Q: Our 23-year-old son is living with us again. We also have young teens in the house. We know we should treat our adult son differently in terms of rules and expectations, but we're concerned about how this might affect the younger kids. Help!
Jim: Many families are facing similar situations these days. Even though you're still his parents, your son is an adult and needs to be respected and treated as one.
Of course, this doesn't mean he's exempt from rules of any kind while in your home. Going forward, you should expect the same from him that you would from any other adult boarder renting a room in your house. Rules are essential wherever people share living space. However, they shouldn't exist to control your son's attitudes, actions or behavior. Instead, the rules you implement should be for the purpose of preserving order and safeguarding the best interests of the entire household.
With this in mind, it's reasonable to insist that everyone pick up after themselves and keep shared spaces clear of personal clutter. All should agree to uphold family standards of decency and propriety -- including maintaining respect for other people's privacy and property. If you feel it's appropriate that the older son should contribute to the financial burden of running the household, don't be afraid to hold him to that.
This arrangement shouldn't have a negative impact on your two teenagers. The key is to clarify the distinction between minors and adults. Part of that process is explaining the reasons for the different sets of rules that will apply while their older brother is living at home. Meanwhile, assure them that the time is rapidly approaching when they'll also have to carry the entire burden of responsibility for their behavior. As teens, they should already be moving in that direction.
Q: Sometimes I get frustrated and upset with my husband, and I feel like I need to express my feelings to someone who cares and understands. A lot of my communication with my best female friends is through social media. Is it healthy to use those channels to seek support?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: In most relationships there's a place for venting. But that place is definitely NOT any form of social media. We all know that even "private" social media conversations often don't remain private. If you air your dirty laundry in the open, you'll only hurt your marriage and destroy any sense of trust between you and your spouse.
Venting should only be done in a private setting. The purpose is to set your feelings out for assessment so that you can view them more impersonally and evaluate them. This is an important part of the process of communicating with loved ones, setting and readjusting goals, and making necessary changes.
On the other hand, interactions via social media are either public to start with or can easily become so. Any sort of social media post has the potential to reach a much wider audience than you may have intended in a very short time. Once you've put something out there, you have no way of controlling where it might be sent by even well-meaning friends. A good rule of thumb is, "Don't post anything on social media that you wouldn't want to see published."
So, if you need to vent, I strongly recommend that you take it offline. Marital frustrations are something you should discuss first and foremost with your spouse, not a circle of friends and acquaintances. And if you need more help dealing with your marital problems, don't hesitate to contact our counseling department at 855-771-HELP (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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