Q. I’m a teen and my parents don’t trust me. I’ve never gotten into any real trouble, and I don’t expect to. Am I being unreasonable asking them to lighten up a little?
A. It’s often very difficult for good parents—that is, parents who are used to taking excellent care of their kids and are involved with them—to transition from taking full responsibility to allowing their maturing children more responsibility for their own care and behavior.
Teens like you should by rights be allowed to step out and discover who they are and how they will live by trying out new behaviors and discovering their own likes and limits. It is sometimes very difficult for parents to step back and allow their teens to make their own mistakes. And of course, parents also have the right to set limits and keep their teens safe. Accepting your parents’ responsibility for you and your emerging responsibility for yourself is a real balancing act at times for all involved. Both you and your parents together have the responsibility to keep you safe and to help you mature, and your parents are likely to err on the side of caution, whereas you are more likely to err on the side of abandon. What a dilemma!
You can help your parents “lighten up a little” by expressing to them that you understand they still have a role to play in your life. Sit down with them for a frank discussion about what curfew you can both live with, for example, and be prepared to keep the curfew agreed on. Tell them where you would like to be more in charge of your own life, and answer any fears they might have about what you want. Listen to any objections, and try to negotiate a solution. Negotiation is an “I will do this if you will let me do that” approach that often fosters the sharing of responsibility. Although fostering a team approach with your parents is much harder than just feeling rebellious and hence withdrawing, it gives you the best chance for achieving what you want: parents who dare to give you more freedom because they trust that you can take care of yourself and keep yourself safe. Give it a try.
Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.
Q. How can I conserve more energy in my household?
A. Energy is a hot political and economic topic these days—it’s become patriotic to conserve energy. But examining energy usage only when the supply of imported oil is tight is a short-sighted approach for Christians—it ought to be a matter of stewardship.
Furthermore, your household electricity probably comes from a domestic coal, natural gas, or nuclear power source. Electrical demand quietly increased for the average household by almost 17 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the World Resources Institute.
For the most part, there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to saving energy. Eliminating pure waste—closing the door, adjusting the thermostat, turning off the lights and TV, and so forth could likely reduce your demand by 10 percent. The amount of energy wasted by North Americans is more than what half of the world’s population actually uses.
Since much of energy conservation is common sense, let’s look at what is new under the sun—technology. First, replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs immediately; they use 75 percent less electricity. Next, shut down that computer; leaving it on sleep mode overnight is equivalent to leaving the lights on.
Conversely, don’t forget the most primitive energy source—the sun. Hang your clothes in the back yard—it costs 50 cents for every hour you run the dryer ($50 -$100 per year!). In some places you can get most of your hot water via solar heating, which typically accounts for 10 percent of household energy use.
The most important thing is to recognize that virtually everything today uses electricity, and every little bit matters.
Dr. Matthew Stutz is assistant professor of environmental studies and earth science at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Q. Do souls immediately join their loved ones in heaven or do they “sleep” after death and are all awakened together at Christ’s return?
A. The Heidelberg Catechism affirms that the “soul will be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head” (Q&A 57). The cumulative force of biblical passages such as Luke 16:19-31, Luke 23:43, Philippians 1:23, and 1 Thessalonians 5:10 support this Reformed perspective on the afterlife.
In general, we should not speculate too much on heaven and the afterlife. Rather, as Christians, we trust in God’s grace and love, because “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8). The Bible consistently assures us that we will be with the Lord, and that is what really matters. Whatever heaven or the afterlife is like, we, and our loved ones, are in good hands.
Shiao Chong is campus minister at York University in Toronto.