General Question

tranquilsea's avatar

Have you been, or are you, a parent to teenagers? Need some input on this fairly age-old problem.

Asked by tranquilsea (17238 points ) September 6th, 2012

My hubby woke up this morning to the front door wide open and our playstation gone (nothing else though). He went downstairs to see if the playstation was downstairs and found a girl in our 17 year old son’s bed.

This girl is a friend of my son’s. I’ve spoken with her and she’s spent a great deal of time at my house (not like this though). From what I understand she’s bashing heads with her mom big time and she often takes off out of the house and just sits over at the local elementary school ALL NIGHT. My son has, in the past, gone over and sat with her until she’s calm and then walked her home but lately the fights with her mom have become violent. Which is why she ended up at my house last night.

I’ve told my son that I need to talk to her because I’m involved now. I certainly don’t want her wandering the streets all night when she fights with her mom. But I also know that the two of them have feelings for one another which puts us is a very difficult position. I know I’m going to have to talk to her mom too. That’s going to be freaking hard!

Any advice?

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30 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I would forget the mother. Sit the girl and your son down and talk with them. Explain the laws and let them see you’re concerned about them.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I don’t know how old the girl is or where you live but in my state, NY, a person under the age of 17 is not legally able to give consent. Depending upon the age difference your son could be charged with a sex offense – or Rape.

Check the laws in your area. The girl’s parents can easily start the ball rolling by calling the police one time and then your son’s life is over. Assistant DAs love these types of cases. Why? Not for justice but because all they need to win are 2 birth certificates and the admission from the kids that they fooled around. A win is a notch on their belt and proof that they are hard on sex offenders. They get public exposure for very little work.

If the girl is of legal age, that is different story. I’ll let someone else answer.

Shippy's avatar

Your son sounds like such an amazing supportive guy at least she has him to talk to. If you speak to the mom how consistent would any change be on her part? This family sounds like they need professional care and intervention. Not sure how it works where you are, could you contact social welfare systems? so that they can deal with it?. Plus monitor progress and adherence to certain prescriptions made.You could ask to be anonymous I am sure? At least to the family.

In regards to your home and how it is run, just remind both that although things are emotional at the moment, you expect certain behaviors. For example sharing a bed will not occur in your home. (Unless you feel OK with it). Plus regular hours of sleep are kept, and a routine. Drama has a way of spilling over and you I am sure want to keep your own family and household operating in a sane fashion. Where did the play-station go?

tranquilsea's avatar

We’re in Canada and our laws regarding statutory rape are quite different than in the States. I’m not worried about that. They are both 17.

I just talked with them both and the girl is closed up about what is going on with her and her mom but I know she’s spoken with my son about it which is why I know the fights have spilled over into violence lately.

I’m trying to gain her trust currently. If I can then I’ll steer her to therapy.

I don’t want her walking the streets all night.

janbb's avatar

Are you more concerned about helping her with her problems or more concerned that she and your son may be involved sexually? Those are two separate issues and each are worthy of consideration.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

In addition to what @janbb posted, what about the theft and leaving the front door open? Those would be my immediate concerns, while the bigger picture is more important.

wundayatta's avatar

What you want; what society wants; what is legal; and what is best are probably all different things.

If this girl is 17 and her Mom is treating her violently, it is probably best to get her out of her home situation. I’ve skipped over trying to fix her situation at home because I think that is unlikely to succeed, but maybe I should more on that fast.

Assuming she has to go, where should she go? Should she go to your house? That would put a lot of pressure on both you and your son. If they lived together, they would almost certainly get sexually involved, unless they both have powerful beliefs that that is an inappropriate thing. It would be like they became a couple living under your roof.

That’s not necessarily bad, but it seems to me it would be difficult. You’d have to negotiate new rules, at the very least.

She might also find another place to live, either in her own apartment, or in a home for teen girls. Either one could be problematic. I suspect the healthiest situation would be for her to live with you.

Whether you want that or not, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want that. But then there are your son’s feelings to think about. If she goes elsewhere, he probably goes with her—not moving out, but just spending a lot of time wherever she is. He might see your refusal to shelter her as a rejection of him. Depends on your relationship with him, which I know nothing about.

Dealing with her may not be as hard as you fear. If you offer for her to live with you for a while, until things calm down, she may be relieved.

Look. I’m just thinking aloud about possibilities. Given my thinking, you can see that it seems like my instinct is that the best option if for her to move in with you. But that’s just one story. I don’t know what you want or are prepared for. I don’t know the other players in the game. But I feel that you offer this girl the most stability she is likely to get and if you can offer her that stability without disrupting your life too much, it would be a helpful thing to do.

