Q: As a divorced single mom, what can I do about my young child's resistance to my efforts to develop relationships with men and to have a social life outside the home? My son simply doesn't like to "share" me with anyone else. He disliked my last boyfriend so much that I was forced to end the relationship.
Jim: In speaking with single parents about dating, we usually suggest that they don't involve their children in the process until the relationship is well established and the couple is seriously considering marriage. Otherwise, the child may get accustomed to his parent's dating partner and begin to form an attachment -- and then the relationship ends, resulting in yet another experience of significant loss in the child's life.
Here's what we'd advise: The next time you become involved in a romantic relationship, don't push your son to get to know your boyfriend until the two of you are sure that you're moving toward engagement and marriage. At that point, have a heart-to-heart talk with your boy. Assure him of your love and commitment to him, and that you realize no one could ever replace his dad. Explain that you don't expect your boyfriend to be his father, but that because you love this man very much, you want him to have a place in the family.
Take it slow. Introduce your child to the new relationship gradually. Don't expect instant bonding, and don't pressure your son and your boyfriend to become instant buddies. You might start by including your boyfriend in some activities that your son enjoys.
Above all, carefully consider whether the man you're dating has what it takes to become a positive influence in your child's life. Your son is your primary responsibility, and it's critical that you determine whether your romantic interest has the depth of character to become a good stepparent.
Q: Should we let our kids participate in Halloween by going trick-or-treating and attending costume parties? We have serious problems with many of the darker elements associated with the day, but the other families in our neighborhood go all out in celebrating it. Our kids feel left out if we don't allow them to join in. What do you think we should do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: To be honest with you, we have mixed feelings about Halloween. Like you, we're uncomfortable with certain aspects of this holiday, including its traditional emphasis on evil and the occult.
On the other hand, certain features of the modern observance of Halloween strike us as being nothing but harmless fun. Children love dressing up, and we see no reason to stop them as long as their costumes are tasteful and non-occult in theme. They also enjoy getting candy and goodies from the neighbors (who wouldn't?) and showing off their outfits from door to door. From our perspective, there's nothing objectionable about this part of Halloween. It's hard to imagine a more innocent or childlike activity than trick-or-treating. This assumes, of course, that parents take precautions to provide for safe and reliable supervision before allowing their children to participate.
This isn't to say that we don't understand your feelings. On the contrary, we sympathize with and respect your concerns, and acknowledge that this topic is highly controversial among some parents. For this reason, we won't presume to tell you how to handle the problem of Halloween in your home. These thoughts are offered purely as another perspective that you may want to consider. Ultimately, we'd encourage you to stay true to your own convictions and do what you think is best.
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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