Q: My 27-year-old son is getting his master's degree in business. I don't know if it's the advanced degree, the business people he's around, or some stage he is going through, but he no longer seems like my son. Jack grew up in a politically liberal household, and for most of his life we shared a common outlook. He was always such a gentle, kind boy. He and I could talk about anything. But in the last three years, he has not only become politically conservative, he makes jokes about "tree huggers," gays, and the homeless. He now talks to me like I'm a child and tries to make me "wake up and be realistic." This has been deeply distressing to me. I feel almost no bond with him. I can't believe this is the same child I loved so much. I haven't the slightest idea how to handle this.
--Mary in Detroit

It's possible that your son is going through a stage, as he did when he was a teenager-especially in his need to "straighten you out." But given his age, his political views might be sincere and remain essentially the same throughout his life. Regardless of how this plays out, your son is not merely a set of beliefs and attitudes. The bond you felt with him is real and transcends this shift in his political views.

As his mother, you have seen Jack go through many outward changes from the time he was born. If as a 2-year-old he constantly opposed you and sometimes said, "I hate you, Mommy. I wish you weren't my Mommy," you didn't question the spiritual connection you had with him or your faith that his life and destiny were in God's hands. And even though it is much more difficult now, you must not allow yourself to question these truths. As a parent, it is your role to remember who he is. God has shown you clearly what he is at heart, and his political beliefs, no matter how abhorrent and unspiritual you may consider them, are irrelevant to this vision.

Arguing with him or defending your position in any way probably accomplishes nothing but more separation. This doesn't mean that you must change what you believe, but it's not an act of integrity or self-respect for you to assert your position whenever you sense a disagreement. Listen to him deeply and respectfully and try to understand exactly what he believes. Look closely enough to be sure this is not just something he is saying in order to get a reaction from you. Far more important than his opinions is whether he actually treats the people he encounters unfairly. If he does, this is a mistake for which you must forgive him.

He is still in his 20s, and God knows how and when to reach his heart. Correcting him is no longer your function, but believing in his basic goodness is.

We also recommend that you pay close attention to how you think about Jack when he crosses your mind. Don't hold him in his mistakes or dwell on the things that he has said. Rather, hold him in your love and unshakeable faith. When he comes to your mind, surround him in light, hold him in your heart, and see God's blessing upon his every effort and God's sure guidance in his life. You cannot change his beliefs any more than he can change yours, but you can choose to cherish the unbreakable bond you do have with him.

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