Q: Our daughter -- our only child -- will be graduating from high school this spring and moving to another state to attend college. I'm having a difficult time adjusting to the idea that our influence as parents is almost finished. Is that a normal reaction?
Jim: It's not uncommon for moms and dads to think their parenting responsibilities are over once their kids move out. But that's not necessarily the case. I'm learning myself that the empty-nest years can offer some of our greatest moments of influence as a parent -- if we're ready.
The common scenario is that as teenagers strive for more and more independence, they're less inclined to listen to their parents' instruction. But then they leave home and reality hits. The young man or woman is suddenly confronted with budget constraints, job challenges and relationship pressures -- but no parental safety net. Many young adults (finally) turn back to Mom and Dad for guidance. What that presents for you is an opportunity to share the wisdom your child may have dismissed in high school.
However, there's a catch. Your child's willingness to listen largely depends on your relationship. If you have established a thriving connection, great. But if there are some areas where you realize you can improve, be honest and humble about admitting that to your daughter and work to build a friendship as adults.
In part, that means allowing your daughter to find her way without constantly rushing in to offer your advice before she asks for it. Stay connected, encourage her and let her know you're available. Then be patient -- and wait. She may seek you out in time, and you can experience a whole new level of connection and influence.
Meanwhile, I'd recommend that both you and your daughter check out Focus on the Family's outreach to young adults -- see Boundless.org.
Q: My wife and I have a close-knit circle of friends who we've known for years. However, we're starting to feel that something's missing -- like we've gotten stagnant with our usual connections. Do you have any advice for expanding our horizons and seeking out new friendships?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: You may have heard the old saying that if a man and woman are married long enough, they start to look like one another. I wouldn't necessarily say that's true, but I do think that most of us often look like the other couples we hang out with.
Being friends with people just like you may feel more comfortable, but you're depriving your marriage of a great chance to grow. It's easy to relate to someone in the same stage of life as you, or who has common interests. You can share the highs and lows of parenting, empathize with each other about career challenges, or compare favorite movies, music, and hobbies.
But I'd humbly suggest another perspective. There's tremendous value in spending time with people who are different from you. An older couple can share their years of wisdom with a younger couple and help them gain some long-term stability through the ups and downs of marriage. Younger couples can bring a sense of energy to the friendship, helping the "seasoned veterans" feel younger and more revived in their own relationship. Friendships with folks from different cultural backgrounds can be truly transformational.
You can add a deeper layer of richness to your marriage by seeking connections with other couples who see life from a different angle. Their perspective can challenge you to grow. It just might create the spark you need to strengthen your marriage for years to come -- and hopefully you'll do the same for them.
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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