Q: Is it OK to connect with former lovers on Facebook? While browsing online, I ran across an old boyfriend from my college days. We haven't communicated for years, and I'm curious to know what he's been up to. I love my husband and our relationship is strong, so I don't see this as a threat to my marriage. Any advice?
Jim: Ironically, this is easier to address in the case of a troubled marriage. The more difficulty a couple is experiencing, the more obvious it should be that outside temptations or intrusions are not OK. In situations like that, the answer is a definite no.
But even when the marriage is strong, as you've indicated, the risks still far outweigh any potential benefits. For that reason, I'd advise you to talk this over with your husband at length before you decide anything. Your marriage is worth protecting. So be careful about exposing your relationship to threats of any kind, no matter how remote they may seem. Honestly evaluate your motives and discuss them with your husband before deciding together.
If you choose to go ahead and friend your old flame, make sure your own Facebook account intentionally reflects your healthy marriage. This will prevent your friend request being interpreted in the wrong way. It's also important to consider what impact your actions may have on your old boyfriend's relationship with his wife. While your marriage may be strong enough to accommodate the re-establishment of this friendship, your innocent overture could introduce a source of marital difficulty for them.
Connecting with old friends via social media can bring opportunities to share how you have respectively grown and flourished since you went your separate ways. But it can also get very tricky if it introduces tension, suspicion or jealousy -- and that's just not worth it. If you could use some help sorting this out, our counselors would be happy to talk. Call them at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: Our sons are 6 and 4 years old. Like probably all parents, we want to raise them to be mature, responsible children. But we're not quite sure how to go about that. Any suggestions?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Maturity and responsibility are all about self-control. Some parents believe they can instill that into children by sheer force of will. In other words, by making them behave. It is possible for Moms and Dads to exert their authority and try to force their children to act a certain way -- and at times, this may be necessary with young children. But overpowering your kids' wills as a primary parenting strategy isn't the way they're going to learn self-control.
As your kids grow, the focus should increasingly be on helping them learn how to choose between wise and unwise decisions. The way they do that is by experiencing the consequences of their actions. Clearly lay out your expectations, then allow them to choose their own path. But make sure they know the consequences for their choices are theirs to bear. Wise decisions will earn them more freedom and opportunities, but unwise choices will cause them to lose more and more privileges.
Children will only grow into maturity if they learn to exercise self-control and to take responsibility for themselves. And that will only happen if we parents gradually take our hands off the choices our kids make and give them a chance to be accountable for their own actions.
For more tips to help your children thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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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