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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Semi-Adult Children Who Desperately Need Guidance

otto-warmbierTwo young men in their twenties have recently hit international news headlines and it’s not for helping little old ladies across the street. Though vastly different, their stories are similar in their tragic nature. Two men on the cusp of adulthood, their futures cut short through the poor choices executed.

Now, as a parent of four who are in their late teens and early twenties and adopted from Russia as preteens, I understand the challenge of guiding those who wish for no guidance and no input. Mothers and fathers, you must insert yourself. You must pop up every time the kids turn the corner. You must surround them with decent opportunities, positive friends, moralistic movies even if in the slightest and most subtle nature. This is real life and the decisions that they are making now in terms of friends and future occur repeatedly, yet in a very real sense, only once.

One wrong acquaintance can affect a son’s or daughter’s future forever. One skirting of the law can land them smack in jail with more Otto-Warmbier-North-Koreahardened individuals.

Not cool.

Yet, I find many parents, in an effort to give the offspring more independence, letting them go their own way. Not meddling. Not interfering. Letting them find themselves.

I get that. But kids even in their twenties or thirties might require what has disappeared over the decades: a chat sitting on the front porch, or a talk around the dining room table. Alas, families do not converse or even dine together when everyone is busy on electronics and wisdom-filled parents or grandparents do not pause on front porches in order to enjoy a mid-summer night’s breeze.

WarmbierIt’s with sadness that we heard of Otto Warmbier, tourist to North Korea and imprisoned for stealing a propagandistic banner. None of us know much of this University of Virginia economics student hailing from Ohio and what possessed him to travel as a 21-year-old to such a repressive regime of a country. Not to mention how anyone should be briefed regarding the consideration of any activity abroad even approximating the illegal. After being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, he ends up in a vegetative coma state one year later and his body is shipped home to die within a matter of days.

Sad, so sad.

Are we going to blame the parents? Of course not.

Yet, do others of us wonder if our words today could prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future with our own kids? Of course.

History tends to repeat itself. American college kids used to be arrested decades ago in Russia.

Now northern Virginia teens and twenties travel to aid and abet ISIS, such as 17-year-old Ali Shukri Amin who helped another teenteen-sentenced travel to Syria to join Islamic State and provided other aid to the militant group. All while living in the shadow of our nation’s capital. All while parents probably thought he was playing video games on his phone or computer-? He was sentenced a couple of years ago, followed by a 27-year-old last week.

jamalA federal jury convicted Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 27, of providing material support to ISIS, traveling in a roundabout fashion to Syria and using his college criminal justice studies to employ encrypted devices and applications in communicating with and joining terrorists. This was a young man who “quit his job, sold his car, closed online accounts, and did not tell his family he was leaving to join ISIS”.

Understandable. This is not like announcing your impending engagement or promotion at work.

It’s hard to influence your teens or twenties these days. I know that. But we have to try to avert life-threatening decisions whenever possible.

It begins by talking, by making a human connection through the sharing of life experience, wisdom, humor and love. It’s worth a try.

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