DEAR AMY: I need your advice on how to deal with my son, whom I believe spends far too much time on the computer.
I feel embarrassed because I don't know how to help him change his behavior.
He is 20 years old, living with me, going to school, looking for a job in a very tough economy (in our town, more than 25 percent of young adults are unemployed), volunteering one day a week for a great nonprofit, etc.
He's bright and kind. But I can't shake the feeling that spending eight or more hours a day chatting and gaming and reading online is way too much.
It's not that he won't or can't engage. He is happy to shop and cook and does his share of chores. One part of me says that if I knit and run and read in my spare time, why can't he do what he chooses?
Aside from wanting him to search harder for a job and perhaps up his volunteer hours, it may be that I just don't understand why he enjoys so much time gaming, chatting, etc.
What should I do about this?
— Wondering Mom
DEAR MOM: Your son lives some of his life online, and even though that's not how you spend your time, there's nothing "wrong" with it.
Your son is probably reading sites for news, doing research for school, watching last night's episode of "The Daily Show," checking sports scores, writing his school papers, looking for work, gaming with far-flung competitors and Facebooking friends and colleagues.
If you see all of his computer time as taking the place of watching TV, reading books and magazines, playing chess and talking by phone, then his screen time might not seem like too much.
He sounds like a nice young man. Unless you feel he is withdrawn, depressed, obsessed with gaming or missing out on real-world connections, you should trust that he will learn to moderate his own activities.
DEAR AMY: I am widowed, have lost my job through downsizing, will be turning 65 in a few months and I'm currently updating my will. My savings took a huge hit with the economic downturn.
I have two daughters, ages 28 and 30.
The older one has required many tens of thousands of dollars in psychotherapy and financial support, and she also dropped out of private colleges twice in her late teens, costing me at least another $25,000 in nonrefundable tuition.
She has made progress and now has a job, and pays for her own rent, food, utilities, gas and clothing, while I cover her health insurance.
Her sister has never brought this up, but I'm wondering whether it's really fair to divide my assets equally between them in my will, which is the way it stands now.
There may be an opportunity or need in the future to balance things out a little bit — though I will never be able to give her as much as her sister has needed.
What do you recommend? I love them both and want to do what's right for all concerned, before and after I die.
— Concerned Mom
DEAR MOM: You should focus your energies on seeing to your own immediate and long-term financial needs. Your needier daughter should be transitioning into taking total responsibility for her bills — with a long-term goal of paying back some of the extra money you've given to her over the years so you can fund your retirement.
In general, I believe in splitting an estate equally between children, understanding that over time some kids need and get more in varying degrees. People with medical or other problems soak up more money, while other children benefit in other less material ways.
This is all a reflection of life's basic balance, which isn't always reflected by the balance sheet's bottom line.
DEAR AMY: "Distressed Grandmother" wondered why the grandkids don't call more often.
My wife faced the same frustration. The problem was solved when she got texting on her phone and signed up for Facebook.
They now communicate with her regularly. It was just a matter of finding the types of communication that the kids are comfortable with.
— Proud Pop
DEAR PROUD: Fantastic advice. Thank you.
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