Mental Health Support for Women Veterans

Make the Connection

Mental Health Support for Women Veterans

Mental Health Support for Women Veterans

Whether they’re supporting a familyfinding a new career, or adjusting to life away from their unit, women Veterans can face a range of challenges.

For You,” a new public service announcement from Make the Connection, highlights these challenges and the support to help women Veterans cope.

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Remember this site has resources for all active military, veterans and their families. The obvious goal is to eliminate military and veteran suicides 
Stop Soldier Suicide | Campaigns - Giveffect, Inc.

but they offer so much more!


To Have & To Hold

The Master's Seminary Blog

Tim Counts | 

It happened again. My wife and I heard of yet another Christian couple—whom we knew and loved—ending their marriage. I felt sick. I couldn’t rid my mind of the years, likely decades, of unrest that would trickle from this.

It seems as if Christians are beginning to be okay with their marriages mimicking the world’s broken marriages. We are growing accustomed to leaving the gospel on the sideline when it comes to our wedding vows. Divorce has become something of a car crash: unpleasant, destructive, but sometimes simply inevitable. A wreck, however, pales in comparison to the ripple-effects of divorce. A fractured marriage not only affects the family, it devastates our witness as ministers of grace to a broken world.

But just consider the impact of a couple who says and actually means their wedding vows—”for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Several years ago, I officiated a memorial service for a woman who had had a long fight with Alzheimer’s. She rarely recognized her husband the last years of her life. Yet week after week he drove four hours to be with his bride. On his last visit, something changed. She held his face in her hands and whispered, “I love you.” What a beautiful picture of the stubborn, never-wearying love of the gospel—a love that gives and forbears, even in days and years of forgetfulness.

The following are two biblical truths that help us to understand why God calls us to reflect the gospel by keeping our marriage covenant.

Satan Hates Your Marriage

In marriage, we do have an enemy, but that enemy is not our spouse. Understanding that will make all the difference. That enemy is the one who delights in deceiving, distorting, and dividing. Satan has hated marriage from the beginning, just as he hates all of God’s good creation.

When God created Eve and then led her to Adam as his bride, the Scriptures says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Immediately following God’s institution of marriage, the enemy of marriage enters: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made” (Gen. 3:1). In the following verses, we see the immediate results of Satan’s temptation. Eve tempts her husband to sin. And Adam resentfully points the finger, blaming his wife and God for his sin. Satan wasted no time, creating a chasm of resentment and struggle between man and his wife.

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Satan continues to hate marriage to this day. Why? Because God formed this institution to reflect the relentlessly-loving relationship between Christ and His bride—the church (Eph. 5:31–32). When we throw in the towel on our marriages, when we are unfaithful through infidelity or pornography, when we stop fighting for our marriages with a holy stubbornness, we fail to reflect the One who never stops assuring His bride, “No matter what, I will not let you go.” We too quickly let Satan win.

Jesus Will Never Leave His Bride

Jesus will never leave nor forsake His bride. Sally Lloyd-Jones described God’s covenant love as His “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” Oh, that our marriages could be described like that. When Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, He put skin on unconditional love. He showed what love looks like towards the unlovely—the prostitutes, the tax collectors, to those who had nothing to offer in return. When we display Jesus’ love by maintaining our marriage covenant, we become a practical demonstration of the love of Christ to a broken world.

Jesus will never leave His bride. Followers of Jesus shouldn’t either.

Yet Jesus does more than provide an example of stubborn love. The good news of the gospel is that believers are given the strength to live and love righteously. Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we can lean into the embrace of Jesus to find the strength to love our spouse.

I remember hearing the testimony of a young couple who had been on the brink of divorce. The husband had battled anger for years. The wife had committed adultery. After he and his wife had separated, the husband repented and turned to the Lord. In an attempt to reconcile, the husband looked at her and said, “Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead?”

Yes, was her replay.

He continued: “And do you really believe that God could raise a dead man back to life and not breathe new life back into our marriage?” Restoration soon flooded this relationship—God breathed life into brokenness.

If Satan seems to have the upper hand in your marriage, if you are weary of trying to love your spouse with whatever endurance you can muster, the gospel has a better word for you.

Cling to Christ as you seek to reflect His faithful love to your spouse:

O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer, fuller be.

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been updated.]

