Tag archives: Family

Families and Charitable Organizations: The Foundation of American Society

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

June 17, 2020

This piece was originally published at NRB.org.

Churches and other charitable organizations have been on the front lines of the coronavirus response. A few examples are Samaritan’s Purse building a field hospital in New York City’s Central Park and churches hosting food drives and conducting coronavirus testing. One Alabama church tested 1,000 people in two days! Despite the active role these nonprofits have taken in meeting the health and economic needs of our country, they still rely on donations—at a time when many Americans face financial hardship due to job loss, limited working hours, or increased medical costs. Such hardships may lead to a decline in charitable donations. Thankfully, some leaders on Capitol Hill are championing the important role churches and charitable organizations play in helping local communities.

One way the tax code helps charitable organizations is through the charitable deduction. However when the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified and raised the standard deduction to $12,000, it caused many tax filers to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing their charitable contributions. Realizing this problem in the tax code, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which allows charitable contributions up to $300 to be deducted above and beyond the standard deduction on annual tax returns. This new policy is a great first step in promoting charitable giving during the pandemic. But congressional leaders believe there is much more to be done.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been the most vocal voice advocating for direct changes to the tax law to support both families and nonprofits. He summed this need up perfectly in a Joint Economic Committee hearing on charitable giving. “We have three safety nets in America. The family is the first safety net. Nonprofits are our second safety net and government is our third…The first two are essential and if the family collapses, nonprofits struggle to keep up and governments struggle to keep up.”

In May, Senator Lankford and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) co-authored a letter to Senate leaders, advocating for nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in any future coronavirus relief bills. One of the specific proposals Lankford and King offered is raising the $300 charitable deduction limit in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction. This would equate to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for married couples. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has taken a similar approach in the House of Representatives. His bill, the Coronavirus Help and Response Initiative Through the Year 2022 (CHARITY) Act, would expand the charitable deduction to one-third of the standard deduction until 2022.

Families and churches are the foundation of our society. They are, therefore, the societal institutions best-equipped to provide stability when America faces many health and safety challenges. When families and churches struggle, so does the rest of America. That is why the government needs to recognize and support these institutions and charitable organizations. As Sen. Lankford said, “it’s beneficial for us in our official policy and what we choose to do in the tax code to be able to create a tax code that is encouraging to families and that is encouraging to nonprofits.

Can the Pandemic Help Renew Home and Family Life?

by Daniel Hart

May 29, 2020

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a little-noted but interesting trend is occurring—home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have seen their sales rise higher than expected as a result of people spending more time at home and deciding to take on new or long put-off projects around the house.

I can personally attest to this. My wife and I decided it would be great to raise our own chickens so we could have fresh eggs for our family and be more self-sufficient. We went about researching how to raise chickens and got five baby chicks, who are now two months old and are able to live outside. Our extra time at home has allowed us to devote more energy to our chicken project, which is now involving my retired parents and family friends who are all helping us build a chicken coop and put up fencing to protect them from predators.

All of this to say that the pandemic is leading myself and many around the country to think more about how we can cultivate our homes, which in turn can lead to new and perhaps unexpected projects that can draw our families closer together as we work with each other to accomplish them.

There is also something deeply satisfying about working with our hands to improve our homes. This reminds me of something profound recently written by John Cuddeback:

We have lost something today, but we can get it back. Our very humanity calls for living and working in our bodies, with natural things, regularly. This means all of us. We have been separated from our own humanity, from our proper homeland, and we are suffering, even if we have never known anything else.

I say we can ‘get it back’—not because we ourselves have necessarily had it before, but because it is our birthright. Our own ancestors had it; we need it; and we can still do it, even if differently, and by fits and starts.

It need not be the work of our profession, or work that makes money. It just needs to be real and regular, preferably in our home.

Each of us can make our daily lives more human by choosing tried and true forms of human work. Certain kinds of work have shown themselves to be rich and reliable as especially human modes of acting.

Here is a short list we might consider:

1. hand-crafting in natural substances: wood, stone, metal or fiber
2. caring for the earth, plants, or animals.
3. preparing and preserving natural foods
4. any aesthetic work with hand tools, such as drawing, painting, carving
5. Miscellaneous such as cutting, splitting, and burning wood for heat  

It seems to me that doing these kinds of projects by hand is intimately connected with family. When we share in these activities with our families and teach ourselves and our children to do them, we are not only helping our homes become more self-sufficient during uncertain times, we are also participating in a primal familial bonding and formative experience that has the great potential to increase love and unity amongst each other while at the same time building character.

Families in the modern age desperately need to share in this type of formative bonding with each other. As Yuval Levin has recently written, there is a distinct sense in which the breakdown of the traditional family structure in our time has contributed to a breakdown in character formation that is essential for an individual to become a healthy, thriving member of society. He writes:

…The family forms us by imprinting upon us and giving us models to emulate and patterns to adopt.

The family does all this by giving each of its members a role, a set of relations to others, a body of responsibilities, and a network of privileges. Each of these, in its own way, is given more than earned and is obligatory more than chosen. Although the core human relationship at the heart of most families—the marital relationship—is one we enter into by choice, once we have entered it that relationship constrains the choices we may make. The other core familial bond—the parent-child relationship—often is not optional to begin with, and surely must not be treated as optional after that. It imposes heavy obligations on everyone involved, and yet it plays a crucial role in forming us to be capable of freedom and choice.