Gack! If I were you, I would hate getting this opinion. I wouldn’t want to take this on. But I don’t know what I would do in those circumstances. Sometimes life makes us do things we never thought we’d ever do.

I wish you luck. I feel like you are in a strong position, as is your son. I feel bad for the girl and her mother. I wish you the best.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Who said anything sexual happened? Did I miss something? I did not read in the OP that he was boinking her while trying to keep her safe from the street; that would give different meaning to trying to “comfort her” would it not? I see the slippery slope he is on but his effort is commendable.

nikipedia's avatar

I am not a parent of anything (other than some tomato plants) so I don’t know how helpful this will be. I think a lot depends on the level of crazy the mother is experiencing. If she is not ok with her daughter staying with you, unfortunately there is nothing you can do for this poor girl until she turns 18.

But if the mother acknowledges that the situation at home is untenable, I think it would be very kind, and in everyone’s best interest, to offer your home as a temporary solution for both of them.

That said, is there a guest room she can stay in?

tranquilsea's avatar

Ok, for all of you who have concentrated on the possibility of sexual contact between the two of them put that out of your mind. That is not what is going on here. AND that is not my primary concern although its a small concern. I am very concerned that this young lady has been walking the streets all night to get away from her mom. My son has gone out and tracked her down numerous times just to make sure she’s safe. Just a couple of weeks ago he left work because she texted him that she’d just been pushed down the stairs.

I told her that if her choice was walking the streets past 11pm or coming to our place then I want her to pick our place. We’ll find a place for her to sleep where she is not with my son. My son is hands off as he is very concerned about her situation and is not dickish enough to take advantage of her.

I’ll only talk to her mom if she agrees that I should. I don’t want to cause more problems between her and her mother.

Mostly, I’m afraid of scaring her off because she has a distrust of adults and she clearly needs a lot of help right now.

tranquilsea's avatar

Oh and the playstation was downstairs…not stolen: just moved.

zenvelo's avatar

Okay, so the primary concern is her safety. Back to a previous question: are you willing and able to give her shelter? If yes, it makes things a bit easier.

Either way, child protective services needs to be involved, so that the mother can be kept separate from the child and the authorities can oversee an alternative living arrangement. She needs to be out of the house if possible, and the mother needs to know the authorities are watching.

If you can represent the child with the authorities, it will be considered as more than just a spat between mother and daughter.

Kudos to your son for helping her.

captainsmooth's avatar

Sounds like your son is a great guy. Kudos to his parents!

His friend needs some help, some support and some unconditional love. Sounds like you guys are going to be helping her get through this nonsense with her mother.

janbb's avatar

Thanks for the clarification. Ican certainly understand your and your son’s concerned. In the States, I believe you would have a legal responsibility to report the suspicions of child abuse to the social services; don’t know if that is true in Canada. And I realize that is not always the best route to take. Maybe you can talk to her about coming to live with you for a while but I do think the mother’s permission would have to be obtained.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

When I was growing up my mom often would have a friends of my siblings or mine move in for the reasons similar to your situation. Two were abusive issues.
My mom would make sure they did their homework and she always had room at the table for one more person to eat.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have been in a situation similar to this. I called the county authorities and found a womens shelter near her home. We visited the place, and she ended up spending the night there several times. They even offered a pick up service.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

While it is an age-old problem, every situation is different. Based upon the information provided so far, it sounds as if you are spot on. Being a 17 year-old can be hard enough. Throw in any other challenging factor, like not getting along with parent, and it can seem or be dramatic.

The only advice I can share is what our parents did in several situations like this. They took our friends in as needed who were provided a safe haven, were told that they need to adhere to house rules, and were given a confidential shoulder to cry on and receive advice. It seems as if you are already doing all of this.

Bellatrix's avatar

Firstly, haven’t you done a fabulous job of raising your son. What a great guy you have there.

Secondly, it sounds like you have already done as I would. Talk to the girl and try to get her to open up. If you know her well, and it sounds as though she has spent a lot of time at your place, and if you can, I would take her in. I would rather do that than have this young person on the street. You can tell the mum where she is but the girl’s safety (physical and mental) would be my primary concern.

It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk to your son about how vulnerable this young woman is likely to be just to give him some guidance on how to handle things.