Your Kids Need You to Talk to Them

I have not read the book that is referenced here, but as a parent and grandfather I can tell you that in this age of social media, peer pressure and poorly balanced education in public schools; talking with, not to, our children daily, is more important than ever. – Mike

Your Kids Need You to Talk to Them

January 21, 2020
Your Kids Mature through Conversations

In a perfect universe, God’s conversations with Adam and Eve were necessary so that humanity could find their place in his world. After sin ruined everything, such conversations remain foundational. Sin, however, complicates matters. We don’t always communicate well with our children, and our children are not always prepared to embrace the process that God designed to serve them best.

One afternoon my elementary-aged son, without a moment’s hesitation, shot back at me, “I’m already doing that.” I had just tried to offer him a better way to respond to his brother, but he wasn’t having it. His response to me came after a weekend of verbal tennis: every time I tried to tell him something about life, he immediately volleyed the ball back with a reason for why he didn’t need to hear what I was saying.

Parenting with Words of Grace

Parenting with Words of Grace

How you speak to your kids today will impact your relationship with them tomorrow. As a parent, your words are powerful. What you say and how you say it has the potential to either invite your children into deeper relationship with you or push them away. What’s more, in a very real sense, your words represent—or misrepresent—God’s words to his children— meaning they have the power to shape how your children view their heavenly Father. Offering practical guidance for grace-filled communication in the midst of the craziness of everyday life, this accessible guide will help you speak in ways that reflect the grace God has shown to you in the gospel.

So I said, “Wait a minute. Just now there was a conversation that took place inside your head that went something like this: ‘Wow! My dad just interrupted what he was doing to speak into my life because he thought there was something I needed to hear, and I am so excited to hear it that I’m going to put all other thoughts out of my head so that I can concentrate on his words. Even if there’s only 5 percent of what he says that I don’t know, I want to drink it in.’ That’s what you were thinking just now, right?” “No,” he frowned as he sensed where this was going.

Switching subjects abruptly I asked him, “How long do kittens stay with their moms?”

He shrugged and said, “I don’t know, two to three months?”

“Close enough,” I thought, so I said, “Okay, but you’re here with me and Mom a whole lot longer. Why is that?”

He looked down at the floor and said softly, “Because God thinks I have things to learn.”

I nodded my agreement and added, “But you don’t want to be here. You’re interacting with us assuming you have nothing to learn from us. Each time you do that, you’re telling me, ‘Dad, I really shouldn’t be here right now. I should be out on my own.’ You’ve forgotten why you’re here.”

They Need Your Help to Grow

Even when he forgets, I have to remember. By God’s intent, we enter life knowing nothing, then are slowly brought to understand our world and our place within it through the very ordinary medium of people talking to us. With their help, over time, we mature into contributing, responsible members of society who in turn can support and nurture others. Oddly enough God entrusts our development to people who once were more ignorant than they are now, which in my son’s case means me for the foreseeable future.

That process is so commonplace that it is often used to drive the narrative arc of popular literature. A novice—the children of Narnia, the Hobbits of Middle Earth, Harry Potter, Bella the vampire—is plunged into a world that is so unfamiliar that she finds herself floundering in it, not knowing how to respond. Dangers lurk, and her future happiness hangs in the balance with each decision. Then slowly she learns how to navigate and master her new experience because other people talk to her.

They tell her stories that give the world depth and feeling. They instruct her. They correct her. They give her new lenses through which she can see the world and herself more clearly while catching a glimpse of what she and the future might be. She grows impassioned and tries living out what she’s been taught. She grows up into more than she ever hoped she could be, all through the ordinariness of talk.

Such coming-of-age stories touch us in part by drawing on the way God has structured his world. We see ourselves in them. We develop our understandings of the world and our place in it by learning from those who already know its ins and outs. At birth we are all novices encountering an alien world that we learn piecemeal, one conversation at a time.

We Never Outgrow Our Need for Transformational Conversations

The book of Proverbs is dedicated to this notion that living well within God’s world requires conversation. It takes the form of a father personally addressing his son, passionately pleading with him to gain wisdom and understanding (Prov. 1:8–9). If the son listens, then the father promises that he will escape being a fool and won’t ruin his life (Prov. 1:32–33). That transformation from fool to wise man takes place as one person talks to another about who God is and how he affects all of life.