In this sense, the institution of the family helps us see that institutions in general take shape around our needs and, if they are well shaped, can help turn those needs into capacities. They literally make virtues of necessities, and forge our weaknesses and vulnerabilities into strengths and capabilities. They are formative because they act on us directly, and they offer us a kind of character formation for which there is no substitute…  

One potential positive effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that it gives families an unexpected occasion to renew our focus on our home life and build strong, formative, and lasting bonds through shared home-cultivating activities. Let us not waste the opportunity.

Looking for Good Family TV During the Quarantine? Here’s What We Are Watching

by Cathy Ruse

April 13, 2020

If your family is like ours, television is a rarity in our house. We gave up cable television years ago, but we stream movies on the weekends and can “earn” a television program or two during the week for good behavior (adults and children alike).

But now that COVID-19 is keeping us all at home all day and every night, there is greater demand than ever for “Family TV.” Believe it or not, there are some good options that are both entertaining and appropriate for children.

We have become very serious fans of The Great British Baking Show, and a new discovery is the television network produced by Brigham Young University, BYU-TV. It is a font of totally family-friendly fare. Our favorite program is Show-Offs, featuring a team of improv actors and special guests who are given script ideas from a studio audience. I have always loved improv, but it seems always to be geared to the raunchier side of things (where the cheapest laughs are). But this show is 100 percent “appropriate”—our family’s watchword—and the actors are really talented. It routinely has us in stitches. We also love Studio C, a sketch comedy team similar to Saturday Night Live, but totally clean and appropriate for all audiences. Our teen and tween daughters love Dwight in Shining Armor about a teen boy who travels back in time and returns with a posse of hilarious medieval friends. There are a dozen others. BYU-TV is the only network our children are allowed to surf freely. All great shows, all “appropriate,” no commercials. And for anyone who may be wondering, we have not seen any proselytizing of the LDS faith.

We research movies, old and new, and watch them as a family. Recent movies that we have watched and enjoyed include oldies like Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, and new movies like Midway (lots of obscenities, but in context it was tolerable). We have 12 Angry Men ready to go, and Bird Man of Alcatraz. We also highly recommend anything with Rowan Atkinson, from his Mr. Bean features (my favorite is Mr. Bean’s Holiday, I could watch it every week) to Johnny English. We howl with family laughter.

My go-to review sites are Movie Guide and Dove, and I check both each time. Why? Because even the best review team can miss things, so you have to be vigilant. Generally, we have been happy with their reviews. They are very detailed, going beyond counting obscenities and profanities and describing violence and nudity to explaining storyline ethos and underlying messaging, with scene-based evidence to back up their conclusions. But once they both let us down. We like musicals, and were excited about watching the award-winning new musical, Lala Land. I read the reviews carefully, and thought I knew what to expect: some language, no nudity, no sex, no violence. Fine. Yet, as we watched, the two young lovers crawled into bed together. They were clothed. They only talked. But then, flash, it is the next morning, and they are sitting on the bed. Sorry kids, let’s turn on BYU-TV. (Movie Guide has revised its review to include a more detailed discussion of this scene.)

One service that has met with mixed reviews in our household is Vid Angel. I love it, my husband does not. For a low monthly fee, you can calibrate each movie that you stream to your family’s standards, based on that particular movie’s details. The service allows you to filter content in dozens of areas of concern, including language, violence, sexual content, and drug and alcohol use. You can literally take a PG-13 movie and turn it into a slightly shorter, sloppily-spliced G movie. Our first try with Vid Angel was hilarious. We rented Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing and just set all filters to ON. We watched it, or tried to watch, as it abruptly skipped from scene to scene like it had a terminal case of the hiccups. We realized, upon investigation, that a cleavage filter was responsible for much of the 30 minutes that were cut from the movie! If missing elements of plot and watching herky-jerky scene splicing are a problem for you (they are not for me, but they are for my husband), then this service is not for you. Another problem is the absence of Disney, or the “Evil Mouse” as we call it. The service does not work with any of the hugely-popular Disney-produced movies due to a protracted copyright lawsuit Disney slapped on Vid Angel. (Hey Evil Mouse, why don’t you just make your movies family-friendly and we won’t have to use this service!)

So, life is strange right now, but let’s look on the bright side. We all have more time to spend with our families, and with some attention and planning, that time can include the joy of watching good television, together.

How Parents Can Create Loving Homes in a Time of Crisis

by Nicolas Reynolds

April 4, 2020

Worship leader Sean Feucht recently tweeted:

Our kids won’t remember much about the effects of this virus (social, economic, political, etc) but they will remember how HOME FELT while the world freaks out. Little eyes are watching how we handle this crisis. Let’s step it up and ¿#ProtectOurPeace

Feucht’s words could not be any more poignant during the COVID-19 crisis.

Now That You’re All Home

This is a time when the whole world is being affected by a phenomenon, comparable to the First and Second World Wars. And yet, our crisis is still different. We are not fighting a seen enemy but an invisible one—the coronavirus. But where is the commoner’s front line? Where can he or she make a difference? In the home.

With most schools closing their doors, and with most jobs either worked from home or suspended, families have been provided a rare opportunity. Families are home, together, indefinitely. Being together under the same roof, for days on end, is brand new to many families. There is plenty that can tempt us to become annoyed by during this time of national crisis. But family togetherness should not be one of those things. This is a blessing. This is an opportunity.

