Q: I just found out that my 15-year-old son, who’s always been a great student and a well-behaved kid, has been using prescription painkillers and synthetic drugs he’s gotten from a classmate. My wife and I never thought we’d have to deal with this problem – what do we do?
Q: Around here, prom seems to have turned into a 24-hour-plus party. My daughter is begging to attend all the prom activities, because “everyone else is.” I think it’s too much partying and she should come home right after the dance – am I being overly protective?
A: When I was growing up in Southern California, my friends and I wanted to have an after-prom beach party to watch the sunrise. We never were able to negotiate that option! But the parents were able to arrange satisfying compromises.
Q: My son’s close friend is in a household where the parents are rarely home. He just seems very lonely, and is over at our house all the time. Is there a way for us to “parent” him without usurping his own parents’ roles?
Q: My kids are driving me crazy with their wardrobes. My son wants to wear baggy pants that fall off, and my daughter’s leggings look like they were painted on. How can I make them dress more modestly?
Q: I think my daughter is binge eating and purging. I’ve found empty packages of cookies and candy in her wastebasket, but her clothes are hanging on her. I’m afraid she has an eating disorder – what do I do?
Q: My ex-wife married a man who is a much tougher disciplinarian than I am. He isn’t abusive, but they tell me he yells and screams a lot. What is the best way for me to deal with this?
A: My mother’s warm heart led her to open our home twice in this way when I was young. As is frequently the case, these stays with our family were short-lived. It can be challenging to find the balance between compassion and societal concerns.
Q: My mother-in-law is a recovering alcoholic. She’s been sober a year. She is dying to baby-sit our newborn son, but I am a little nervous about leaving her alone with him. What if she falls off the wagon? How should I handle this?
A: Your concerns highlight the fact that recovery from addiction involves the entire family and not just one individual. Honesty and connectedness need to be a key part of your family’s relationship with your mother-in-law.
I am 17 and the oldest of five children. My parents treat me as their built-in baby-sitter every weekend. I never get a chance to make social plans because they are always busy with their friends and leaving me with my little brothers and sisters. Is it ever OK for me to say “no”?
Often, older children in large families have many responsibilities with regard to their siblings, but it seems your family system needs to find a balance so that every member has an opportunity for outside social engagements.