Hi Dr. Meeker,
I am wondering if you can help put this situation into perspective. Our eighteen year-old son is acting so out of character. This young man has been on our worship team for seven years; very obedient and respectful, etc his whole life....met a girl from Germany.
He is currently over in Germany, visiting his (first) girlfriend's family. He was only going there for thirty days, now he is there for over sixty days. He failed to inform us of this. We are in shock that his behavior is so disrespectful~! They are upset that we asked for prayer on FB because we did not know what was going on.
His girlfriend keeps telling him that he doesn't have to listen to us since he is eighteen. I know that about the law, but it is so shocking since he has always been easy.
Wondering if there are ways to approach this so that we do not hurt our relationship with our son.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated~
First of all, it sounds like you have raised a terrific son if this is the first time that he has challenged you. So take a deep breath. It sounds to me like your son has fallen in love and his feelings are taking over. Since this is his first girlfriend, it's not uncommon for boys (even young men) to fall hard. And- he's probably listening to the advice of his girlfriend because he is in love. But there are a few things that you should do.
He is eighteen and you need to let him know that you respect him as a man, not a boy. He probably feels as though you want to control him and he's bucking that. This is normal and the best thing to do is to give him the sense that you are willing to give him some rein. Let him know that you understand and respect that he is in love. But you also need to tell him that he needs to communicate with you adult to adult because you will worry about him.
Second, putting a prayer need on Facebook is a big NO-NO! You need to honor his privacy. If you are having issues with him, those issues should stay between you and him. Putting something like this in FB is humiliating and makes him feel like a child and it breaches confidence. If you want prayer for him, go to a few close friends and ask for it but only go to ones who will honor confidences. I would apologize to him for posting something so private.
All communication should be through private phone calls or Skype. Avoid email or texting because too much can be misunderstood. When you do communicate, you need to do a lot of listening. Let him know that you really want to understand why he's staying over there so long. And also let him know that you really want to understand why he's acting so out of character. Reach out to him repeatedly with the intent of hearing what he has to say, not with the intent to straighten him out- this will only make him pull away.
Legally, he can stay as long as he wants. But from a family relationship standpoint, you need to still let him know that you love him, respect him and if he chooses to stay there he is fully responsible for making his way financially. You will not send him money.
This is a tough situation but I want to encourage you that if you and he have a solid foundation to your relationship, just stay the course and he will come around. You must be loving, patient and firm. Let him know that you are very disappointed that he doesn't want to tell you what's going on but he may be doing this because he's afraid that you will either not listen or reject him. I understand this because you disagree with him. So let him know that you will always be there for him and that you want to understand. Also- tell him that you want to get to know his girlfriend. Would he bring her to the States?
I guarantee that if you change some of the dynamics of your relationship with him and begin to treat him differently, he will respond differently. It's tough, but you can do it.