Try to soothe family tensions before Christmas

Q: With Christmas drawing near, I’m really NOT looking forward to getting together with family, because there’s a lot of unresolved conflict just beneath the surface. Do you have any advice for handling an awkward situation?

Jim: The beautiful thing about family is the deep connection that binds members together through thick and thin. From the joys of childbirth to grief at funerals, the bonds of family will connect your worlds again and again throughout life.

But those ties can also have a dark side when conflict is involved. Family members can stew over even petty arguments for years. And it can be especially difficult to bring resolution to disagreements if neither party is willing to take a step toward peace.

Our staff counselors say the most challenging step is also the most pivotal: That’s for you to take the initiative to try to rebuild a bridge — before everyone is together. Even if you feel another family member is at fault, make the first move and show some love and grace. Try sending a card or email with something simple like, “I miss our friendship — let’s start over,” or, “I’m sorry we’ve had tension in our relationship. What can I do to help resolve it?”

Even if they don’t respond, you’ll know you did your part to establish peace and goodwill this holiday season. If you’d like to talk to one of our counselors about your situation, call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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Q: My middle school-age son has been begging for a gaming console, and I think Grandma is going to buy him one for Christmas. Most of the ads I see for video games seem violent and/or “rated M for Mature.” Are there any good games out there that are suitable for a 12-year-old?

Bob Waliszewski (Director) and Bob Hoose (Senior Editor), Plugged In: It’s easy to understand why you’d ask this question. News sources and ads often underscore the darker, M-rated side of video gaming: the “Grand Theft Auto”-esque games packing hyper-violence, hyper-sexuality and a plethora of profanities. But families don’t need to throw the digital baby out with the bathwater. There are hundreds of fun-to-play video games that don’t contain objectionable elements.

Every video game platform has games that are suitable for the entire family. All three of the major console manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft) are gearing up to release brand-new console units in the coming year. At Plugged In, we’ve said a lot of positive things about the Nintendo Wii and its ability to get couch potatoes up and jumping around in active gaming. It’s not the most powerful or flashy console, but it’s still a very solid option with a pretty big list of kid-friendly titles to grab.

Whichever console you (or Grandma) choose, you can find lots of really fun titles in the strategy, role-playing, simulation and puzzle-solving categories being released all the time. Many of the titles that grabbed gamers back in the day are still available. Want to zap asteroids? Chase down escaping ghosts? You still can. “Pac-Man.” “Donkey Kong.” “Tetris.” Yep, and lots more. And let’s not forget the sports games. Car racing, football, soccer — there’s a lot of fun to be had if you just take the time to hunt around a bit.

Hopefully, you’ll not think it self-serving when we recommend our own website for helping you pick out games. We review ’em all: the good, the bad and the ugly. But when they’re good (and many are), we’re more than happy to say so at PluggedIn.com. (Just click on the Games icon from the navigation bar.)

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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.