Q: Can you offer any insight as to why my 13-year-old daughter has become so contrary about everything? She often seems eager to distance herself from me. I'm not a controlling parent, but it's tough to see how she's acting all of a sudden.
Jim: I understand where you're coming from. Commenting on the struggle parents experience during the teen years, my friend, psychologist and best-selling author Dr. John Townsend, nails the issue when he says it's "because we're needed the most and wanted the least."
Our teenagers need us as much as ever during this turbulent period, but they typically don't want us interfering in their lives. It's a necessary and healthy tension, but one which inevitably leads to conflict.
That's a huge reason why this season is often rough for parents. Understanding that your teen probably isn't trying to make your home miserable may help defuse some of the emotion. But even then, behavioral challenges must still be addressed.
In advising parents how to channel their child's misdirected energy toward more productive outcomes, Townsend suggests four pillars to help guide our interactions with our teenagers:
-- The first is love. No matter what behavior they choose, children need to know their parents love them unconditionally.
-- The second is truth. Families must speak truth to one another kindly. Even if they disagree vigorously on certain subjects, they can, and should, do so respectfully.
-- The third is freedom. Parents don't "give" freedom to their teens. Teens can choose whether to obey or disobey the rules. But ...
-- The flip side to the third pillar is the fourth: consequences. In the same way teenagers have the freedom to choose their own behavior, they also choose -- and must be allowed to experience -- the consequences that go with it.
Q: Do you have any advice for a woman whose husband is being paroled next month after having served time for armed-robbery? I'm eager to have him back home and resume a normal relationship, but at the same time I'm feeling anxious about what to expect.
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: You're wise to consider this question beforehand. As you know, your marriage has suffered serious trauma, and it's best to be guarded against unrealistic expectations. Your situation is not one of just picking up where you left off. For your relationship to continue successfully, you and your husband will need to intentionally prepare yourselves for some significant changes.
The first thing I'd encourage you to do is to talk things over with your husband before his release, either in writing or during a face-to-face visit. You might communicate something like, "I still love you and am willing to trust you again, but I'm wrestling with lots of doubts and unanswered questions." If there are deep emotional issues or problems from the past that need to be addressed, it would be a good idea to get the help of an objective and trusted third party in preparing for your conversation.
I'd also recommend communicating with correction officials to learn what kind of track record your spouse has had during his imprisonment. Is he a reformed man? Or is it likely that old behaviors will emerge once he's out? These questions are vital to your own safety and the well-being of any children at home.
With this last thought in mind, we would suggest that you consider separate living arrangements initially while getting marriage counseling from a trained therapist. We'd be happy to provide you with a list of qualified counselors in your area. Please call us at 855-771-4357.
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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