Q: My teenage daughter was not asked to the homecoming dance, and she's heartbroken. How can I convince her that it's not the end of the world?
Jim: For better or worse, many teens infuse high school dances with a sense of importance rivaling that of a state dinner (albeit a state dinner characterized by loud music and a lack of decorum!). Those of us on the other side of adolescence look back on the homecoming dance as a fun but essentially inconsequential diversion. But for your daughter and her peers, this is a monumental event.
We'd encourage you to avoid making a fuss over your daughter's disappointment either way. Trying to convince her that this isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things is a fool's errand. At the same time, don't empathize with her too much or do anything else that might prolong her sense of melancholy.
The bigger issue here is your daughter's sense of self-worth. The emotions she's experiencing are real. She wants to feel accepted by her peers, not like an outcast. Give her time to be sad and withdrawn, and if she wants to talk about it, listen with an open heart. Reaffirm her as a person and reinforce the importance of character as opposed to mere popularity. When the night of the dance arrives, help her avoid wallowing in her misery. If she has any other dateless friends, perhaps you could host a slumber party for them. Or make it a "family date night" at a destination of her choosing.
With some patience and sensitivity, you can help your daughter weather this storm. Once the dance is over and the homecoming hype dies down, she'll feel like her old self again.
Q: I grew up with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Halloween. We went trick-or-treating every year. But my husband was raised in a family where none of this was approved of. In fact, he and his parents aren't really comfortable with imaginary characters like fairies, dragons, magic, etc. I would like our young children (ages 3 and 1) to be able to enjoy these things in a healthy way -- but my husband and I are having trouble finding common ground on this issue. Do you have any recommendations for us?
Juli: Although it is normal for us to parent based on traditions and biases that we were raised with, I would encourage you and your husband to move beyond family traditions and start talking about family convictions. The real issue is what do you and your husband believe and value as a new family unit? Why is it important for you that your kids enjoy these holidays, and what are your husband's reservations? Once you get beyond talking about what you did growing up and start talking about values and convictions, you are much more likely to find common ground.
For example, you may value the fun and excitement of children dressing up for Halloween. Your husband may object to the satanic overtones often involved with dressing like a witch, ghost or magical creature. Perhaps you decide to honor both convictions by going to a harvest party or church celebration during the Halloween season, where kids dress up and get candy, but without the baggage that comes with traditional trick-or-treating.
While you each may have to compromise on family traditions from the past, be intentional about honoring each other's convictions.
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