Economics are making it necessary for many adult children to return home to live. Add to that the fact that legal emancipation has been lowered to an age when many young adults are still living at home, dependent upon their parents, and roles and rules can get pretty confusing. More than one eighteen-year-old has said to his or her parents, “I’m an adult now and it is up to me how I live my life.” That’s true, but only to a point, when you’re still sleeping in your childhood bed.
In order to avoid confusion after they move back in, you may want to apply the following before they unpack, or even at 12:01 AM on their 18th birthday, if you sense impending problems:
1. It is our house. We bought it, we paid for it, we keep it up and pay the bills. We are in charge. You are welcome here, as part of the family, not as a boarder who has no connection with us. We are still your parents. If it appears that you are not trying to make it on your own, we may set a time limit for your stay here.
2. We set the house rules. We won’t be unreasonable, but some things are non-negotiable.
Non-negotiables may include smoking, drinking or using drugs; making major changes in a room – such as wall paint; driving cars without permission; or expecting us to endorse a lifestyle that is contrary to our beliefs. Setting your own rules goes only so far, when you live in this house. We will not lend financial or moral support to a lifestyle that resembles a soap opera.
Negotiables are things like which of your friends we are willing to feed, and how often; who does what laundry; and the general running of the household. We have our way of doing things and we won’t be unreasonable, but we don’t plan to make major alterations in our routines without real need, or just because you are now a legal adult.
3. Be considerate . This is not a flop house and we may not have a maid, so leave kitchens and bathrooms clean; don’t take control of our electronics; refrain from disrepectful language, and don’t cause dissention among family members by a bad attitude. We expect to be told your schedule, and when you will or won’t be home, because we care for you and we don’t want to worry. In one way or another, relationships come with strings attached, so don’t confuse courtesy with control.
4. Contribute in some way. It’s only fair. We may not require rent from you (although we could) but we do expect you to contribute. Mow the lawn, do the laundry or vacuum. Get creative and find something that will help us all out. We’ll appreciate it and you will feel a little less like the dependent little kid who still lives at home. If you refuse to come up with things by your own initiative, we will give you some chores, just like we did years ago.
5. Leave when the arrangement doesn’t suit you. We love you and you are welcome to live here under our protection and provision, as long as you are responsible and cooperative. We are providing for you out of parental love, and your acceptance of our support obliges you to adhere to certain arrangements. Your age allows you to leave anytime you aren’t happy. If that happens, don’t stick around, making life miserable for everyone else, and don’t make it necessary to evict you.
It could be a triffic citation, or a felony, but you may be looking at charges against your child. The legal system can be confusing and intimidating, especially when you are in shock, and possibly even embarrassed.
It’s natural to feel alienated from the process since you don’t speak the legal language and professionals can appear to be cold and mechanical. Still, there are ways to deal with these realities, and turn the situation into a more positive and valuable learning experience, particularly for your child. Here are some suggestions from a probation officer:
1. Don’t panic or overreact. If you do, you probably won’t get all of the facts, nor will they be straight. It’s easy enough to shut down communication with a teenager, and right now you need to know what happened. Your child is most likely upset, either because he/she has been wrongly accused, or because they know they have done something wrong and have to face it. You will find out more if you control your reactions long enough to hear your child’s story, and it may take some gentle and patient prodding.
2. Address the issue of guilt or innocence. The bottom line for your child is, “Did you do it?” Don’t badger, but ask clear, concise and relevant questions. After you have the facts, decide if your child is admitting or denying the charge, then approach the matter from that stance. Naturally you should admit the truth, but not everyone who is accused is guilty.
It is not a good idea to deny charges that are true. Not only will it drag things out, doing so will suggest to your child that honesty is not the best policy and that the system is a game to be played and won, regardless of the morality involved. It is absolutely the wrong message to give a teenager.
3. Reassure your child. One complication that arises from an arrest is the child’s fear that he/she has destroyed your confidence, love and respect. Reassure them of your love and tell them (yes — tell them – don’t assume they know) that this situation will not change that bond, even though you may not be happy with their behavior.
4. Ask questions. By now you have already questioned your child, so when you deal with the professionals, don’t be afraid to ask some more. Feel free to call telephone numbers that are listed on the ticket, or the appointment letter, and ask about the upcoming hearing. If you can, speak to the officer your child will be seeing. Get a feeling for the process and find out what you need to do to prepare. When you do appear for the hearing, aks about anything you don’t understand. No one will think you’re foolish, or stupid. It’s easy for practitioners to forget what a shaking experience this is for most people. Remind them that this is new to you.
5. Don’t worry about what the neighbors will think. They probably aren’t aware anyway, since juvenile matters are generally not open to public scrutiny. Decide among family members what you will and won’t talk about outside the home, then stick to it. If you feel it is a situation you need to share in order to gain strength, or to help others, then by all means, do so.
6. Work with the authorities. Your relationship with any peace officer can make or break your child’s experience. First, agree with them regarding common goals, then cooperate. You can undermine their efforts to redirect your child or you can help each other enforce the limits imposed. But don’t abdicate your responsibility or your authority. You are still the primary care-giver. If, for some reason, a probation officer is assigned to your child and it isn’t working, ask to speak to a supervisor, and try to work things out. But be objective in your discussion. If you go in guns-a-blazing you may be considered a hot-head and the supervisor will automatically assume you are to blame for the breakdown, rather than taking a look at the officer’s conduct.
7. Approach the situation with optimism and faith, if possible. You don’t want your child to “get off the hook” for something he/she has done, but you do want them to learn something. Look for and encourage wisdom in the judge, the probation officer, and anyone else with whom your child will come into contact. This is not the last word in your child’s life, and you should expect things to get better.
People who are brought up to believe they are the center of the universe seem to have a hard time finding their place in the world.