As you read, however, you realize this isn’t simply a book for children, despite addressing “my son” multiple times, because a wise person develops a taste for transforming conversations that continue his entire lifetime. He surrounds himself with a steady rhythmic beat of God-oriented conversations. He welcomes people who will talk to him about himself and about his life and how every part of life relates to God (e.g., Prov. 1:5; 12:5; 15:22).

More than that, he commits himself not simply to hearing from others, but to joining the discussion, speaking to others who want to hear so that their lives will be enriched (e.g., Prov. 12:18; 15:7; 16:23). The book of Proverbs pictures the person who grows wise as someone who swims in a sea of words without drowning.

It’s worth noting that even after Jesus pours out his Holy Spirit on his people, he remains committed to maturing his people, in part, through their conversations with each other (e.g., Rom. 15:14Eph. 5:18–20Col. 3:161 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:2, 24–26; 4:2; Titus 1:9Heb. 3:13). He expects you to participate in an ongoing, never-ending conversation with his people that links Christ and faith in him to life, because every one of God’s people shares in his ministry of words (1 Pet. 4:10–11).

Even after Jesus pours out his Holy Spirit on his people, he remains committed to maturing his people, in part, through their conversations with each other

If you reflect just a little on Jesus’s life, you realize it’s hardly surprising that the church is to have continuous conversations. After all, he talked constantly. He did many good works, but much of his life was devoted to speaking—formal teaching, small group discussions, one-on-one conversations, or just talking with his friends. He was not a man of few words.

And since he unites you to himself and pours his Spirit into you, it only makes sense that you will learn to speak like he does. He makes godly conversations possible, and he expects you to give yourself to them because the people around you—your children—need them.

In other words, the dynamic set in motion by hearing and then responding to the message of the cross preached is still in motion. We enter into God’s family through words, and we grow up in his family through words. We come to understand him, ourselves, others, and our world—and how we fit with him and with others in his world—all through tirelessly conversing with each other.

This article is adapted from Parenting with Words of Grace: Building Relationships with Your Children One Conversation at a Time by William P. Smith.

We Were Made for Intimacy

Created to Be Close

We were made for closeness to others and to God through Christ, and yet it doesn’t always feel as though we can grasp God’s nearness to us. Though God desires intimacy and fellowship with us, it’s not uncommon for us to feel as though he is distant. In his book, Created to Draw Near: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests Edward T. Welch says:

To be close to God is certainly a human desire, but intimacy with someone you can’t see has its challenges, and intimacy when you feel a bit guilty is even more challenging. This intimacy, however, is the Christian hope, and we will not give up on it.

Created to Draw Near

Created to Draw Near Edward T. Welch

This meditative and devotional book traces iterations of the priestly job description throughout the Bible, helping believers discover their identity as royal priests who were created to draw near to God.

Scripture says that the Spirit of God helps us to know and feel the presence of God when we believe him when he says he is near. In Christ, we are deemed royal priests and are given direct access to our Father.

In the video above, Welch explains how our innate human desires for closeness mirror God’s own—and he delights to be near to us.

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How to Pray during Marital Conflict

So you thought marriage was going to be the proverbial “rose garden”; not so much even for “Christians” there will be tough times and sometimes conflicts. Its how we deal with them that sets us apart. – Mike 

How to Pray during Marital Conflict

December 07, 2019
Excerpt of This article is part of the How to Pray series.
Be Armed and Ready

Young couples are often inadequately prepared for the conflicts that they are sure to encounter in their marriages. Learning how to resolve conflict is one of the most vital skills to develop in marriage. The potential causes for conflict are virtually limitless; among the most common are issues related to sex, finances, and in-laws, not to mention parenting (for couples with children). Paul’s words to believers, in general, are applicable to both spouses as well:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11–13)

Husband or wife, any struggle in marriage is ultimately not against your spouse! You’re engaged in a joint spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of evil—the devil and his demons—who are bent on destroying your marriage and poised to exploit any weakness or chink in your marital armor. Therefore, it’s vital that you put on the whole armor of God, both individually and jointly, and that you regularly pray with and for each other.

Here are some things you can pray:

Pray for Protection

Pray that God would build a spiritual wall of protection around your marriage and family that Satan won’t be able to penetrate or destroy.

