Dear Family Coach: My 14-year-old son usually attends camps for part of the summer, and then we take a family trip. But he announced he wants to do nothing this upcoming summer. Every camp I recommend, he rejects. I have to work, so I can't shuttle him here and there all summer. I think he will be bored doing nothing and will get into trouble. What can I do to steer him into camp? — Working Parent
Dear Working: I have to wonder what the reason is behind your son's desire to hang low and do nothing. Getting to the heart of the issue will probably help solve it. I would make sure your son isn't depressed or allowing anxiety to force him to opt out. Also, make sure he isn't having any social issues with the kids he typically spends time with over summer. Maybe he feels he needs some downtime to regroup after having a very programmed school year. Or maybe he simply wants to sit around and play video games with friends online. Regardless, start with a frank discussion. Ask open-ended questions, and listen carefully to his responses.
If, after problem-solving, your son still doesn't want to attend a summer program, work with him to find suitable alternatives. Maybe he would like to make some money working at a relative's business? Could he do some chores around the house before playing online to satisfy both your wishes? Or maybe he could volunteer at the local animal shelter. Could he ride the bus or use his bike to get around while you are at work? Sometimes, children's needs change, and parents have to change with them. It may not be the most convenient for you, but forcing him into a camp he hates won't work well, either.
Dear Family Coach: My kids often nag my wife and I about getting a dog. We have resisted because having a dog doesn't fit our schedule and lifestyle. We both work and travel. Having a dog doesn't seem possible, yet our kids continue to push the issue. How can we get them to stop nagging us? — No Dog Dad
Dear No Dog: There are several possible reasons why your children continue to nag. The most likely is that they really want a dog. I can't blame them. Dogs are pretty awesome. But I respect your very good reasons for not wanting one. That doesn't stop their desire to have one, though. Otherwise, they may continue to push the pet if you are sending mixed signals. Maybe you feel a bit guilty. Maybe you're somewhat torn on the issue. Maybe you're saying "no," but your facial expressions, tone or even other words say, "maybe." You need to send a clear and consistent message that there will be no dog.
A nice alternative to getting your own dog is adopting a neighbor's pet. Find a dog in your community that the kids love. Ask the owner if the kids could walk the dog or take care of it every once in a while. Maybe the owner travels and could use someone to watch Butch from time to time. Chances are, the owner will be thrilled with the help, and your kids will get their dog fix.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. 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.