It’s About What You Have, Not What You Don’t

You’re unable to eat out, or spend time at the movies, or even buy the freshest produce at the grocery store. But it’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about what you do have—each other—your sons and daughters. When the absence of every-day luxuries you are used to leaves you frustrated, remember what you have, remember the precious individuals you have the privilege of raising. Unstructured time—what you usually have very little of—you probably have much more of now. You now have the ability to spend extra time with the little ones that you work hard to care for, provide for, and protect.

When your children grow up, they’re not going to remember the instability of the Dow Jones during the COVID-19 crisis. They’ll remember when you asked them to help you cook dinner, when you did puzzles with them, when you made cards to send to loved ones in light of not being able to see them face to face. Though the logistics of this crisis can be very concerning, don’t let it weigh on your children. Let them remember the joy-filled activities that replaced the normal cycle of their school buses and your 9 to 5.

You’re Always Teaching Your Children, Chalkboard or No Chalkboard

Most associate “homeschooling” with pencils, chalkboards, and curriculum. That is one form of it, yet whether or not you realize it, you are always homeschooling your children. They are home, and you are teaching—teaching them what learning, responsibility, and flexibility look like. You’re not at the front of their classroom, but you are now at the center of their focus, providing them an example of what it looks like to lead and to love. This was also the case prior to the virus, but now you’re on the clock 24 hours a day.

Your children have a front-row seat to your leadership. When you’re inconvenienced because Walmart grocery-pickup is out of your favorite brand of cereal, your children see how you respond, how you cope with inconvenience, and what you value. Children grow up to be adults that either want to follow in their parents’ footsteps or steer clear of their example. Take the opportunity to patiently endure the inconveniences and pressures of this crisis and be an honorable example that your children will want to follow.

The Outside World and Your Children’s World

The world certainly does not feel safe. This crisis has caused most to doubt their security and stability. Yet the world of your children, particularly when they are very young, is not the 50 states nor the seven continents—it’s you, their parents. Fear may permeate the outside world, but it doesn’t have to penetrate the world of your children.

Take this prime opportunity and raise your children with a cognitive understanding of where your home’s hope comes from. As Romans 15:13 reads, “Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Put this current crisis into perspective, pointing the eyes of your household toward the perfect example of a father—our supreme, perfect, loving, and gracious Heavenly Father (2 Corinthians 4:17).

The coronavirus presents the world with complications and worry, but we have also been blessed with opportunities that we may never have again. Little eyes are watching; little hearts are learning. Seize the opportunity—cherish, lead, and love your children with the time the Lord has given you.

Nicolas Reynolds is a former intern at Family Research Council.

Schooling at Home: Educational Resources for Parents

by Meg Kilgannon

April 3, 2020

With much of the nation under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” advisories, most school buildings have closed, some for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. There is a wide disparity among school districts in terms of how individual schools will help parents facilitate learning. American parents find themselves in an unprecedented situation: working from home (if they are so fortunate) while simultaneously serving as school teacher, administrator, and child wrangler.

Like many of you, many of us here at FRC are working from home during this crisis. Like you, we are managing family needs and school while working to protect and promote family values in our nation’s capital and across the country.

Some of our staff has always homeschooled. These families are challenged by canceled co-ops, classes, therapies, sports, and playgroups—just like traditional school families. Others on staff have children in Christian schools or public schools. And with all schools closed, these parents are navigating a variety of situations. Some schools have moved seamlessly to online studies; others are still figuring things out. But all of us are struggling with the same less-than-ideal situation and are challenged to make the best of it for ourselves, our families, and our country.

In this post, we will share some resources we have found useful, and would love to hear from you about what you are doing to manage your children’s education during this time. This is a very real way we can support each other and do our part to help keep America safe and healthy.

The U.S. Department of Education’s coronavirus page is jam packed with information for both schools and parents. Scroll down for the “At Home Activities” section which includes links to federal agencies with worksheets and virtual tours that can keep children both entertained and informed about our beautiful country’s natural resources, wildlife, space programs, geography, and the arts. There are also reminders and links about staying healthy and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of our favorite general advice has come from parents who are also leaders or educational advocates.

The videos on this website are fun, informative, and reassuring. Just a few minutes on this website will convince you that you really can do it—you really can work and school your children at home during this crisis (and maybe even anytime). The enthusiasm of these Texas moms is contagious and just what we need.

If your school district is on hold or you are taking the rest of the year off from school, these activities will keep children and teens busy while parents are working from home. As FRC is unable to vet each item on every website, we encourage you to trust your judgement in finding materials that are appropriate for your family and reflect your values.

Resources for Parents Who Find Themselves Schooling at Home, by Subject

In Virginia, for example, parents in some districts are still waiting for resources and lessons from schools. Other districts and states have moved nimbly to online learning. In case you’re waiting for school resources, want to supplement lessons provided, or just need additional help, we offer the following list of resources. FRC believes in the primacy of parental rights, and works to protect parents’ role as the primary educators of their children. We expect that parents will maintain vigilance in reviewing materials for use by children who are schooling at home.

For Math:

These websites have everything from math fact worksheets to projects and lectures that support higher level mathematics.

For Language Arts:

Take this time to read. Perhaps have a read aloud book for the whole family. Encourage each family member to keep a journal during this time. It will be a record of an important period in American and world history—the Pandemic of 2019-2020. Write letters to friends and loved ones who may feel isolated during this time.

