Q: We've just discovered that our 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend have been sexually active for a few months. That's not how we raised her and we're very concerned. How can we address this issue without alienating our girl?
Jim: Your question shows that your daughter has caring and sensitive parents who understand that blowing up or lecturing is generally counterproductive. That goes a long way -- as does a loving and thoughtful response. Feeling upset and disappointed is normal in situations like this, so I'd encourage you to pray and think before you react.
After you've sorted through these emotions, arrange a time to sit down and talk with your daughter. The goal is to contain the damage and encourage more healthy and rational decisions without driving a wedge into the parent-child relationship. Ask open-ended questions ("Can you tell me about your relationship with _____?") instead of judgmental ones ("How could you have done this?"). Then listen. Your response should put the emphasis on the big picture and explain how premarital sexual activity jeopardizes your daughter's future goals and dreams. While you'll want to take corrective action and consider appropriate consequences, avoid tearing down your teen's sense of self-worth with comments like, "I am so ashamed of you!"
On the pragmatic side, it's wise to get medical attention (i.e., testing for STIs and even pregnancy) from a provider who supports your values. You may also need to have a candid conversation with your daughter's boyfriend -- and his parents -- while reassessing and restructuring future contact.
Finally, consider getting your teen (and yourselves) into counseling. A wise therapist may be able to talk more candidly about sexuality and encourage future abstinence. Sexual activity may be a signal of more basic problems that need ongoing work. Our counseling team can help you get started; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: I have five kids. They all have chores in our home, and they all give me different problems about those chores. Help?!?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: As a family therapist, I've worked with households that have well-oiled chore systems and others with disastrous overrun homes. The main differences are found in the personalities, the relationships and the plan.
We all tend to fall into four distinct personality categories (although this is simply a starting point; personality is complex):
Talkers love a social and sensory rich environment. They often enjoy music while doing chores and would thrive on doing tasks as a group. Talkers bring fun and creative ideas for accomplishing chores.
Thinkers love structure, clarity and consistency. They see distinct task sequences and are most likely to complete chores without being asked or supervised. Thinkers can help create amazingly organized chore charts.
Leaders prefer to be in charge and may voice disagreement when they think a chore is pointless. But when motivated and humbly engaged, leaders can create momentum to conquer large tasks efficiently.
Peacemakers are relational, take their time and tend to procrastinate -- with chores and everything else. But peacemakers are the most likely of the personality types to just get chores done without complaining.
Incidentally, there are different interpretations of what "clean" looks like, so be clear with instructions like "clean your room."
Once you understand your kids' personality types, you can devise strategies for helping each of them complete their chores. And remember -- cleanliness doesn't make your house a healthy home, nor does it have to be "display-perfect." A key ingredient is grace toward one another as everyone learns to see chores as opportunities. Ultimately, the goal is a peaceful, fun and connected home that values service, humility and growth.
For more practical tips -- and a fun personality quiz -- visit 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.
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