Q: Last week our son headed off for his first year at college. He wants to pledge to a fraternity and has asked for our input. I've only seen negative things about fraternities (movies, etc.). What do you think we should tell our son?
Jim: There are several factors to consider. Admittedly, some fraternities resemble "Animal House," but that's not always the case. Some groups are primarily social in nature; others are for students who share similar interests or are studying the same academic disciplines. There are ethnically and linguistically based fraternities, service-oriented groups and even some whose purposes are primarily spiritual. So, your son should first identify what type of fraternity he's hoping to join.
Unfortunately, many fraternities do have reputations for wild behavior and crazy parties. And by nature, fraternity groups can wield significant peer-group power -- positive or negative. This can have a huge impact on an impressionable freshman living away from home for the first time. Furthermore, some universities are known for being "party schools," so it's worth evaluating the overall atmosphere on campus. I'd suggest having a candid discussion with your son to determine what he knows at this point about the fraternity climate at the college and the specific group(s) he is considering.
Meanwhile, consider your son's character. Is he firmly grounded in his beliefs? Does he know his own mind, or is he easily influenced by others? I'd take it as a good sign that he has asked for your input. If you feel that he lacks the maturity to handle a fraternity at this point, encourage him to look for connection elsewhere. Point him toward other academic, social and faith-based groups on campus or through nearby churches.
Finally, I'd like to mention Focus on the Family's online outreach to college students and single adults -- find out more at Boundless.org.
Q: How can my husband engage with our kids? He wants to have a better relationship with them, but it's something he struggles with sometimes.
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Your husband is already on the right track by expressing the desire to engage with your children. Kids tend to respond to genuine attempts to connect.
A great first step can be as simple as an authentic smile. People of all ages -- and especially children -- respond to genuinely curious, loving and playful smiles. From there, he can try to learn or do something with the kids that they are interested in, such as music, sports, cooking or reading. The key to connecting with each child is to become a student of who they are and what makes them tick.
It's important to invest time in just listening and being present with each child. We all gain trust and connection when we feel listened to. This won't happen overnight, particularly if Dad's schedule hasn't allowed him to be around much or he hasn't exhibited much interest in the past. But with patience and intentionality, he can show each of the kids that he values them as individuals and wants to build an interactive relationship with them.
Dad can (and should) be playful and adventurous. He can plan a fun adventure with all the kids or take an afternoon off to just play. He could also rotate time with the kids cooking or baking for the family or having one-on-one ice cream outings for focused conversation.
In all of this, the goal is to build relational momentum. In other words, the more Dad consistently does the small things to invest in the relationship, the more trust, opportunities for conversation, and deeper closeness he will experience with his kids. We have lots of other tips and resources for fathers at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting.
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.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.