If your school, library, or any organization recommends a reading list, carefully monitor those recommendations. As our friends at Parent and Child Loudoun can attest, there is problematic and even pornographic content lurking in children’s and young adult literature these days.

For Autistic/Sensory Integration Issue Children:

This resource from the UK is interesting and helpful for autism and sensory issues.

The University of Virginia has helps for parents of children on the autism spectrum, including webinars, zoom conferences, and scheduling ideas, just to name a few. Their most recent newsletter has helps and links.

Science and Nature:

Easy science projects can involve cooking and baking. What makes bread rise? What happens when you prepare a recipe but leave out an ingredient? Spring is a great time to start a small herb garden or take on a bigger project. Victory Gardens are back in style, which link American history to natural science and conservation. Take pictures of plants and trees on your walks and identify them from books or online resources. Teach children practical skills, like figuring out ordinal directions through clues from nature.

From the founders of ABCmouse is Adventure Academy, a resource suitable for 8 to 12-year-olds. While not free, it offers animated and interactive games, projects, and lessons geared toward elementary-aged students.

As with all subjects, science topics can be overly politicized or include concepts like Darwinism and “mindfulness.” Math word problems can include scenarios which subtly undermine Christian teaching on marriage, such as a same-sex couple planning a wedding, or reference to a student’s two dads or two moms. We remind you to be on guard for these types of messages in your children’s assignments.

Physical Education:

Getting fresh air and sunshine is important for everyone’s physical and mental health. Please maintain social distancing while on walks or runs. Jumping rope (sanitized ropes only please), skipping races, and scavenger hunts are all options for getting your heart rate up and burning off some energy. Here are a few links we liked:

Art Therapy:

How about coloring pages and connect-the-dots using characters from the Bible?

History:

Suitable for high school students and more advanced middle school students, WallBuilders—an organization dedicated to the accurate teaching and representation of American history—offers helpful links and resources on everything from Creationism, to Black History, to the Founding Fathers. While this site is recommended for older students, it does include links to YouTube, so parental supervision is recommended.

Virtual Tours – These websites host their own tours, making it a little safer than YouTube tours which also can come with objectionable advertising, suggested content you might not prefer, or an automatic continuation to a site you don’t approve. You can find tours of museums in Washington, D.C., Buckingham Palace, Musee D’Orsay in Paris, churches from around the world, and many more. But we remind parents to monitor children’s activities anytime they are online.

More Resources

Finally, with the disclaimer that we have not reviewed each and every item here, these links include resources for every school subject with multiple links for each. This is for parents to review themselves and decide if individual links are helpful to your family. For example, PBS has some problematic content, but that doesn’t mean everything on the website is dangerous. It’s important for parents to select materials from this list and direct children to your approved resources, not just let kids log on and click around.

Share Your Resources and Ideas With Us!

Please share your resources and ideas with us by going to the Contact FRC page and entering “Schooling at Home Resources” in the subject line, and we will post a follow-up blog with what everybody shared. We’d love to hear from you! We are all in this together, working, praying, and staying healthy. Americans will do what we must to defeat this virus and keep our families strong, safe, and free for generations to come.

Meg Kilgannon is an Education Research Associate at Family Research Council.

How Federal Coronavirus Legislation Will Impact Your Family (Part 3)

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP

April 1, 2020

Read Part 1 and Part 2

Despite many speedbumps, and several self-inflicted roadblocks—including House Democrat attempts to pass their ideological wish list—members of Congress from both sides of the aisle eventually came together to pass the most recent coronavirus relief bill. On Friday, March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is the third phase of coronavirus response legislation. This $2 trillion law is the largest relief package ever passed by Congress, demonstrating the powerful forces unleashed by the coronavirus and drastic congressional response—including from some typically fiscally conservative members. Indeed, we are facing a public health and economic emergency of the likes most of us have never seen. Here is a look at how this legislation will impact you and your family.

Direct Payments

The signature policy in the CARES Act, first proposed by the Trump administration, is a tax rebate that will be sent directly to families to help cover essential costs during this crisis. As a result of this bill, all Americans with an annual income of $75,000 or less will receive a direct payment of $1,200. For married couples with an income of $150,000 or less, this payment will double to $2,400. Families with dependent children will also receive an additional $500 per child. This policy was also adapted from a previous draft, to provide the full $1,200 rebate to those with little or no income. If you are someone who makes over the $75,000 threshold, you will still be eligible for a partial rebate. This rebate will be reduced by $5 for every $100 over the cap and will be completely phased out at incomes of $99,000 and above.

The great news is, if you have filed a previous tax return, there is no action required to receive the rebate. For Americans who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will rely on those returns to determine eligibility. If you have not filed for 2019, they will use 2018 returns. Even though the president signed the bill on Friday, the earliest families can expect to see these rebates is in three or four weeks, according to some estimates. The rebate will be sent via direct deposit if the IRS has that information from a tax return. If the IRS does not have direct deposit information, it will mail a physical check, which may take a few weeks longer to arrive.

Sending tax rebates directly to Americans is not something unique to the current situation. During the 2008 recession, President George W. Bush issued tax rebates of $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples to help stimulate the economy. The tax rebates in the CARES Act are not only higher than in 2008 but will be sent out much sooner due to the IRS’s ability to work through logistics faster. This policy cements and incentivizes family structure, as there is no penalty on married couples, giving them double the individual amounts. It also functions as an additional child tax credit, giving more money for each child a family has. For the average family of four, this tax rebate will equate to a $3,400 check providing immediate financial help.