Made up of fallen creatures redeemed by Christ, married couples are in desperate and continual need of spiritual protection. Pray, therefore, that God would build, not merely low hedges, but towering walls of protection around your marriage and family. Pray that he would build an impenetrable spiritual wall as you put on the whole spiritual armor of God. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught” (Col. 2:6–7). Wives, pray for your husbands, that they will take his responsibility as spiritual leader in your relationship seriously. Husbands, pray for your wives in areas where they may be vulnerable or need encouragement and support as “the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), and nurture and protect them. Also, pray for marital unity, as unity provides protection. As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).

Pray for Unity

Pray that God would grant you spiritual unity in your marriage and (if you have children) your parenting.

Conflict is a recurrent reality in this redeemed yet fallen state, even among Christian couples. Therefore, pray that there would be genuine contrition, repentance, and humility where your spouse has sinned against you or you against your spouse. Pray that God would graciously enable you to forgive each other and for genuine and thorough reconciliation to take place. In this way, you’ll grow even closer and your marriage will become more intimate and tender as you’ll realize that we all fail at times and need each other’s forgiveness. Pray for unity of purpose in your marriage: that you pull in the same direction and have the same desires—to please, revere, and honor God with your lives and the decisions you make. Ask God to enable you to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), looking to the Spirit to unify you and to transcend differences in background, gender, temperament, and other areas. As the psalmist exclaimed, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters!) dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

Pray for Purity and Kindness

Pray that God will strengthen your spouse when he or she faces temptation and that he will enable him or her to be considerate toward the other.

It’s vital that you put on the whole armor of God, both individually and jointly, and that you regularly pray with and for each other.

Jesus warned his followers not to yield to lust which, he said, was tantamount to adultery (Matt. 5:28). He also taught them to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one)” (Matt. 6:13). Wives, therefore, pray for your husband that God would strengthen him by his grace when he encounters sexual temptation. Pray that he would be like Joseph who remained strong in the face of persistent temptation and even ran from it when needed (Gen. 39; see especially Gen. 39:12). Husbands, pray that your wives would be pure, holy, and godly (1 Tim. 2:9–10Titus 2:51 Pet. 3:2, 5), staying away from gossip, slander, and any other sin or spiritual defilement. Pray for each other—for wisdom, for relief from stress, for kindness, just as Peter wrote that husbands should be considerate toward their wives (literally, treat them “according to knowledge”) so that their “prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Wives, pray that by God’s grace your husband will treat his sisters in Christ “in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2).

Pray for Wisdom and Direction

Pray for wisdom, guidance, and direction individually and jointly.

“If anyone lacks wisdom,” James urged, “let him ask God who gives generously” (James 1:5). Later, he wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask,” and added, “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4:2–3). Your marriage is meant to be a steady ship, secure amid the high waves and torrents of the culture and the spiritual enemy threatening to engulf and entangle you. Pray, therefore, for wisdom, guidance, and direction, both individually and jointly. Remember, you’re no longer two but one (Gen. 2:24; cf. Eph. 5:31)! While spouses don’t lose their individuality—in fact, a healthy marriage encourages each spouse to develop his or her unique identity to the fullest—they are to be one and unified in jointly moving in the same direction. This calls for wisdom and a sense of God’s calling. Again, pray that God would show you how to partner in your joint mission for him. Pray for unanimity. Pray for your husband to lead well or for your wife to be able to respect you. Pray that God would enable you to honor each other by living out your God-given roles toward each other.

Pray for Fruit

Pray for lasting fruit to result from your marriage.

At creation, God charged the first humans, male and female, to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). In fact, being fruitful and exercising joint dominion as God’s representatives is a big part of what it means for humanity to be created in God’s image and likeness. Normally, such fruitfulness and multiplication will mean having children and raising them to love and serve God (Eph. 6:4). If you don’t have any children yet, pray that God would allow you to have children. If you do, pray that God would allow you to be devoted parents and to lead your children to trust Christ and follow him in committed discipleship. In addition, pray for spiritual fruit to be borne through you and your spouse individually and jointly. This includes growth in godly character and the pursuit of Christian virtues, which Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23). Pray that your home, marriage, and family be increasingly characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret E. Köstenberger are the authors of God’s Design for Man and Woman.

