they are to heal from their trauma

and loss, they need to feel safe, secure,

accepted, wanted, valued, treasured

and loved. They want to feel just as

we do in our relationship with our

heavenly Father, who adopted and

welcomed us into His family. Your

demonstration of love can point them

to Him. •


*Not her real name

Johnston Moore and his wife, Terri, have

adopted seven children from the Los Angeles

County foster care system. He is a writer and

consultant, as well as a regular speaker at

foster care and adoption events, including

ong>Focusong> on the Family’s Wait No more events.


ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada helps

foster and adoptive families through our

Waiting to Belong program. Learn more

by visiting WaitingToBelong.ca.


An award-winning

magazine for boys and

girls featuring adventure

stories, mysteries, bios

of servant-hearted

kids, crafts and more.




Godly role models,

relationship advice,

B ible readings,

relevant articles,

quizzes and more to

help young women

build their life on faith.

Subscribe to our kids’ magazines at


or call 1.800.661.9800

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 43




If your teen is socially isolated, consider talking to a counselor.

ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada offers a one-time, complimentary

consultation from a Christian perspective. To reach a registered

counselor, call 1-800-661-9800 weekdays between

8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time.

How to respond if your kids are isolating

themselves from social interactions


SIX MONTHS AGO, she was bubbly and

full of life. She spent her free time with friends,

and you almost had to bribe her to spend time

at home. Now she never leaves the house, gives

one-word answers and doesn’t even argue.

His teachers think he’s a disciplined student

because he sits in the back of the classroom

with his head in a book—but he’s not reading.

disconnected teens

He used to hang out with his friends at church;

now he plays video games alone in his room.

As a parent, you’ve noticed the changes in your

teen’s behavior and wonder what’s wrong. You’re

worried—and afraid—of what could happen if

your teen doesn’t snap out of it. But what can

you do to help? Whatever you try just seems to

make things worse.

More than just

needing space

What’s happening with your teen

isn’t just moodiness or needing

time alone to recharge. It’s called

social isolation. You may have heard

a lot about social isolation during

COVID-19 lockdowns. But the problem

is more than kids missing the

chance to hang out with friends.

Traumatic events, such as a breakup,

bullying, an embarrassing failure,

rejection or an inability to fit in with

their peer group, can cause teens to

deliberately disconnect and withdraw

from everyone.

Isolated teens feel alone in their

struggles but many don’t reach out

to anyone for help—not even their

friends. Instead, they think they have

to figure things out on their own.

When we see our teens spiraling

downward, it’s natural to scramble

for solutions. Impulsively, we may try

every fear-based technique we can

think of, such as pleading or forcing

them to reengage, using guilt or logic.

Or we may try to shame them for how

they’re impacting the family. You may

get results with this approach, but it

doesn’t lead to genuine connection.

If a fear-based approach isn’t the

answer, what is?

A path to reconnection

First John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love

casts out fear.” If love is genuine and

unconditional, it positions you as a safe

person in your teen’s life. You become

an ally instead of a repair person.

Love is the foundation of relationships

and connection. A fear-based

approach asks, “How can I fix my

teen?” but a love-based approach asks,

“How can I best love my child?” Here

are some ways for demonstrating a

love-based approach with your teen:

Affirm your unconditional love and

support. Teens need to know how

much you love and value them, and

nothing they do can ever change that.

So be intentional about letting your

teen know that he or she is not alone,

and that you’ll work through issues

together. My wife and I often told our

teens, “We’re not going anywhere,

and you can’t make us not love you.”

ong>Focusong> on active listening. When a

teen is isolating, the most important

thing you can do is listen. To get your

teen talking, show genuine curiosity

and ask open-ended questions. When

a conversation opens up, avoid shifting

the focus to your own experiences

or solutions.

Instead, seek to understand what

your teen is thinking and feeling.

Teens often feel ashamed or guilty for

having negative thoughts or emotions,

so let your teen know it’s normal.

Don’t panic if your teen says things

like “I hate my life.” Just keep listening

and express your love and support.

Make connection, not correction,

the goal. When our son would isolate,

he became defensive and even

more withdrawn if we tried correcting

him or using logic to snap him out

of it. Simply being present in his pain

opened a door for solutions.

By focusing on a love-based connection,

you can build trust and

create a safe space for your teen to

talk about issues. Isolated teens often

feel trapped and powerless, but we

can restore hope by helping them

identify one issue that’s important to

them and exploring tiny steps toward

a solution. Letting teens come up

with their own solutions gives them a

sense of ownership.

As you love your teen toward connection,

invite God into the healing

process by praying for your child daily.

He loves our teens more than we do,

and He knows how to reach them! •

Mike Bechtle, Ph.D., is a writer, public speaker

and senior consultant for Franklincovey. He

has authored five books including Dealing

With the Elephant in the Room.



OctOber / NOvember 2021

OctOber / NOvember 2021 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 45


pumpkin patch

Rileigh, 3

Sitting among the pumpkins, our little girl

gets kisses from her new puppy, Copper.

—Tiffany from California

Matteo, 9

Our son enjoys the pumpkins as we

hike through an apple orchard.

—Felix and Joy from Ontario

The Hope Restored

marriage intensive program

A proven, biblically based program to restore

and rebuild your marriage.

Zion, 3, Eden, 7, and Olive, 10 months

We love to visit the pumpkin patch every

year. God’s creation is so awesome!

—Jennifer from Vancouver

“Game changer!! We have become more in love since

Hope Restored. It’s a wonderful feeling when you have tools to help

navigate through difficult conversations and feel safe enough to fall in love

with your best friend all over again! We so appreciate all we learned and all

of what ong>Focusong> on the Family did for our relationship and marriage!”

— hope restored attendee

Leanna, 7

Having a ton of fun with a half-ton

pumpkin that her papa grew.

—Emily from Wisconsin

Your kids could be in ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine!

email photos* of your child in his or her favorite costume or helping

to cook. (Put “costumes” or “cooking” in the subject line.)

Send to: info@fotf.ca

* Largest photo possible—professional photos not accepted

if you or someone you know is facing significant

marital distress, call us. we want to help.

46 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY OctOber / NOvember 2021



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