Q: Can you recommend some fun family outings? Spring is a long way off, and in the middle of winter it's hard to find things to do as a family to stay connected.
Jim: For the Daly family, it's all about finding the balance between staying indoors - which can quickly result in "cabin fever," especially with two energetic boys - and venturing out into the Colorado cold. We try to find room for both in our winter routine.
There's certainly nothing wrong with finding activities at home, especially when the temperatures get really frigid. Try playing some board games or card games, or even creating a "family Olympics" competition on the Wii or another electronic console. You might also enjoy cooking a meal together as a family. Let your kids plan the menu, or try out some new recipes. My wife has been known to bake a batch of fresh bread or some other goodies for the neighbors, and then send the boys and me out to deliver them door-to-door.
Of course, kids are kinetic by nature, and at some point they're going to get tired of being cooped up inside the house. That's when it might be time to grit your teeth, put on your long underwear and brave a trip to the zoo. Or perhaps you can just have a snowball fight in the back yard. Look for hiking trails and other natural environments near you. Even if you often visit these places in the summer, you'll be amazed at how different they can look when the leaves are gone and there's snow on the ground.
And if you're really feeling adventurous, try some typically warm weather activities - biking, throwing the Frisbee, even swimming! The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Attempting some "out of the ordinary" winter activities is a great way for your family to build memories.
Q: Our teenage son is addicted to a specific electronic game. We're at a loss on how to help him. Do you have any advice or recommendations for us?
Leon Wirth, executive director of Parenting and Youth: Many people consider addiction to be related exclusively to substances like drugs or alcohol, but in reality it can involve anything that is mind- or mood-altering to the point that a person is willing to neglect friends, family and even physical health in order to pursue it. There is now abundant evidence that electronic games have the potential to elicit this kind of addictive behavior.
Here at Focus on the Family, we've been receiving an increasing number of calls about computer and video game addiction over the past several years. This has become a serious problem.
Since it can be difficult to address the complex issue of addiction on your own, we'd strongly recommend that you enlist the help of a licensed counselor. Contact Focus on the Family for a free consultation, as well as referrals to qualified professionals in your area.
As your son works with a counselor on issues related to his addiction, there are also some general steps you can take to prevent further harm in the long-term. These include: 1) setting time limits; 2) making sure your son completes all chores and homework before game play; 3) being aware of the content of the games your son is playing; 4) modeling good viewing/gaming habits yourself; 5) suspending play if your son is having difficulty with self-control; 6) monitoring your son's attitudes and behavior outside of gaming time; and 7) helping him develop interests and hobbies outside of video games.
May God bless you as you walk with your son and help him break the cycle of addiction.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.