Single-Parent Households

This information should be appalling to all Americans but was largely ignored by the media. Thanks to my friend LP for sending out this info that I was able to reblog here. – Mike

U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households


For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage. A new Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.

Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%). The study, which analyzed how people’s living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement.

In comparison, 3% of children in China, 4% of children in Nigeria and 5% of children in India live in single-parent households. In neighboring Canada, the share is 15%

About a quarter of U.S. children live in single-parent homes, more than in any other country

While U.S. children are more likely than children elsewhere to live in single-parent households, they’re much less likely to live in extended families. In the U.S., 8% of children live with relatives such as aunts and grandparents, compared with 38% of children globally.

Researchers have different ways of categorizing single-parent households. In this report, single-parent households have a sole adult living with at least one biological, step or foster child under age 18. Some other organizations, including the U.S Census Bureau, also include households that have grandparents, other relatives or cohabiting partners present.

Economic well-being a factor in household size

Around the world, living in extended families is linked with lower levels of economic development: Financial resources stretch further and domestic chores such as childcare are more easily accomplished when shared among several adults living together.

The U.S., like other economically advanced countries, particularly in Europe and northern Asia, has relatively small households overall. The average person in the U.S. lives in a home of 3.4 people – which is less than the global average of 4.9, but slightly higher than the European average of 3.1. In the U.S., Christians (3.4), the unaffiliated (3.2) and Jews (3.0) live with roughly the same number of household members.

However, household sizes vary by age – the average U.S. child under 18 lives in a household of 4.6 members, while the average adult age 60 or older only lives with one other person.

In early adulthood, Americans continue to live with their parents at relatively high rates. Adult child households account for 20% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34. (Adult child households are defined as at least one parent living with one son or daughter 18 or older and no minor children or other family members.) Young adults in the U.S. are similar to their Canadian counterparts in this regard, and North America has a higher share of young adults who live in this arrangement than any other region.

U.S. differs in living arrangements for older adults

Americans also differ from others around in the world in their living arrangements after age 60. Older adults in the U.S. are more likely than those around the world to age alone: More than a quarter of Americans ages 60 and older live alone (27%), compared with a global average of 16%. There are only 14 countries with higher shares of older adults living alone, and all are in Europe. They include Lithuania (41%), Denmark (39%) and Hungary (37%).

The most common arrangement for older U.S. adults, however, is to live as a couple without any other children or relatives. Almost half of U.S. adults ages 60 and older live in such households (46%), compared with a global average of 31%. Conversely, older Americans are much less likely to live with a wider circle of relatives. Just 6% of older U.S. adults live in extended-family households, compared with 38% of adults ages 60 and older globally.

Globally, 38% live in extended-family homes, but in the U.S. only 11% do

Living in smaller households after age 60 is often tied to national rates of economic prosperity and life expectancy. Older adults are more likely to live alone or as couples in countries where an average person can expect to live more than 70 years. In countries where lives are shorter, adults 60 and older tend to live with other family members instead. Life expectancy is often linked to other markers of prosperity within a country, so older adults who can expect to live into their 80s also tend to live in countries where living alone is more affordable.

And in countries where governments provide fewer retirement benefits or other safety nets, families often face greater responsibility to support aging relatives. Cultural norms also play a role, and, in many parts of the world, it is expected that adult children will care for their aging parents.

Despite these many differences, U.S. household patterns are also similar to those in other countries in some ways, and a few of these commonalities are tied to gender.

Women ages 35 to 59 in the U.S., for example, are more likely than men in the same age group to live as single parents (9% vs. 2%), a pattern mirrored in every region and religious group around the world.

And women, on average, are younger than their husbands or male cohabiting partners in every country analyzed. That age gap is 2.2 years in the U.S. and in the rest of the world ranges from 2 years in the Czech Republic to 14.5 years in Gambia. Within the U.S., Jewish partners are closest in age, with only one year between them, while Christians and the unaffiliated have an equal gap (2.2 years).

Coupled with women’s longer life expectancy, this tendency helps explain some of the differences in how older men and women in the U.S. live.

More than half of U.S. men ages 60 and older (55%) live with a partner and no one else, while roughly four-in-ten women (39%) do. And almost a third of women ages 60 and older live alone (32%), while this is true of one-in-five men in the same age group (20%).