Perhaps you can encourage the young woman to talk to a school/college counsellor and I would probably speak to them myself to see if there is anything you should do legally or just to help her.

augustlan's avatar

If you can’t get permission for her to stay with you indefinitely, you could just offer your home as a refuge. Tell her she can come any time she needs to, and sleep on your couch (or in the guestroom). You and your son sound like great people!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@tranquilsea : You’re doing a great job, but in my humble opinion (and yes, I have and had teenagers) this is not your responsibility. I used to live in a small apartment complex and could hear the neighbor beating her teenage son. Everyone in the complex could hear it. I was the only one with the guts to call the authorities. The result was the boy was removed from the abusive home, and the mother was arrested.

I’m not in your shoes. I don’t know if that’s the best answer in this case, but in my opinion, it’s not your responsibility to stand up to an abusive mother.

jca's avatar

I think what you’re doing is great and it’s wonderful that you feel a sense of responsibility and compassion for the girl. The same for your son. However, I think you should not discount the role of hormones in teenagers, and when things calm down and the opportunity arises, don’t be surprised (although you may never know) if something sexual goes down.

filmfann's avatar

Do you have an extra bedroom you can set up for her? That would be a wonderful solution.

Cruiser's avatar

I think your first task at hand is to address your son’s actions and decision making here. If it was my household, having a friend male or especially female spend the night without securing my approval was a breach of trust. You can commend his care and concern of his friends well being but it is not his decision to have people spending the night in your home without your permission. If you do decide to now have this talk with this girl beyond your house rules, you will be sucked into this conflict and with the information provided, I do not hold out hope your involvement will change much with this girls issues with her mom and you may find yourself with a new house guest.

susanc's avatar

First, this is an amazingly great convocation of good thinkers with great hearts. Go jellies!
Second, yes, I have helped raise teenagers (not my birth children)
and we often had kids staying with us who were not our own, and we adopted one of them in the long run.
Third, you are already doing everything right. Yes, you have to be the one who makes official rules and insists on them. The kids are doing exactly what they should be doing – girl has found the best person/s to help her; she is protecting herself and her mother; your boy is taking care of someone who can’t do it alone, and bringing her to you, because you can finish the job he started. So do what you know is right. Guest room! Guest room! Guest room! House rules, repeated as needed. And calm, slow, consistent trust-building. Congratulations.

bkcunningham's avatar

Are you prepared to keep her, her baggage and all the consequence that come with her and your 17 year old son indefinitely? I just keep thinking you need to know her mother’s side of this. I’d never take what a 17 year old told me in this situation as the Gospel. Life is terrible at home, but she is just sitting nonchalantly on your son’s bed playing video games? Something doesn’t sound right here.

I agree with @Cruiser about your son allowing her into your home, but that is another discussion.

jca's avatar

@zenvelo: Child Protective Services is probably not going to do much with a child who’s 17 and probably months away from 18. In NY State, 18 is the cutoff, and by the time any court action is started, the child ages out and then everything stops. Also, if the child is 17, the only way to control a child like that is to lock them up in an institution. A 17 year old is independent enough that they’re beyond controlling by authorities when on their own. I’d say if there’s domestic violence happening, call the cops to handle the immediate problem.

tranquilsea's avatar

Here in Canada, the cops won’t make her go home but they would deal with the alleged physical violence.

We have come to the decision to offer our place up as a safe temporary place with the LARGE caveats that we are informed when she is here and that the two of them are sleeping in separate parts of the house.

At some point I’ll need to talk to her mom but not before gaining a better sense of what is going on. I don’t want to make the situation worse but I also know how freaked out the mom must be when her daughter doesn’t show up all night. I want her to know that her daughter is safe when she’s here and I need to let her know that I’m just trying to help by keeping her safe.

The hard part of talking to her school counsellors (something I asked her to do) is that I am sure she’d view that as a betrayal of some sort. She doesn’t trust them and I doubt she’d even talk to them.

tranquilsea's avatar

Thanks everyone for all your thoughts. This is a difficult situation.

zenvelo's avatar

@jca Or, they could help her become an emancipated minor. At least that way she gets out from the authority of her mother. Also, the child doesn’t need to be controlled, she needs a place where she can be safe.

But both the child and the OP need some authority intervention to keep from false charges being thrown at them.

jca's avatar

@zenvelo: Honestly, cases like this are usually passed over by the child protective authorities because by the time they get any ball rolling (court wise, as in emancipating the 17 year old) she’ll be 18 and it will no longer be an issue. When I said “control that child” I was referring to trying to get her not to leave her house in the middle of the night and stuff like that. I am aware she needs a safe place.

An alternative would be a domestic violence shelter.

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