Q: Our son graduated from high school last spring and is still living at home. Should we still have a curfew for him as long as he is living under our roof, or should we just ask that he always tell us where he's going?
Jim: You didn't mention any of the specific reasons for your son living at home. Is he considering college? Is he pursuing gainful employment? These are important questions to consider.
Whatever the case, there comes a time in every child's life when he or she crosses the threshold into adulthood. Once this line is crossed, the parent-child relationship changes in some basic ways. Your child is then on the road to becoming your peer and equal rather than a dependent minor. He will be graduating into a position of self-responsibility, and his personal decisions have to be something more than a matter of simple submission to Mom and Dad's instructions. He will have to choose to act on the basis of the wisdom you've attempted to instill in him over the years and out of an awareness of his personal responsibility.
With that in mind, imposing a curfew on your son at this point might short-circuit the maturation process. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a few ground rules while he's living under your roof. Sit down with your son and let him know that he is welcome to go on living in your house, but that as an adult he will need to start assuming more adult responsibilities. This includes responsibility for personal expenses, laundry and cleaning, transportation, phone and Internet. It's also reasonable to ask that he make a weekly contribution to the grocery budget and even pay a reasonable amount of rent. All of these things will help launch him into the world of adult responsibilities.
Q: I have two stepsons and I love them, but I'm having a really hard time connecting with them. I know it's really hard for them to see their mom with someone other than their dad. Is there something I can do to build our relationships?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: The joining of two families can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Here are a few things you might consider as you work to connect with your stepsons.
First and foremost, keep in mind that it's easy for an enthusiastic stepparent to come on too strong in expressing his or her excitement about the new family. This can be confusing -- even threatening -- to a child, triggering a nasty response. At such times, the stepparent needs to relax, step back, and let the relationship develop at the child's pace. If you want to forge a deeper bond with your stepsons, you're going to have to find ways to operate at their comfort levels. If you sense bitterness or resentment, don't force the issue. Just make it clear that you're ready to listen when they're able to express their emotions.
If the challenges persist, don't hesitate to enlist professional help. This isn't a sign of defeat. Rather, it's a way of demonstrating your commitment to investing in the health and vitality of your blended family. Call Focus on the Family for a free consultation with a member of our counseling team, as well as a referral to a qualified professional in your area. You should also seek out a book called "The Smart Step-Family" by Ron L. Deal, and also visit the author's website at www.smartstepfamilies.com.
Finally, remember that you're not alone! Every stepparent has to navigate these waters. If you're persistent, I'm confident that your efforts will eventually bear fruit.
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.
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