A radio ad tells parents how important it is to talk to their children about drugs. In the conversation, a father timorously approaches his son, to have “the big drug talk,” only to find that the boy already knows all about them. The father’s attempt is obviously too late.
When Dad asks how the boy knows so much about drugs, he replies, nonchalantly, that he learned everything from his friends. The message of the ad is, of course, that he would have been better off hearing it from his dad, had Dad made the effort and done so in time. Throughout the dialogue between the two, it is obvious the son knows a whole lot more than Dad about drugs, and the implication is that it is probably knowledge born of experience or, at least, from direct observation.
It is true that the issues of substance abuse and morality in general should be adressed by parents, but they are not topics that can be covered in one well-timed chat. A parent cannot simply call Junior into the den, have a timid ten-minute conversation and expect it to prepare him for today’s world. Read the rest of this entry »
Several years ago a man came to the probation office to see me. He was in a twelve-step recovery program for substance abuse, and said we had some unfinished business from when he was on my caseload, three years earlier.
He apologized for how badly he had behaved and admitted that, at the time, he would go to any extremes to use alcohol and drugs and couldn’t have cared less about how he treated people, especially me, his probation officer. He wanted to beg my pardon and make right the wrongs he had done. He added that I was only one of many people he had to face. He also made it clear that his success in coming to grips with his past did not lie with my willingness to receive his apology, although that would be nice. The important thing in his recovery was to make the effort.
The fact is, I didn’t remember how he had behaved toward me. Oh, certainly I accepted his apology and was thrilled to praise him for his current efforts, but he was only one of an entire caseload, many of whom had been rude, had consistently lied to me or been manipulative. Probation officers eventually come to grips with the fact that it isn’t our fault and we try not to take it personally. Read the rest of this entry »
According to a “Mail Online” article of March 6, 2010, an 11 year old boy died of dehydration in a South London hospital due to neglect by hospital staff. The article states that, at one point, the boy was “so desperate for a drink that he rang police to beg for their help.” When the police responded, they were told the boy was fine.
The article ends with, “This week a task force called on nurses to sign a public pledge that they will treat everyone with compassion and dignity.” I find that interesting and, frankly, it makes me shake my head in wonder. Do they really think that will take care of any problems?
Among other things, it is possible that the staff is overworked or that there are severe administrative problems, in which case a pledge won’t address the real issues. But, more importantly, if any of those staff members don’t have a true enough grasp of compassion — enough that it demands expression in their behavior without a pledge - signing their names won’t accomplish anything. That’s because the ideas themselves may have no intrinsic meaning. How can you pledge to do something you don’t truly “get”?
On the other hand, those who do have a genuine grasp of compassion, and who sincerely respect the dignity of others, don’t need to sign a pledge. They will naturally demonstrate such virtues because they are essential to their character.
Surely it hasn’t been almost 40 years since I returned from Vietnam. Surely the intervening years didn’t disappear like smoke from a summer campfire. Surely the very real events of my youth haven’t already been relegated to the unreality of history. Surely not, yet I have in my hands a piece of paper that suggests otherwise. This week I received an invitation to another Red Cross Donut Dolly reunion.
The term “re-union” is particularly appropriate in this case because, as Red Cross recreation workers in a war zone, we were very much united in spirit and in purpose. We were a team. We were there for each other. We cared and we were welded together by a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could never be forgotten. Read the rest of this entry »
I think I was in college when I realized that some of my inner conflicts — you know, those little arguments we carry on within ourselves — were the conflicts my parents had with each other.
The Bud half of me would do something to embarrass or annoy the Esther half, and vice-versa, leaving me feeling I was wrong, no matter which “side” I chose. My parents’ disagreements had somehow been fused into one personality trait that was now mine, too. I was able to carry on the discord, all by myself. By default it had become necessary for me to try to solve their issues.
Maybe this is just another way to “inherit” family traits. Talk about genetic warfare …
We were sipping coffee in Starbuck’s when I noticed “Luis” etched into the surface of our table. Luis no doubt believed he was making a meaningful statement, but I suspect he didn’t think it through.
Besides the mark in the table, Luis left a more telling impression. He left evidence of someone who has no respect for other people’s property and who doesn’t analyze his own behavior. Had he done so, he might have realized such a temporal mark would, in the long run, mean nothing. It is not a positive legacy to willfully damage something, and leaving one’s name on an object that will, within a relatively short period of time, either be refinished or discarded as junk, does not impart immortality.
As far as I’m concerned, graffiti is the human equivalent of dogs marking tires and fire hydrants. For animals, it is a useful act based on instinct. For people, it’s senseless, wasteful and demeaning. Besides the inappropriateness of this particular act, however, I was struck by something else with regard to the general human need to be noticed and remembered. Read the rest of this entry »
I think our fixation on “self esteem” has affected the way probation officers approach the problem of crime and has even contributed to our lack of success.
The primary job of sworn peace officers, including probation, is to keep the community safe. Period. Assisting offenders is secondary to that mission. However, because we believe in treatment, we tend to think our primary objective is to transform and renew the nature of those on our caseloads. We assume that we must make offenders see themselves and their world differently before they can alter their antisocial conduct.
The truth is, in order to change how we feel, we must first change what we do, and the same applies to felons. Waiting until they “feel” different before we expect them to act differently usually doesn’t work. It’s too much like postponing a religious conversion until we feel worthy—it never comes about because it’s too difficult to accept grace when you feel so bad about yourself. Read the rest of this entry »
Economics are making it necessary for many...
It could be a triffic citation, or a felony,...
People who are brought up to believe they...
A radio ad tells parents how important it...
Several years ago a man came to the...
According to a "Mail Online" article of...
Surely it hasn't been almost 40 years since...