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I have a 17 year old daughter who dates a 19 year old boy who lives 70 miles away. She thinks she should be able to spend the night at his family's house whenever she visits because of the distance. Are we wrong to be against this. The boys sister and her boyfriend also live in this house with their baby. Our daughter says she sleeps in the boys bed while he sleeps on the couch. Any advice?


Maggie Macaulay Replied: Our children will push the limits. Our job as parents is to clearly set them. This response will address how to communicate your limits to your daughter as well as a few alternatives. Before talking with your daughter, be very clear on your feelings and the limits you wish to set. This is not about trusting your daughter, although she may use trust as a tactic in the conversation. Make sure that you and your spouse are united and clear. Build your confidence in your decision by practicing the words that you will use to communicate your limits. A helpful tool in setting limits is ACT, which stands for: 1. Acknowledge the Feelings or Wants 2. Communicate the Limit 3. Target Alternatives Using ACT, here are some ideas that you can use to guide your conversation with your daughter: 1. Acknowledge the Feelings or Wants: We know you care about each other and want to spend time together. It is difficult when the two of you live so far apart. We hear that you want to be safe by spending the night at his house rather than driving home late at night. 2. Communicate the Limit: Spending the night at his house does not work. 3. Target Alternatives: You can both spend the night here at our house. He is welcome to sleep in the den on the couch. Or you can spend the day together and be home by 9 PM. Another limit could be having their dates take place in your community rather than his. Keep the discussion about what you are comfortable with or ready for and not about trusting her. Keep it about what is in her best interest.
Posted On 2009-06-07 09:55:02
Judy Molland Replied: First, I am curious as to who is the head of household in this house where your daughter's boyfriend lives, along with his sister, her boyfriend, and their baby. Find out who is in charge at this house, who makes the rules, if it's OK for your daughter to spend the night, what the sleeping arrangements are, etc. This is as much about your daughter's safety as anything else. The other part of dealing with this is to clarify what your relationship with your daughter is. Presumably you don't object to her driving 70 miles to visit her boyfriend? Is your daughter still in high school? If so, she should be focusing on school rather than on her older boyfriend. And of course, you need to talk to your child about sexual relationships. I don't know what your conversations with her have been so far, but if she is having sex, make sure that she understands why she should not have unprotected sex. She won't want to talk about it, but she needs to hear that from you. Good luck!
Posted On 2009-06-05 19:05:54
Peter Hanfileti, MD Replied: This is a difficult decision, and one which I hope you are able to make in conjunction with your daughter. First, I think her age plays a significant role here, as 17 is a lot different than 14. What I mean is, in a few months or at most a year, she will be 18 and technically an adult. Her ability to act responsibly is not going to change just because she is another year older. So I would want to know what her track record has been as far as personal responsibility goes. I would not base your decision solely on this one issue but rather the overall context of what she has demonstrated to you so far. If she has made good decisions and has used her judgment wisely so far, it would make sense to negotiate a mutually acceptable rule. If not, you will have to make appropriate adjustments based on her level of maturity and not her age. Secondly, the business about sleeping on the couch is not relevant. The implication of your question is that sexual activity may take place between your daughter and her boyfriend. Preventing your daughter from sleeping over when she visits will certainly not prevent that from happening as there are numerous opportunities and other locations to be sure. I think you would be better served to focus on helping her to develop a level of trust, expand her personal responsibility, and build her knowledge about the consequences of pregnancy, contraceptive measures, etc., and emphasize the skills she will need moving forward into her 20's, rather than setting down rules that will only be enforceable for a very short time. Finally, communication is key. Make sure she knows what your concerns are, but at the same time acknowledge that the time is rapidly approaching when she will be totally responsible for herself, including the potential ongoing consequences of her actions today. You might do the following exercise with her: fast forward 5 years from now and compare what you foresee for her versus what she foresees for herself. Sometimes this simple practice run can be quite revealing. In addition, it can serve to further open the lines of communication between you two, especially if things have been strained recently regarding the staying overnight issue. Also remember that your daughter needs to hear some vote of confidence from you that she will be able to take care of herself in the future, even if there is not strong evidence of that fact right now. I hope my input has been helpful to you. Good luck!
Posted On 2009-06-04 22:50:55
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