Q: I got married right out of college. Four years later, I have two demanding toddlers and an art degree that means nothing. Meanwhile, my single friends have successful graphic design careers and constantly post about their work and exotic travels. I love my children, but I must admit that I am jealous and discouraged. How can I move on from the artistic dreams I once had?

Focus on the Family Malaysia: We appreciate your honesty, and we would like to offer a perspective you may not have considered. You likely believe, as you were taught, that art matters a great deal regardless of its commercial success. We are convinced that art matters because it stems from our humanity: we were created to create.

With that in mind, consider that you are a creative artist of the highest degree even as a homemaker. You are nurturing your children and shaping an environment where they can thrive and flourish.

Your working medium may not be paint, clay or an iPad but you are sculpting character and impacting impressionable young lives every day.

You are also well-equipped and uniquely positioned to help your children discover their gifts and talents as they grow up. You can guide them in developing their artistic expressions and create alongside them.

As the children grow older, you may find opportunities to return to the workforce or pursue formal art as a hobby. Meanwhile, try to schedule regular personal time to flex and nurture your artistic skills and creativity.

Remember, being a mum is a high calling, and do not lose sight of the lives you shape, which has more value than any painting or sculpture. Some of your successful friends may even be envious of the fulfilment you find in your role.

Q: Our four-year-old daughter is afraid of sleeping in the dark. We have tried everything including establishing a bedtime routine, using a night light and reading books and singing songs but nothing seems to help. Please advice.

Focus on the Family Malaysia: This is fairly common for small children.; My children were also scared of the dark when they were young. Their imaginations are developing quickly so they may have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Your daughter is probably going through a phase that she will outgrow in time.

First, determine if any recent changes at home or kindergarten could have sparked these fears. Ask your daughter what is scary to her – what she sees, hears or feels in the dark and what would help her feel safe.

Help her train her imagination to think of fun, creative stories that have some excitement and end well. If she imagines a monster, have her draw it the next day and dress it up to make it funny and friendly. Change her perception by naming it and making up goofy stories about it.

If this is not working after a week or two, try other methods. A night light in the room or hallway is great but make sure it does not cast any scary shadows on the wall.

My daughter loved having several soft toys strategically placed on guard, with one special “bedtime buddy”. My son enjoyed listening to soothing music before falling asleep.

Each child is different; what may work for one may not work for another, so you will need to be creative. The goal is to help your child feel a sense of control and calm within their room as they go to sleep.

We wish you success.

This article is contributed by Focus on the Family Malaysia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and strengthening the family unit. For more information, visit family.org.my. Join Dr Bob and Jenni Paul at the Taking Your Marriage to Great Marriage Conference on Saturday, June 1 as they explore the essence of marriage, emotions and teamwork in decision-making. Register at family.org.my/greatmarriage.

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