A Homebody and a Christmas Tree

By Catherine Pearlman

November 25, 2017 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My son is strongly considering a college close to us so he can live at home. It's not a financial decision, as we have set aside enough money for dorms. My wife and I love our son, but we feel it would be best for him to experience college away from us. We are his crutch. How wrong or hurtful would it be to forbid him from living at home? — Nearly Empty Nesters

Dear Nesters: You are your son's crutch for a reason. For 18 years, you probably allowed him to settle in comfortably in your home without pushing him to his limits. When he balked about attending a birthday party, you probably let him to skip it. When he didn't want to attend sleep-away camp, you probably happily kept him at home. That's fine. But now, you can't expect him to be ready and prepared to fly the coop. You want to pull the crutch away from him without building up a safety net. That's not fair.

I think it's wonderful that you want your son to have the full college experience. For you that means living away from home, and having roommates and late-night parties. It means cooking his own meals or wandering into the cafeteria to brave the latest special. But for your son, it means going to class, learning and doing homework. He wants to study and maybe get a part-time job. He isn't into the scene, and quite frankly, it might even scare him. I don't see what's so terrible with that.

If your son doesn't want to live away from home, find out why. What's the concern? If it's something that could be adjusted, then do it. If not, allow him to room at home. However, let him know ahead of time what the rules of the house will be. Discuss your interest in him learning to live on his own. If he doesn't feel ready, actively work up to that in a few years by having him do his laundry, pay his bills and learn to cook the basics. Make sure he can drive and find his way using GPS. If he has a problem at school, tell him to solve it. Eventually, he will want to use his new skills out on his own.

Dear Family Coach: I identify as Jewish, but I'm not religious. My mom is Jewish, and my dad is Christian but atheist. Growing up, we celebrated all holidays just for the fun of it. My husband, who converted to Judaism when we married, is more observant. The kids and I would love to get a tree this year, but my husband firmly disagrees. Is there any way I can convince him we need a tree? — Treeless

Dear Treeless: You're probably not going to like my answer. If your spouse feels strongly about this one, I'd wave the white flag.

Here's the thing: I'm Jewish, and I love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the music. I love the cheer, the eggnog, the trees. I really do. But I also recognize that behind all the glitz, Christmas is technically devoted to the birth of Jesus Christ, a Christian devotee's Lord and savior. I'm guessing your husband takes a great deal of pride in his Jewish identity and wants your kids to understand that though Christmas is fun to behold, it's not their holiday. While it's not a particularly fun approach (in your eyes), it's a pretty admirable one. Being Jewish means something to him. And I'm guessing if you explain it to the kids, they'll fully understand.

Plus, we've still got Hanukkah. And that's eight crazy nights ...

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.

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