For those with a greater financial strain, who may need to draw from their retirement funds, there is additional help. As done in previous emergencies, if someone withdraws no more than $100,000 from their retirement account for coronavirus-related reasons, the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is waived. The taxes that would otherwise be collected on that withdrawal can be paid out over the next three years.

Unemployment Insurance

In addition to the rebate checks, the CARES Act provides $250 billion to expand unemployment insurance to help those who are without work because of the coronavirus outbreak. This bill creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Program that will run through the end of the year. This program will provide extended financial assistance, enabling those without work to make monthly payments for food, rent, and other necessities. The program provides unemployment benefits for those who do not usually qualify, including religious workers, the self-employed, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. It also covers the first week of lost wages in states that do not cover the first week a person is unemployed and provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment for those who remain unemployed beyond the weeks provided by the state.

Another valuable expansion is that all recipients of unemployment insurance will get an additional $600 a week beginning in April and lasting for the next four months. This addition was not without controversy, as several Senate Republicans objected to this addition because of the potential for a perverse incentive for those who might make more on unemployment insurance than they would by working. Ultimately, given the negotiating dynamics and tight timeline, this provision was not fixed. Looking to pass this bill quickly, the Trump administration was willing to accept this provision, and the bill passed the Senate with unanimous support.

To view your state’s unemployment policy and apply for unemployment insurance, go to this helpful database provided by the Department of Labor.

Housing Assurance

In a public health crisis that requires families to remain quarantined in their homes, it is critical that current housing situations remain secure. For families who own a home and make mortgage payments, the CARES Act prohibits foreclosures on any federally-backed mortgages for 60 days. It allows borrowers affected by the coronavirus to push off any missed payments to the end of their mortgage with no added penalties or interest. To help families who make rent payments, it halts evictions for those renting from properties with federally-backed mortgages for 120 days. The Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance for how homeowners and renters can respond to financial hardships.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will coordinate these federal housing policies. He has been a vocal leader throughout the coronavirus outbreak, promoting faith and families. On March 20, Secretary Carson joined President Trump and Vice President Pence on an FRC conference call to pray with 800 pastors. On the call, Secretary Carson reminded the pastors that despite the uncertainty facing our country, God’s hand is guiding us.

Education Policies

The coronavirus outbreak has affected education across the country in many ways. Many schools have been directed to close their doors, replacing in-person classes with at home and online learning. Because of these changing dynamics, the CARES Act waives the federal testing requirements that students take in a typical school year. It also provides additional funding for K-12 schools to adapt to at home-learning and gives increased flexibility for how grants can be used for technology and other actions needed to adapt to the coronavirus situation. Private schools can also access these additional funds.

Many parents today also face the challenge of balancing student loan payments with other essential payments like rent and food expenses. To ease the financial burden of making student loan payments, the CARES Act suspends federal student loan payments for the next six months, and no interest will accrue on federal loans during these six months. The Department of Education has more information on which federal loans qualify and how these policies will be implemented.

The coronavirus’s impact on the public health and the economic stability of or country is something not seen for nearly a century. President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force have taken strong actions to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health of many. However, the crisis has resulted in unintended financial burdens on many families across the country. Members of Congress and the Trump administration worked together to negotiate a strong economic response that truly puts families first—a welcome sight in the typically-rancorous partisan political environment on Capitol Hill. The FRC team continues to engage members of Congress and the administration to ensure that faith, family, and freedom will remain protected even as our country responds to the coronavirus.

For more on how the coronavirus relief legislation specifically benefits churches and nonprofits, see our blog here.

5 Considerations When Talking to Your Kids About Coronavirus

by Cathy Ruse

March 21, 2020

Everyone is together at home. That is a blessing, and a challenge—especially when it comes to talking to your children about this pandemic.

Here are five things to consider, with input from Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michael Horne of Virginia:

1. Stay Calm.

Children take their cues from their parents,” says Dr. Horne. “When their parents are worried and highly stressed, they become more anxious.” I have certainly observed that in my own interactions with my children. Even when you don’t feel calm inside, you must try to exude calm with talking to your children.

Let your younger kids play with their toys while you’re talking to them,” suggests Dr. Horne. “Having something else to focus on helps them stay calm while they listen.” That something else, of course, should not be TV.

2. Speaking of Television… Don’t.

News reports on television and radio can be terrifying for everyone right now, and kids pick up more than we realize. If you haven’t started the practice of getting your news “secretly”—that is, away from the eyes and ears of your children—you must start that practice now.

3. Pray Together as a Family.

During this uncertain time, praying together as a family can comfort and encourage children,” suggests Dr. Horne. This is a perfect example of the truth that prayers are fruitful not only for their fruit, which our Lord gives in His time, but for the one praying. The prayers of God’s smallest children are powerful; enlist them as warriors in this fight!

4. Teach Kids How to Prevent the Spread of Germs.

Knowing specific steps they can take to stay healthy is an important way for children to keep them from feeling out of control,” writes Dr. Horne.

Teach them the proper way to wash their hands (sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice). Also teach them to wash hands after coming in from outside, after using the bathroom, and before and after meals. Show them how to sneeze or cough into their elbows rather than their hands or the air. Encourage them to keep their immune system strong by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and exercising. 

5. Play and Laugh…Outside!

Children under stress are more likely to start acting out if they aren’t given appropriate outlets for that stress,” advises Dr. Horne. “Being outdoors and exercising reduces anxiety, so if possible and safe, let them play outside.”

