QUESTION: I’m 78 years old and my husband of over 50 years is 80. We’re concerned about the violence in movies and games. Both our grandsons who are in their late teens like violent movies and video games. They seem desensitized to how war and guns hurt people. Both of them are good students, and to our knowledge are not involved in drugs or alcohol. When we talk to our daughter about this, she just shrugs her shoulders and says, “They’ll get over it.”
We don’t think so, and believe feeding their brains with this garbage can be harmful to their emotional growth. Is there a rational way to discuss this with our daughter and her family?
– Concerned Grandparents
Dear Concerned Grandparents,
I applaud your concern for your grandsons’ emotional development. There is much research to back up your concern that involvement with violent video games and films does indeed desensitize young people to real-life violence. One way you might get your daughter and her family to re-think this issue is to present scientific evidence. The American Psychological Association’s website has a good article from 2003 titled “Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts and Unanswered Questions.”
Another approach is to talk with your grandsons about other problem solving techniques to be sure they understand violence isn’t a good way to resolve conflicts. Emphasizing communication and empathy for other people’s feelings is an important way to build better interpersonal skills. You can point out that games and movies are scripted while real life is much more complicated. Actual humans don’t react in predictable ways. The tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman illustrates how violence can make a situation much worse.
You can also engage your grandsons in other, more positive activities and take them to films that depict more advanced, civilized problem solving techniques than brute force.
Dear Concerned Grandparents,
The issue of violence in the media and whether it affects us has been with us for a long time. When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, this same issue was brought up. One newspaper article simply showed the TV listings for the day, and it was amazing to me how many crime shows there were then and how many crime shows there are today. And, in a way, I’m part of the problem because I have some favorite TV shows, and usually my preference is for a “Law and Order” episode even if what I’m looking at is a re-run.
But to get back to your worry about your grandkids: I think you and your daughter are both right. They probably will get over it, but you are also right to be concerned. In my opinion, what we watch on TV has to affect us, for good or for ill. I played a lot of cowboys and Indians as a child, with a brace of cap pistols that I loved to strap on, and I can remember my mother saying she wasn’t particularly happy with all the gun stuff that I loved then. My brother and I also went to a Western movie every Saturday, and we thought it was neat to hear the gunfire and the sounds of ricocheting bullets off the boulders!
I may not be helping your cause in this response! And I can remember my mother yelling at us to “turn off the boob tube!” if we were watching too much television. What I’m saying is that I think my brother and I did get over it, and your grandchildren probably will, too. However, violence is everywhere in our society and I think we kind of worship the image of the gun-slinging cowboy of old.
If I were you, I’d try to talk with your daughter again and explain your concerns. But keep in mind that there are some things which we cannot control, even the destinies of our own flesh and blood. And even if you are right to be concerned about all the pervasive violence in our society, your concern will not change the minds of your daughter or your grandkids unless they want to change their minds. Sorry.
The Rev. Skip Lindema,
La Cañada Congregational Church
QUESTION: Since my husband passed away eight years ago, I’ve barely been able to keep my head above water financially. I decided to get help with a reverse mortgage on my home. Sadly, my son made it clear he doesn’t want me to. His words to me were, “There goes my inheritance.” His father and I gave him everything – put him through college, helped him pay for his wedding and gave him a down payment for his first house. He has a great job and wonderful family and I have to include his wife doesn’t agree with him.
I can’t believe that he doesn’t understand I’m struggling and have no money left over to do anything except the bare essentials.
How has it come about that my son is so self-centered? We attended church as a family when he was growing up and he attended Sunday school regularly. He does not go to church now, although his wife and children do. Where is God in all of this?
– Sad Mom
Dear Sad Mom,
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer, made popular by Twelve Step programs authored by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, has been a cornerstone of who God is for me and where God is in any given situation. First, I learn that God can help me come to a sense of peace and serenity even in the most difficult of situations, situations in which I have no control like the one you are dealing with. We have no control over people, places or things. We can’t change people’s behavior, make them do what we want them to do, or react or respond the way we want them to.
Second, all we can do, at any moment throughout the day, is ask God for guidance. God is omni-present and “omni-active love,” the source of strength, power and grace in our lives. God inspires us, nudges us toward making decisions for the best possible outcomes for ourselves. It sounds like this is what you were doing when you decided to apply for the reverse mortgage. I don’t know why people do what they do, become what they become, act the way they act. I know that if I ask God for wisdom and guidance, I will be granted both.
You need to take care of yourself, enjoy your life. God came, in the human form of Jesus, that we may have life and have it abundantly. If you are caring for your needs by getting this reverse mortgage, you will have abundant time, energy and love to spend with those whom you love and love you without stress and worry. And you deserve that.
St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church
Dear Sad Mom,
There is no question God is right by your side. It is unfortunate that your son is taking a myopic approach in response to your realistic, appropriate and necessary need to finance your retirement. He clearly doesn’t realize the hurt he is causing you and there is no question that he was not raised to respond this way. Often those who express an entitlement attitude, like your son, do so as a result of cultural influence. This influence simply convinces people they deserve things they can’t afford, don’t really deserve or haven’t earned. You and your husband wanted your son to have a better quality of life and for the right reasons gave him a hand up with his college, wedding and house. This hand up has probably allowed him to provide for a better quality of life for his family. He may be simply thinking the inheritance is a hand up for his family and that’s why he is adamant about the reverse mortgage.
You have clearly loved your son the way God intended which is obvious by his wife’s support for you. Although it may not be easy, you should choose to believe that you have already poured an inheritance into your son’s life that is greater than any monetary desires he is worried about. You have provided for him and gave him a strong Godly influence through the way you raised him. One day he will realize this and you should dwell in that thought as you enjoy your retirement, living off of you and your husband’s hard work, which you certainly do deserve.