Note: See full methodology.



The Pursuit of Family

BreakPoint Daily

The Pursuit of Family


Just Wanting It Makes You Happier

by:  &  G. Shane Morris

We’ve reached a barking point in American history. (Yeah, I’m sorry for that one.) A few years ago, for the first time ever, the number of dogs in this country surpassed the number of children under eighteen. According to Statista, there are 90 million dogs in America today, up from just 68 million in 2000. And a higher percentage of American households own dogs than ever before.

By contrast, there are just over 73 million children. That still sounds like a lot, but as a percentage of the population, children have never been rarer. In 1960, for instance, over one-in-three Americans were under the age of eighteen. According to government projections, by 2050, children will make up less than a quarter of the population.

As you’d expect, this drop in birth rates corresponds to a drop in marriages. What you might not expect is that it also corresponds to a drop in happiness. The General Social Survey in 2018 found that Americans today are more miserable than they’ve been in decades. And replacing family with dogs isn’t reversing the trend.

Of course, what we increasingly hear today, in print and on television and movies, is that what will make us happy is the freedom that can come only from singleness and childlessness. Writing in The Atlantic recently, Mandy Len Catron bemoaned “What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse.” According to her, family life is isolating and unfair to outsiders, because spouses give most of their attention to each other and to their kids. When people get married, she writes, they retreat into “socially neglectful cocoons.”

London School of Economics professor Paul Dolan goes even further in his book, “Happily Ever After.” He says the only reason married people report being happier on average than singles is that they’re lying to save face. The book was corrected, by the way, when this claim turned out to be unsupportable.

In reality, the statistics are clear: Married people really are happier than those who are unmarried—by an average of ten percentage points. But is that because marriage makes people happy, or because happy people are more likely to get married?

A new paper by the Institute for Family Studies offers a surprising answer. Instead of looking at the effect of family itself, author James McQuivey decided to look at the effect of the desire for family. He asked over a thousand men and women how much they value having an emotionally intimate relationship, sexual faithfulness, and children. He then combined these answers into a single measure, which we might call a desire for a traditional, nuclear family.

He discovered that scoring higher on this measure predicted greater happiness and overall life satisfaction—regardless of whether or not the respondent was actually married or had kids!

It’s one of those results that makes you do a double take. After all, you’d expect people who want a family life and haven’t found it to be dissatisfied. But on average, they’re not. As McQuivey says, “[i]f you merely have the desire to pair bond and procreate, you are already happier than average…”

Act on that desire, he adds, and your happiness jumps, while your life satisfaction (a separate metric) “practically leaps off the chart.”

In other words, contrary to the thesis that getting married and having kids dooms you to misery, committing to a family is one of the most effective means ever created to train people to care for others. And a cornerstone of psychology is that other-centeredness brings human beings happiness.

Look, dogs are great and all, but we were made for communion with other people. The family bond is so central to our design that merely pursuing it leads to greater happiness.

For a society like ours, one in the midst of family and happiness shortages, the solution is obvious, but it won’t be found at the dog park.

Download MP3 Audio Here

Counseling Parents about Smart Rules for Smartphones (And All Social Media)

If you are from my generation or older you may like me have a love hate relationship with your smartphone.  I find them helpful at times and very annoying at others. Garrett Higbee, the author, does a good job in this article of letting parents know the ground rules ALL PARENTS need to know when its time for their children to have a smart phone. Pay attention many of these same rules apply to us as adults.**

Smartphones are everywhere and it is common to see very young kids playing on a tablet or to see older kids texting at every intersection. As counselors or parents, how do we navigate the inevitable conversations, develop reasonable rules, and lay down age-appropriate guidelines regarding smartphones? I hope to lay out some ways you can help those you counsel be smart about smartphones and other social media.

The use of tablets, the internet, and social media in general is an important topic for any parent. My wife Tammy and I have three kids: 17, 15, and 9 years old. We have been thinking through this for several years. We have made mistakes and found greater success as we adjusted our approach based on biblical principles through trial and error.

