Dear Ann Cannon • Our teenager has chosen not to go to church with us. Although it makes us sad, we respect that choice and do not force attendance. But it does bring a rift into our family, not only with missed time together, but also with this teenager’s attitude toward other church-related activities in our home. Thoughts for a more harmonious family life?
— Figuring it All Out
Dear Figuring it All Out • It’s always hard — even hurtful — when a child makes a decision that calls into question a parent’s core values. And when a teenager decides to stop going to church, that’s exactly what’s happening. This is always tough territory to navigate.
For what it’s worth, I do think you’re smart not to force attendance. Over the years I’ve observed that heavy-handed responses where church matters are concerned often backfire. You can, of course, express your desire that your teenager participate in church-related activities with you, but don’t let it become a point of contention and do be careful not to imply that you’ll love him or her more if he or she complies with your wishes.
You’re also right when you state that your teenager’s decision can cause a rift in the family dynamic, especially if said teenager becomes belligerent whenever the subject arises. Consider mitigating the problem by asking him or her to plan family activities that all of you will enjoy together. Furthermore, I think you can and should remind your teenager to show you and your decision to pursue a church life the same respect that you’re showing his or her decision not to participate.
Hang in there.
Dear Ann Cannon • I have a friend who has given me some really nice gifts. But I’ve noticed lately that she expects me to agree with her on everything and when I don’t, she’ll reference the gifts. What should I do?
— Buying My Friendship
Dear Buying My Friendship • Yikes! What an uncomfortable position to be in!
The first thing you might consider is this: How much does your friendship with this person really mean to you? Sometimes, without realizing how and why it has happened, we find ourselves involved in relationships that aren’t particularly fulfilling or even healthy. I’m assuming you don’t ask for or expect this friend to give you expensive gifts. So what is it that you’re actually getting from the relationship instead?
If you determine that the friendship is a meaningful one in spite of the sense of obligation this person is attempting to cultivate in you, then either ignore her when she references the expensive gifts or (and I confess this would be hard for me to do) gently ask her why she keeps bringing them up. Either way, you should never feel like you have to agree with her (or anybody else) when you don’t. No one likes to feel that another person is trying to control them.
If, on the other hand, you decide that the friendship is too lopsided and doesn’t nourish you, feel free to make yourself less available for a while or even permanently if you need to.