DEAR NATALIE: My daughter and her boyfriend recently bought an RV to renovate and drive across the country. I’m glad that she’s so free-spirited, but I can’t help but worry about what she’ll do in the long run. She doesn’t seem to have any interest in getting a stable job, buying property, and settling down like my husband and I did. She always tells me that her generation won’t have the luxury of ever retiring anyway, so they might as well live how they want to now. She seems deeply afraid of the future, and a bit nihilistic about it all. She doesn’t even want to have children because she thinks they’ll be too burdened with the problems of climate change. I think she’s being dramatic. I know we grew up in different worlds, but I think the economy and government will become stable again just like they always have. I’m not very political, so I don’t like to argue with her, but I think this generation has too much distrust in the government even though she seems perfectly happy to get her food stamps and get free health care. How can I encourage her to prepare for the real world? How can I change her mind about all of this negativity? – WORRIED MOTHER
DEAR WORRIED MOTHER: While I understand your concerns, the world your daughter is inheriting – and those coming up younger than her – is going to look drastically different from the world you know. Climate change is here, it’s causing severe problems and it will only get worse as long as multinational corporations and governments continue to ignore, belittle and debate what is happening. You may not be into politics, but politics is infiltrating every aspect of your life, including that of your relationship with your daughter. And while I believe her nihilism is rooted in reality, as we all know, that way of thinking will get us nowhere. Instead of criticizing her for these feelings, why not ask her to engage in some form of service that could uplift you both and create a point of connection? Right now she may want that sense of the open road, but eventually, she may want to settle down. Will she be in a position to buy property? Who knows. I don’t know many who are right now, and they have stable jobs. While we don’t know what the future may bring, we can work on things within our control and how you show up in your relationship with her is one of them. Try asking her openly and without judgment how she feels she is contributing to building a better world. You may be surprised by her answer. Talk to her about her passions, see where you intersect, and find a volunteer opportunity where you can both feel good and do good together. Build on that.
DEAR NATALIE: Our family’s dog was recently hit by a car and tragically killed. Our young kids (ages four and seven) are heartbroken, as are my partner and I. We got this dog early in our relationship, and while she was older, she would have had a long beautiful life to live. My kids are ready for a new dog because they miss their friend, but my partner and I aren’t ready to move on yet. We don’t want the new dog to feel like a replacement, and we think this wound needs to heal a bit before we welcome a new animal into our lives. We don’t have time to train a puppy, and need to reassess what kind of dog makes the most sense for our lifestyle now. Honestly, another dog may not make sense anytime soon, which is painful for us to admit. In the meantime, we are trying to get our kids to spend time with other family friends’ dogs to ease their pain. How can we know when the time is right to get a new dog, or even consider bringing another "fur-ever" friend into our lives? – SAD OVER FUR BABY
DEAR SAD OVE FUR BABY: I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your pet. Our furry friends become family members and it can be devastating to lose someone so dear to you. I always think that animals mark chapters in our lives and this kind of loss can stir up a lot of feelings about ourselves, our past and our paths. Take the time you need. Your children are small and while they may be ready, you are the adults in the home. In the meantime, I think you have the right idea by letting them spend time with friends who have pets. Fostering a pet could be another way of bridging the gap – but I don’t know how attached littles may get to a pet that they can’t keep, so maybe save that idea for when they are both a bit bigger. If and when the time is right, you will know. This is what a lot of my friends have said to me over the years after losing a pet and, in time, getting a new one. Grief is an ongoing process, but time can be a great healer. Your desire comes back to both help an animal in need, and to have that type of love and affection once more.
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