Ask Amy: Teen guest requires real supervision

May 5, 2014 

Dear Amy: Recently, I had a relative's teenage daughter come stay with me over a holiday weekend. She had been having issues with her parents and at school, so I thought this would give everyone a rest and a breather.

The teen is close to my older kids, and I thought they might be able to mentor and nurture her.

The entire weekend reminded me of the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."

I haven't had that much drama in my house since my own daughter was a teenager — and to top it off, my own kids gave her alcohol when I wasn't with them. I was truly disappointed.

I thought for sure that I had taught them to know better! When I tried to talk to them about it, they actually tried to defend it! They believe that it was better for them to buy her liquor and let her drink it supervised rather than with strangers. Seriously?

It took someone coming into my house and staying for two days to upset the balance of the household.

Now I'm at a loss to explain to my two adult (ages 24 and 22) children why this was a colossal mess-up. They are adults and should know better, right?

Can you please give me some guidance?

— Horrified

Dear Horrified: Your heart was in the right place, but your hubris seems to have overwhelmed your judgment.

You cannot take a troubled teenager into your house for a long weekend and "fix" her. You should only expect her to behave the way she usually behaves, only in a new environment that offers new ways to act out and new co-conspirators with whom to behave badly.

You should also not have left her under the supervision of two young adults who have no parenting experience and questionable judgment.

You don't need to continue to explain to your kids why what they did was wrong; unfortunately, many older adults also feel as they do about "supervised" underage drinking. This is why parents of teenagers need to be aware of the values and judgment of all of the people (parents as well as kids) their teens hang with.

Dear Amy: "Worried" was a busy grad student working on a crisis hotline who was feeling overwhelmed and depressed. I thought your advice to her was compassionate and correct: People who bring comfort also need comfort. I hope she takes your advice to see a therapist.

— Social worker

Dear Social Worker: Her life sounded draining and exhausting. Therapy would help her recharge her emotional batteries.


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