Dear Family Coach: My 18-year-old son was in a terrible car accident a few years ago, and he received a large cash settlement. Since I am listed on his bank account, I can see how he is spending his money. I'm sick to learn that he is blowing it away on parties, pizza and T-shirts. I know it's his money, but is there anything I can do to preserve it for him until he can be more responsible with it? — Budget Mom
Dear Mom: There are two possible ways you can handle this situation. Both have merits and drawbacks. Weigh the options, and decide what is best for your son.
The first option is to let him do what he wants with his money. It might be painful to watch, but it is his money. He is an adult, and while he might not think like one, he is old enough to live alone, go off to war, marry, procreate and vote. Managing money should be something he is entitled to do for himself. You might make different choices. But he is the one who suffered the accident, and one could make the argument that he should be allowed to blow the money, too.
The second option is to try to take the money away until your son is older and more responsible. At 18, he may not have the foresight to know how important that money might be for his future. It could be a down payment on a house or tuition for graduate school or a way to get through an unforeseen emergency. I wouldn't go through legal channels to protect the money. I would try to have a calm conversation about it. Don't demand anything or belittle him. Try to talk him through how beneficial that money might be and ask him whether he would like some help saving all or some of it. He may be all too happy to hand some over. But if he isn't, revert to the first option.
Dear Family Coach: My 9-year-old son is an enormous sports fan. He worships a particular athlete. That player was recently in the news for assaulting his wife. There was even a video showing some of the abuse. Should I discuss this with him even though I know he will be absolutely crushed, or should I let it go? — Fan's Mom
Dear Mom: Discuss this immediately. If you don't tell your son about it, most likely some other child will. And when that happens, it will only be discussed in the schoolyard. You probably won't even know about it. Wouldn't you rather be part of the conversation?
It sure is disappointing when heroes fall. But the truth is all of our heroes are complex human beings. What we see on the television is only one small part of this player's character. Your son should know that. Take the time to examine the allegations. Answer his questions honestly but on an age-appropriate level. Also, discuss some theoretical questions, such as: If a player does something illegal or inappropriate, does it make him a bad person?
Consider talking to him about what qualities he might look for in a hero. Being good at sports might be important to him. But maybe suggest some values, such as honesty, kindness, helpfulness, courage, humility or selflessness. You might even help your son find some historical heroes who embodied those characteristics. His obsession with this player will most likely fizzle out sooner or later. Hopefully he will replace him with someone he has vetted more carefully.
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.