Q. Whenever my 15-year-old goes to his friend's house, his friend's parents take him out for expensive dinners and day trips. We can't afford to reciprocate in the same way. I'm afraid my son's getting the idea that it's okay to take without giving.
A. Where is this feeling coming from—you or your son? It's normal to feel bad about not being able to reciprocate, but be careful that you don't slip into "keeping up with the Joneses." Likewise, it's true that some kids fall victim to this problem, too. Be clear with your son about your financial limitations, but also make sure he knows that his friends are always welcome in your home. An invitation to a family dinner is one of the most valuable gifts you can give. And forget about breaking your bank account. Your only responsibility is to provide a warm, inclusive home for your son and his friends.
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.