Here is a tip that might not appear on most coronavirus suggestion lists: laughter.

Dr. Horne says it is “most important” to give children the opportunity to laugh. “Healthy play and laughter are the best ways for children to process anxiety and build resiliency.”

To Abandon the Nuclear Family Ideal Is to Abandon Being Human

by Daniel Hart

March 12, 2020

With the publication of “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” in the latest issue of The Atlantic, well-known commentator and journalist David Brooks ignited a raging debate in the blogosphere, which resulted in a symposium hosted by the Institute for Family Studies in which eight writers and scholars responded to Brooks’ article.

Putting aside the provocative title (for now), Brooks’ mammoth 9,000-word piece can be boiled down to one central idea: in our fragmented culture full of victims of detached nuclear families, our society must find better ways to take care of these victims through a renewed emphasis on extended families and “forged families”— communities of support that surround these children and adults so that they can, in Brooks’ words, “live and grow under the loving gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, and be caught, when they fall, by a dozen pairs of arms.”

Brooks’ article is a fascinating read. He goes through the history of the societal trends that have affected the American family, starting in the 1800’s during the “era of the extended clans,” then moving to the golden age of the nuclear family in the 1950’s and early 60’s, then into the broad pattern of disintegration that affected the family starting in the late 60’s, and finally into our current era full of broken homes and ascendant individualism.

Brooks then launches into an impressive illustration of how “forged families” are sprouting up across the country, citing numerous examples of people forming common living spaces organically through websites like CoAbode, Common, and Kin as well as organizations that are helping those who are in particular need of a forged family like The Other Side Academy for felons and Becoming A Man for disadvantaged youths. He concludes by emphasizing the importance of expanding the idea of what we traditionally think of as a family, since “Americans are hungering to live in extended and forged families, in ways that are new and ancient at the same time. This is a significant opportunity, a chance to thicken and broaden family relationships…”

Is a “Communal Ethos” Supplanting the Nuclear Family?

Brooks’ article is an important contribution to the public discussion of the problems that plague the family and what we can do as a society to help this bedrock institution. But it is also riddled with puzzling generalizations and odd assertions. In his concluding paragraph, he says this: “But a new and more communal ethos is emerging, one that is consistent with 21st-century reality and 21st-century values.” The tone Brooks uses here is positive. But one has to wonder: Is this a good thing? Why should we be celebrating “21st-century values” when they are the result of the “21st-century reality” of disintegrated families?

Part of the problem with Brooks’ thesis is the confusing manner in which he frames it. He prefaces his article with this: “The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.” But later, he suggests that the nuclear family is a good option, albeit one option among many other equally good options: “The two-parent family … is not about to go extinct. For many people, especially those with financial and social resources, it is a great way to live and raise children.” This ends up being a backhanded compliment, implying that having a nuclear family is only a good option for people who are well off.

More problematic is the way that Brooks (perhaps unintentionally) seems to set nuclear families and “forged families” against each other, which makes his argument similar to a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Brooks envisions a world in which forged families are in place around broken families so that children from these families have a better chance of being supported and don’t fall through cracks. This is certainly a laudable goal, but it also illustrates a central problem with his thesis: The kinds of people that one would want in a “forged family” are people who themselves came from a strong nuclear family with a supportive mother and father to begin with, because this family structure provides the best outcomes for children and society in general. Shouldn’t our focus be on trying to uphold and support these nuclear families?

In an excellent response to Brooks’ article, sociologist Bradford Wilcox acknowledges the important role that extended and forged families can play in supporting disintegrated nuclear families, but strongly cautions against the tendency of thinking that these structures can “replace” the nuclear family. Wilcox points to social science data showing that outcomes for children raised by a single parent and grandparent are no different than if they had been raised by a single parent alone, and that children raised by extended family without either parent fair even worse. In the case of forged families, Wilcox reveals a much more disturbing pattern:

Over the years, study after study has detailed the many possible downsides to introducing unrelated adults, especially men, into children’s lives without the presence of those children’s married parents.

This is because, sadly, adults who are unrelated to children are much more likely to abuse or neglect them than their own parents are. One federal report found that children living in a household with an unrelated adult were about nine times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused than children raised in an intact nuclear family.

All of this points to what is most problematic about Brooks’ article—how he deemphasizes and discounts the nuclear family ideal. It is certainly true that we are living in an era in which the nuclear family has been abandoned in innumerable ways, but the fact remains: every person who has ever lived has a mother and a father—a nuclear family. Furthermore, every human being has an innate longing to know and love their biological parents, even if they don’t know them. We can no more abandon the nuclear family ideal than we can abandon being human.

It may be possible to reject the nuclear family through adultery, divorce, abortion, etc., and it is certainly true that millions of children have been tragically left behind by the failure of their parents, but all of this is not the fault of the institution of the nuclear family. It is the fault of the people within a nuclear family who often fail to uphold the institution through love—by staying true to their spouse and caring for and nurturing their children.

Where Human Flourishing Finds Its Source

Still, there are many brilliant nuggets of wisdom and fresh insights in Brooks’ “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” and in his symposium response to those who critiqued him, particularly when he discusses how we should instill a sense in our children that we all have a variety “families” outside of our nuclear families that we should work to nurture: our churches, our friend groups, our places of work, our schools, community organizations, the military, etc. But taken as a whole, Brooks’ article casts a suspicious eye at the nuclear family ideal.

