Q: I was pretty wild in my younger years. Now that my kids are teenagers, they're starting to ask about my past. Should I be completely open with them about things I regret?
Jim: We hear this question a lot — and it's an important one. In most cases of this nature, generally speaking "less is more." But the driving consideration should always be: "What's in the best interest of your child?"
While truthfulness and transparency are critical, the detail of any confession should be guided by several factors. You'll want to weigh not only your child's maturity but also his motivation.
Is he specifically requesting that you reveal personal information — as in, "Did you do drugs or steal or have sex when you were in high school?" If not, there's really no good reason to volunteer particulars. If he's trying to elicit facts about your past history, how is your story likely to be used? A rebellious teen might try stockpiling ammunition to be used against the authority figures in his life; if you think that's the case, proceed with caution.
On the other hand, if a child is sincerely reaching out for empathy and guidance for a personal struggle, it might help to reveal some of your own human weakness. This can be a unique teaching opportunity to share valuable wisdom drawn from real-life, hard-won experience. It's a time to humbly say: "I fell into that trap when I was young, and here's why I don't want to see you make the same mistake."
In bringing your personal failings out into the open, you can show a struggling teen exactly what it means to correct course and, through faith, redeem the errors of the past. This can add credibility to your warnings and positively impact your child's future in ways you can't possibly predict.
Q: I've only been married for a few months, and my wife and I are already arguing about chores — almost constantly! I suppose I'm the "neat freak," so I end up doing most of the work. How do we resolve this?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: You might be surprised that most newlyweds face this challenge. In fact, even seasoned married couples struggle with dividing household labor. It's a common issue because spouses usually have different definitions as to what constitutes "clean" — and varied assumptions as to who should do what based on their unique family backgrounds.
So, like any other marital concern, your first order of business is to talk it through. Both of you need to respectfully lay your assumptions, expectations and personal preferences out on the table. The goals for your discussion should be unity, understanding, a commitment to shared responsibility and a plan that's fair and equitable.
Next, together make a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be done — including the time required for each task. Then, each of you go over the list separately and indicate which of these you think are your responsibilities.
Come back together and compare the results. Where you agree, great. Where it's less clear, discuss which of you has a preference or is better-equipped to take on that task. As everything is "assigned," it's important to tally up the time requirement to ensure it's reasonably fair based on the overall demands on each of you. Keep in mind that this is a partnership and that you'll need to stay flexible, making occasional adjustments based on your changing circumstances.
Finally, remember the rewards. Tackling chores together eases the burden, and a cooperative system will leave you with more time for togetherness and more leisure for individual activities.
For more helpful tips, see FocusOnTheFamily.com/Marriage.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.