Dear Family Coach: My daughter is a very mature and responsible 20-year-old. She lives at college, works part time and is involved in many community programs. Recently, she told me her boyfriend is a 31-year-old lawyer. I usually trust her judgment, but this boyfriend seems like another generation to me. How can I discourage this relationship to give her time to grow up? — Discouraged Dad
Dear Dad: Your baby isn't a baby anymore. While you may not like her choices, it sounds like she is well on the road to being an independent adult. In another year she will have her degree, a full-time job and the ability to do whatever she wishes. She will not be financially dependent on her parents and thus will not have to obey your wishes. This is a pretty tough nut to swallow, but it's where you are at.
This boyfriend might be significantly older, but that is only one factor to consider here. Parents often get hung up on age or religious affiliation when those should be minor considerations. Does her boyfriend treat her with respect and unabashed love? Is he a hard worker who is making sound financial decisions? Do he and your daughter share values and have similar ideologies on important life decisions? These are the factors that should be most important here. As they say, age is just a number. Don't get stuck on it.
The truth is there is nothing you can really do to discourage this relationship. Any wedge you try to plant between your daughter and her boyfriend will only put one between you and her. If it turns out she is neglecting her studies or he doesn't seem like such a great guy, then provide your daughter with the love and support she might need to walk away.
Dear Family Coach: I try very hard to get my kids to read books. I would prefer they read chapter books. But they seem to like to reading comic books ("Big Nate") and graphic novels ("Smile" and "The Baby-Sitters Club"). What's the best way to nudge them toward the more challenging chapter books? Or should I lay off as long as they are reading in general? — Bibliophile
Dear Bibliophile: Your kids are reading, right? That is more than half the battle. Don't panic if their book choices are a little more lowbrow than your preference. Pushing chapter books repeatedly is the quickest way to beat the love of reading right out of them.
Reading to learn and develop skills is certainly important. High reading ability is a predictor of future academic success. However, with all of the homework and reading logs kids are forced to complete, reading for pleasure takes a back seat. Some kids who might have enjoyed reading begin to despise it. They view it as an unwanted task rather than a joyful escape.
Be careful not to become a nag about reading. If you see your kids reading a comic, don't ask, "Why don't you read a chapter book?" Grab a book yourself, and snuggle up next to them for some quiet reading. Over time, your kids will likely find books that stretch their reading level. Take them to the library or the bookstore regularly. Keep books in the car or on the couch. Limit screen times, and they will be just fine.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.