This is tragic, because despite Brooks’ best intentions with his article, he loses sight of the fact that in order to solve societal ills, we must focus on root causes. While it may be true that extended and “forged” families play an important supporting role in our larger societal life, they can never replace a mother and father. As study after study has shown, if we want to get at the root causes of our societal ills, we have to find ways of keeping moms, dads, and their children united as a loving family.

Brooks’ article is also a fresh reminder of the importance of ideals. When we deemphasize and sideline ideals, we sideline our most innate and aspirational yearnings and sell ourselves short as human beings. Far from being a mistake, the nuclear family ideal is the gold standard by which human flourishing finds its source.

We’re Going to Succeed”: Kobe Bryant’s Inspiring Marital Steadfastness

by Daniel Hart

February 12, 2020

Following the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant (along with eight others including his daughter) in a helicopter crash on January 26, many stirring tributes have been written about his tenacity, relentless drive to always improve, and ferocious competitiveness on the court as a player. One of his most inspiring character traits was how he applied his legendary competitiveness and refusal to give up to all aspects of his life, particularly when dealing with the potential end of his marriage to his wife Vanessa.

After an incident in 2003 in which he was accused of sexual assault (and was eventually acquitted in court), Kobe publicly admitted to committing adultery and apologized to his wife at a press conference. Eight years later, his wife filed for divorce due to “irreconcilable differences,” but in 2013 the couple announced that they had called off the divorce. Clearly, Kobe and Vanessa went through some extremely challenging periods in their marriage, but they persevered and remained committed to their vows. In an interview, Kobe described his drive to succeed in his marriage in the same terms he often used to describe his work ethic in basketball: “Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed.’” He went on to describe his marriage in this way: “That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that.”

Kobe and Vanessa’s perseverance and tenacity to fight for their marriage no matter what the circumstances is a stirring example for all married couples to have the resolve to never give up on their marriage, no matter how insurmountable difficulties may seem.

In honor of National Marriage Week, here are some tried and true ways that couples can work through challenges and maintain peaceful and happy marriages:

  • In general, be kind. As written about in The Atlantic, numerous studies have all concluded that “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.”
  • When you see something that needs to be done around the house, do it as quickly and quietly as you can without mentioning anything to your spouse, even if you feel that they should have done it. This builds trust between spouses and is a visible sign of how much you love and care for them, which most likely will be noticed and appreciated the more you do it.
  • Be “teachable.” In other words, be willing to compromise or do things differently than how you grew up doing them or used to do them before marriage.
  • Acknowledge that your own shortcomings may be a result of wounds that you received in your past, likely in childhood from those closest to you. It is imperative that you seek the root cause of these wounds in order to be authentically healed, which will in turn create tremendous healing in your own marriage.
  • A key outlook during difficult times in marriage is to see suffering as having redeeming value, just as Christ suffered for us in order to redeem us from our sins. If you don’t see the cross as something bad, this changes everything. In order to have true love for our spouse (to will the good for them), we must be willing to serve them by practicing sacrificial love, to sacrifice our own wishes and desires for the sake of our beloved. It may seem like a paradox, but it’s true—when we sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we find true fulfilment.
  • Express gratitude to your spouse on a regular basis. When you thank them for even the small things they do—washing the dishes, cleaning up the spilled oatmeal off the floor—your spouse will feel loved and appreciated. This goes a long way toward maintaining marital harmony.
  • Never stop trying. Even when things are not going smoothly in your marriage, always be willing to keep trying to make things right by putting in the effort, even if you don’t feel like it. Your spouse will almost certainly notice this. There’s nothing more disheartening for a spouse then when they feel like their own efforts are not being noticed and, even worse, are not being reciprocated. If your spouse feels like you are not trying your best in the relationship, they will feel less motivated to keep trying themselves, which can create a larger mess than before.
  • Don’t let small annoyances about your spouse anger you. Let them be an opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience. If there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, bring it up as calmly and deliberately as you can so that you don’t hurt your spouse in the process.
  • When you feel hurt by the words or actions of your spouse, don’t swallow it and let it fester. Pick a good time to talk about how and why they hurt you as gently, honestly, and openly as possible. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may not be a good idea to immediately hash it out with your spouse just after the hurtful incident occurred, since this could lead to further insensitive words being said in the heat of the moment. It may be prudent to pick a time at least a day or two later after things have cooled down. You may even discover that your spouse had no idea that the incident in question hurt you, and will be glad to know about it so that they can be more thoughtful in the future.
  • Challenging times in marriage are opportunities to grow closer together. This can especially be achieved by praying together as a couple.

What’s Wrong With American Boys?

by Daniel Hart

January 14, 2020

Why are adolescent boys and college-aged young men in America still so boorish and misogynistic?

Peggy Orenstein, a writer for The Atlantic, wrestles with this question in a recent feature-length article entitled “The Miseducation of the American Boy.” To her credit, she compassionately attempts to understand what is really going on in the souls of typical boys and young men in the wasteland of contemporary American secular culture by personally interviewing them.

What she finds is both intriguing and disturbing, but not very surprising. Most of the boys she talked to struggled with leading a kind of double life—on the one hand, they “could talk to girls platonically,” as a high school senior named “Cole” said (she uses pseudonyms to protect their identities). But then he admitted that “being around guys was different. I needed to be a ‘bro…’” Most of the other boys Orenstein interviews had similar views about the expectations their peers placed on them and the crushing pressure to conform to a hypersexual, misogynistic “bro” subculture.

