Q: Do you have any advice for the parent of a preteen child who’s extremely overweight? I want to help him lose weight while he’s young, before it becomes a serious problem later in life.

Jim: It’s great that you want to see your child live a long and healthy life — starting now! Childhood obesity is a serious problem. Children who are clinically obese — an issue we’d encourage you to discuss with your family physician — are at high risk for diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, stroke, arthritis and early death. That’s not to mention the hit it puts on their self-esteem.

Our Physicians Resource Council suggests focusing on five things: 1) better nutritional choices; 2) an increase in physical activity; 3) eating meals together as a family; 4) better rest and recreation habits; and 5) wiser media choices. It’s especially important to make this a family project. One of the first things we’d recommend is to turn off the TV and begin taking walks in the evening. By working together, your son won’t feel singled out, and it’s much more likely he’ll embrace the dramatic lifestyle changes he needs to make.

You might also want to talk to your son’s teacher once school resumes. He or she might be able to encourage and incorporate healthy habits across the curriculum so that the entire class benefits. You can also maintain a degree of control over his caloric intake by packing him a nutritious lunch and by restricting money that might be used to buy unhealthy snacks from school vending machines.

Most important, keep in mind that your child needs an overdose of your love and acceptance throughout this process. Do everything you can to help him lose weight, but make it clear that your affections do not depend upon his success in achieving that goal.

Q: Like a lot of guys, I’ve tried to surprise my wife only to have my best efforts crash and burn. I have an aversion to failure, so I’ve just about decided to stop trying. Any advice before I throw in the towel?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Your experience reminds me of a guy most of us men can relate to. Wanting to find his wife the perfect gift for her 50th birthday, he kept hounding her for hints of what she’d like. Finally, in frustration, she told him, “I’d like something that goes from zero to 200 in under 4 seconds.” Armed with that information, he bought her the most unforgettable gift she’d ever received: a brand-new bathroom scale.

The truth is, most guys do try hard — but we don’t have a clue what our ladies really want or need. As time passes, many couples slip into a rut of predictability. Things that used to excite and thrill don’t produce the same reaction they once did. And when a marriage becomes routine, the passion wanes, and couples can drift apart.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand that often the goal of surprising your wife is merely to find ways to keep injecting newness and freshness into your marriage. This can be as simple as trying a new restaurant — or it can involve a little more daring and adventure, like taking an art class together or going to an amusement park.

You don’t have to go crazy, always make elaborate plans or spend lots of money to be spontaneous and do something unexpected. You’re limited only by your creativity (and even then there’s no shame in consulting the Internet and borrowing great ideas from others).

Ultimately, your mission is to affirm your wife, remind her of your love and commitment — and have fun living life together.

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.