We have to help parents think about how well they model responding to prompts from their phones as well as how and when they spend time in front of a screen. We can’t ask our kids to be self-disciplined about their screen time if we are not. To be honest, at one extreme we have been lazy at times, allowing our kids to binge on games or text during homework time. On the other extreme, we have taken month-long fasts from electronics as a family to spend more time reading, playing games, and enjoying family time. Neither extreme is realistic or healthy long-term. That is why we have been working on guidelines that are reasonable and sustainable, helping our kids use their devices wisely. Whatever you decide, it is best to agree as a couple or be consistent as a single parent in order that what you say should happen actually does happen.

So, when do you let your child use the family cell phone? Looking at your phone under your supervision could start quite early, but what they watch and how long they have the phone is important. We typically let our 9-year-old have the phone (or iPad) for 30 minutes on weekdays and for an hour on weekends. Both our teens were assigned a family phone they call their own at age 15. That means it is our phone, not theirs, but they can carry it, use it to contact or text us throughout the day, or do homework, play a game, or text friends during certain hours of the day.

While there are filters for the web and restriction on apps, my kids’ showing responsibility in handling these things well was very important in our decision as parents to give them access. I would have waited even longer if I had not seen that pattern of responsibility in school, at home, with friends, and with social media on the computer. Boundaries can always be broken and your kids showing responsibility is the litmus test for access and continued use. We would suggest that you research safeguards that limit access to certain sites, games, and what is age appropriate for your child before you grant any access.

What I’m proposing to you here is not the hard and fast rule of exactly what is best for your child and situation. Whether your child should have access to a phone or other electronic device is an important decision that should not be made without prayer, counsel, and conversation with your child.

I believe waiting until your child is 7-years-old or above to even begin to interact with electronic games or age appropriate entertainment is a good start. By seven, most kids have developed both cognitive and moral reasoning well enough to understand right and wrong. Most will also have enough self-control to understand how to view their use as a privilege.

Nothing substitutes for knowing your child and adjusting rules to their maturity level. Our kids need to know we want them to succeed and our protection is in their best interest. It is rare for any child to wisely exert their intellect, moral reasoning, and/or self-control without close parental supervision and wise guidelines. As I share what we have tried, let me make a distinction between hard and fast rules and wisdom guidelines. Think of rules as tall fences (“Don’t text and drive!”), and guidelines as speed bumps (“No phones at the dinner table.”).

Here are 10 rules and 10 helpful guidelines I would suggest, with the caveat that some may be different in your home.

10 Rules for Smartphones and Social Media (Violation Means Restricted Use for Days or Weeks)

  1. Never text while driving a car.**
  2. Never write a text or send a photo that you wouldn’t want your mom or dad to see.**
  3. Always ask before you forward a text or photo.
  4. Never post your cell phone number anywhere.
  5. Turn off location services and never broadcast your location.
  6. Never respond to numbers you don’t recognize.**
  7. If someone asks you to send an inappropriate photo, say “No!” and talk to your parents about it.**
  8. If you receive an inappropriate photo, delete it immediately and tell your parents; block the sender.**
  9. Don’t download apps without your parents’ permission.
  10. Don’t use social media or electronic devices to bully or gossip.**

10 Smart Guidelines for Smartphones and Social Media (Violation Means Restricted Use for Hours or Days)

  1. Demonstrate you have a life beyond your smartphone (you are not addicted to it).**
  2. Turn in phones at a certain time each night (different times based on age).
  3. Kids must leave phones at a charging station in a public room in the house at night.
  4. No cell phones at the dining room table.**
  5. No cell phones out of your backpack while you are in class.
  6. Don’t text someone in the same room. Talk face to face.**
  7. Don’t wear your cell phone on your body (jury is still out but those waves can’t be good for you).
  8. No Snapchat-type apps that allow you to erase history.
  9. Parents can look at phone or take phone at any time.
  10. If you break, it you buy it.

I hope these rules and guidelines are helpful to you as you discuss them with your spouse, children, and others concerned with your children’s welfare. I would suggest a contract be developed, especially with teens. Have them read it, ask questions, and sign it. From Parenting 101, remember this: don’t make a rule you don’t plan to enforce, and don’t implement a guideline that you can’t keep yourself. Ask God for courage and consistency as you implement your agreement or contract. If your kids are like mine, they will say no other parent is as strict as you, but your kids will be better off (and might even admit it once in a while) and you will sleep much better at night too.  Be wiser than your tech-savvy kids and smarter than their smartphone by proactively getting on this today.