So how did we get here? Orenstein admits that there seems to be a “void” in parental guidance of boys: “Today many parents are unsure of how to raise a boy, what sort of masculinity to encourage in their sons. But as I learned from talking with boys themselves, the culture of adolescence, which fuses hyperrationality with domination, sexual conquest, and a glorification of male violence, fills the void.”

It’s clear that Orenstein wants to find solutions for this problem. She prefaces her article by stating that “we need to give [boys] new and better models of masculinity.”

What are these “new and better models”? Unfortunately, Orenstein never really proposes any kind of coherent standard to which boys should strive for. After spending almost 7,500 words extensively quoting their frustrations, fears, and longings and cataloguing dozens of misadventures of boys hooking up awkwardly with female students, bragging about sexual escapades, laughing at rape jokes, and so on, she musters two paragraphs at the end of her article that offer some kind of path forward. She says that we need “models of manhood that are neither ashamed nor regressive, and that emphasize emotional flexibility—a hallmark of mental health.” She also challenges authority figures to step up: “Real change will require a sustained, collective effort on the part of fathers, mothers, teachers, coaches.” Her last tidbit of advice is this: “We have to purposefully and repeatedly broaden the masculine repertoire for dealing with disappointment, anger, desire. We have to say not just what we don’t want from boys but what we do want from them.”

Belief Systems Create Gentlemen

This is certainly all good advice. But what is striking about Orenstein’s guidance is what she does not say. It begs the question: what exactly do we want from boys? It’s all well and good to promote emotional flexibility and mental health, but if the goal is for boys to unlearn misogyny and start respecting girls more, as Orenstein and all people of good faith so desperately want, isn’t it going to take more than “emotional flexibility”?

The answer is unquestionably “yes.” Having respect for girls and women is an essential aspect of moral conduct that all boys and men should have, but obviously do not. That’s because it has to be taught and learned, just as all moral behavior must be, through a system of values, which must ultimately be derived from faith in a revealed moral order. In our politically correct culture, writers like Peggy Orenstein can’t seem to state this obvious fact, probably because they don’t want to be accused of promoting “religion.” It’s notable that the words “religion” and “faith” never appear once in Orenstein’s entire article.

It’s a sad but telling reality that in a culture still fully in the throes of grappling with the #MeToo movement and one in which boys are still so clearly gripped by a culture of sexual conquest, so many secular writers still can’t bring themselves to admit that certain belief systems have the antidote for misogyny built into them. As I have written previously:

[W]hat if more boys were taught from an early age that the context for the full expression of human sexuality is within the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman, as Christianity and other religions do? If this teaching were to be taught consistently throughout childhood and young adulthood, it would substantially increase the amount of gentlemen in our culture. Gentlemen treat women with respect, the kind of respect that inherently knows how to avoid looking at women with lust (see Matthew 5:27-28), the kind of respect that would never even consider making unseemly sexual comments in their company, much less harassing or assaulting them.

Since Orenstein never proposes a belief system with moral principles as an answer to counter misogyny, it appears that she along with most secular commentators are merely hoping that boys will somehow magically absorb sexual morality and respect for women from… friends who happen to have good values? Their parents who happen to be good people? Orenstein never says. She does at one point ask her main interview subject, a high school senior named “Cole,” why he doesn’t assert his “values” more with his peers. But what she never bothers to ask him is where he got his values from.

The Crucial Mentorship of Fathers

Who is it that should be the primary instiller of values in children? This most basic of questions is unfortunately passed over by Orenstein. The vital importance of a father in a boy’s healthy development into a gentleman is the elephant in the room that seems to escape the notice of many secular writers like her.

But perhaps Orenstein can’t be entirely at fault for this. As her article illustrates, the boys that she interviews don’t seem to think much of their fathers. “Cole” briefly describes his father as “a nice guy,” but he went on to say that “I can’t be myself around him. I feel like I need to keep everything that’s in here [tapping his chest] behind a wall, where he can’t see it.” Another 18-year-old named “Rob” described how his father merely told him to “man up” when he was having problems in school. “That’s why I never talk to anybody about my problems,” he said. Another young man, a college sophomore, described how he never felt comfortable talking to his father: “[T]here’s a block there. There’s a hesitation, even though I don’t like to admit that. A hesitation to talk about … anything, really.”

This is heartbreaking stuff. Is it any wonder our boys and young men are so lost and adrift when their primary role model and mentor—their fathers—never make themselves available to their own sons to just talk about life, about growing up to be a man, about anything?

Orenstein’s “The Miseducation of the American Boy” is revealing in a number of ways. Yet again, it reveals that when a belief system based on eternal moral truth is not instilled in boys from a young age, the secular adolescent culture of hypersexual narcissism and misogyny will fill the void. It also reveals that when fathers abandon their fundamental role as the primary mentor and confidant of their sons, their boys will be left emotionally numbed, less empathetic, and more prone to becoming a part of this secular adolescent culture.

Here at Family Research Council, we are doing our part to renew authentic masculinity and to help instill a culture of biblical manhood to stand as a bulwark against the dark cultural forces that promote sexual objectification and conquest, gender confusion, and emasculation. Learn about and consider attending our Stand Courageous men’s conferences, which are making a difference through teaching the principles of authentic manhood as providers, mentors, instructors, defenders, and chaplains.

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