Preparing Kids for Leaving Home, Part 5 / Handling Things When the Plan Doesn’t Work

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One of the things that struck me last week when I talked about using the car, or taking trips away from home, is that what I suggested seemed so simple and easy. But what happens if older kids don’t abide by what is expected of them? What if they get arrested for driving under the influence or get in a car accident that was due to irresponsible behavior on their part? What if they don’t abide by curfews, or they use the car for purposes that were not intended? There are three things I wish to share with you.

First, if there is anything related to breaking the law, there are consequences built into those events. If someone has to go to court and pay a fine, maybe lose one’s license, or face higher car insurance premiums, there is no need to punish one’s child twice for the misdeed he or she has committed. No one wants to see any of the above happen to his or her children, but things like this can happen in family life.

Second, it would be good for parents to sit down with their kids and discuss being away from home and the use of the car. There are many other scenarios not as severe as the above that still require attention. Having a “What if?” discussion with your child ahead of time is not a bad idea. Anticipate some of the issues that could arise. Parents, have your child sit down with you and problem solve these situations, so that the result is an understanding among all of what happens if any freedoms are abused. This may be more relevant when kids are using a family car for going to work, visiting a friend, or going to a social activity.

Finally, it is important for parents to involve their older children in the problem-solving process. If this becomes a one-way issue of what the parent will do to the child if one abuses his or her freedom, this is not as helpful. Older children are not to be treated as peers. But at the same time, as kids get older, I often find that negotiation rather than dictation is the best way to resolve these issues.

I am not sure how helpful the above is, but sometimes it seems so easy to come up with formulas and guidelines without asking, “What if they aren’t observed?” Next week I will discuss the issue of when a child finishes high school and moves on to college or another career path.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you,

The unworthy +Paul


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