DEAR HARRIETTE: I pay the phone bills of my adult children. They range in age from 18 to 29. I don't mind paying these bills, but my wife recently questioned why I'm doing so if they never answer my calls or text messages. I typically get ignored for a few days. For my youngest, I've tracked down his friend's phone numbers so I can contact him through them when he isn't responsive to me. Should I take my wife's advice and stop paying their phone bills since they don't use these phones to communicate with me? -- Ring Ring, Norman, Oklahoma
DEAR RING RING: As children grow up, it is natural for them to become more independent. This often means that they communicate less with their parents. That said, if you are footing the bill for their independence, you might have a bit of leverage here. Let me ask how often you call them. If you expect to speak to them every day, that may be unrealistic for certain children.
What you need to do is establish a rhythm with them that you both agree to honor. Ask each of them for a once-a-week call on a particular day, preferably within a window of time. Try that to see if it can become routine for you. If they continue to ignore your calls and you believe that you aren't being unreasonable with the frequency of your calls, put your foot down. Tell them that you are unwilling to continue to pay for their phones if they refuse to communicate with you on an agreed-upon regular basis.
Ultimately you may not be able to find an established time with each of your children, but chances are high that they will make the effort to be in touch more if they value your footing that bill. What you want to be mindful of is not lording the money over them. They are likely able to pay their own phone bills. What you really want is to be in touch.