DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is a sophomore in college. She has had a boyfriend for the past two years. He sounds like a nice young man. My daughter has asked if she can bring him home for Thanksgiving. I like the idea, as it will give us a chance to meet him and get to know him. My concern is the ground rules.
Call my husband and me old-fashioned, but we do not believe my daughter should sleep in the same room as her boyfriend until they are married, no matter what they do when they are on their own. I don’t want to discourage her from inviting her boyfriend to visit, but I do need to make sure she is willing to follow the rules. At the same time, I don’t want her to think I am treating her like a baby. What should I say? -- Old School, Baltimore
DEAR OLD SCHOOL: Do not feel embarrassed about wanting to enforce your house rules. You have every right to expect your daughter to remember how you taught her to behave and to adhere to those expectations. Call her and tell her how excited you and your husband are for her and her boyfriend to visit. Give her a sense of any scheduled activities that you would like for them to attend. Then tell her where she will sleep and where her boyfriend will sleep. If she tries to resist, remind her that you and your husband do not condone sleeping together before marriage.
Be practical as well. Your daughter may not be as traditional in her values as you are. Whenever you can, have her tell you about her relationship, what she values and what she hopes for with this young man. When they are with you, be supportive and attentive. You don’t have to relax your rules, but you do need to listen carefully in order to best guide your daughter through this time of exploration and growing maturity.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter and her husband live in London. I am so worried about them. There have been multiple terrorist attacks there in the past couple of years, and I feel helpless as a parent. I want to protect my daughter, but she is so far away. Whenever something happens, I call and can’t always reach her because of the time difference. I have asked her to create an emergency plan with my wife and me so we know how to reach each other when bad things happen. My daughter thinks I’m being overbearing. How can I present this idea to her so she will reconsider? -- Plan in Place, Portland, Oregon
DEAR PLAN IN PLACE: It is understandable that you would be worried. You are not alone. One way to get your daughter to think more broadly is to include the safety of you and your wife in the scenario. It’s not just that you want to know that she and her husband are OK; you also want her to be able to check in on you. Distance does not have to mean disconnection. Why don’t you work up an emergency plan that you present to your daughter for consideration? Make sure it features arrangements for both sides of the pond.