Questions from readers

Parenting and relationships

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I love getting questions from readers about parenting and relationships. It is often difficult to specifically address situations because I don’t know the specific people involved, but it is possible to speak to the issues and themes in a more general way that will hopefully provide some help and guidance. The following are three recent questions from readers that I will address.

How to help your kids when they are struggling in college

Q: My son is in college. He can not motivate himself to finish his work. What should I do?

A: Part of the reason I imagine this is so difficult is that it makes you feel helpless. He’s not at home with you where you can at least monitor what he is doing and give him more direct guidance. He is on his own for the first time in his life and he is having to learn how to regulate his own behaviors. That is why there is so much acting out when kids go to college. There isn’t really a whole lot you can do. You can maintain contact with him and ask how he is doing and try to see if there is something going on that is distracting him. You can encourage him to see a therapist at his college. College is a bumpy ride for most of us. It certainly was for me. It’s all part of the education he is receiving. It’s not just the academics. He is learning to live on his own and take care of himself.

​Like father, like son: How to deal with bad habits that are rubbing off on your kids

Q: My son doesn’t want to do anything like clean his room or do chores, but he wants and expects everything. He sees this behavior in his father so this is what he knows. How do I break this cycle of being lazy and unmotivated?

A: Actions speak louder than words. It is hard when we act in a certain way as parents and then tell our kids not to act that way. This can happen with eating, electronics usage, manners, etc. I would start by talking about this with your partner just the two of you. How is your partner’s behavior a reflection of your relationship? How do you deal with your partner’s behavior? Kids often unconsciously act out what we as parents are not owning and dealing with ourselves. It happens to the best of us. Here’s a blog post that I wrote about changing habits.

Parenting differences and relationship problems

Q: How do we get on the same page with our parenting without destroying our marriage?

A: Parenting styles can be a huge source of conflict in relationships, especially when you have very different styles concerning certain issues. The goal isn’t that you have to think and feel the same way all of the time, but you do have to commit to talking about things behind closed doors, not in front of your kids. An easy trap to fall into is for you to get stuck in extreme roles and then to resent each other for it. A common example of this is when one person takes on the role of the enforcer and the other takes on the role of the good cop. Consistency is important as well. Our kids are always absorbing our behaviors and messages. That is why it is so important that you and your partner commit to talking through this stuff together and not in front of the kids. Here’s a blog post that I wrote about roles in relationships a couple of years ago.

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If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start – Relationship Reboot: Break free from the bad habits in your relationship.

David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old toy poodle.

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