Parents: I need some advice on 17-year-old girls

Reply Sat 12 Mar, 2005 12:41 am
I don't know how much you all know about me, but here goes anyway. I'm 20, I'm away from home at college. My younger sister is 17 and she's in her senior year of high school. Two years ago, she was living at home with both of my parents, and I was coming back to stay with them in the summers. We were a pretty nuclear family even with me away. Shortly after I started college though, my mother became sick due to complications with a surgery she had 10 years ago, wound up spending a year in the hospital and died at the end of 2003. The problem was, she was sort of the glue that held the family together. Me and my sister both went through rebellious teenage stages, and my dad is completely clueless on how to deal with teenagers. It was my mom who tended to make everyone see sense. As a result of not having her around anymore, my sister and my father can't live in the same house anymore, and she moved out to an apartment with one of her friends. She's still living about a block away from home, though. She doesn't really tell my dad what she's doing, but she's still pretty close to me. I get along with my dad, but I can't really live in the same house with him either, without a mediating force of some sort, so when I come home I stay with my sister. One or the other of them calls me at school about every other day (hooray for free long distance cell phones) but they hardly ever talk to each other.

My sister called me the other day and told me that she was having sex with a 24-year-old guy that she met in a coffee shop. She didn't tell me, but I strongly suspect she's lying about her age and claiming that she goes to the local university. She'll tell me things, but she won't really listen to me as an authority, and I know that she won't listen to my dad about anything. I want to make her see sense, but I don't want to get my dad involved, because I think he'll only make her mad and inspire her to do something even more stupid. I don't know anything about this guy except that he seems to have a decent job (that requires a degree of some sort), so I guess it could be sketchier... I need some advice on how to keep her from doing stupid things without alienating her trust. I really don't want her to screw herself up like this, but I can't think of a way to help her. Surely one of you parent-types has had to deal with something like this before?
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Reply Sat 12 Mar, 2005 06:07 am
rufio- Wow, that is rough. It appears that you have been thrown in the role of both mother and father to your sister.

I would talk to her, in a non-judgmental way. Give her all the information that you can, about STDs, AIDS, and avoiding a pregnancy. Many young girls, when they cannot relate to a father, will look for affection from older men.

Seventeen is very young for a girl to be on her own, with little guidance. If you are up to it, you would be doing her a great kindness by being the male figure in her life. She needs direction, and if your dad can't or won't give it, you would be doing her a great favor by being there for her.
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Reply Sat 12 Mar, 2005 07:59 am
Most certainly a tough situation.

I'm sorry about your mom's death. I can't imagine having faced my teen years without my mom.

Since you are still on good terms with your dad you might try approaching this as "your" problem - that you're worried about how the family is growing apart and how you would like to try to find a way to repair it.

I would also try to find out a bit more about the new guy she's seeing - is she just having sex with him or is it more of a real relationship? Would it be possible for your sister to come spend a weekend up at college with you?

Kudos to you for trying to be the new glue that holds your family together. Just keep in mind that you have your own life too and you have every right to enjoy it.
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Reply Sat 12 Mar, 2005 08:33 am
Rufio-- I really think so much of you for stepping up to the plate for your sister--and trying to fill the immense void your mom's absence has left.

This is so close to my heart. You are my son's age--your sister is my daughter's age--and we have the exact same family dynamic you describe. I feel like I know your mom's wishes--that your family remain close--but most importantly, you and your sister are there for one another. You are blessing your mother's heart by trying to help your sister.

The hardest thing a parent has to do, IMO, is let a child go. Your sister is at an age and in a situation, where there's not much more you can do. You can certainly tell her what you think--but keep in mind you don't want to say something that will cause her to pull away. (Which you realize.)

Meet him. Be around when he picks her up--"happen to be where they are..." Then, you can assess better. I know he's older than you--and it may feel like an odd thing--but you can only formulate an opinion with some first-hand knowledge. If he's in that kind of relationship with your sister--it's natural that you should be introduced, and he should afford you a little small talk. How he treats you is an indication of the value he has for her. You may feel better after meeting him--or you may have concrete concerns to discuss with her.

I don't think your sister will ever abandon you. If she knows you have her interests at heart, she'll forgive differences of opinion.

Act as though your mind is open. Actually, try to open your mind that this may not be as bad as you think it is. But DO talk about birth control, STDs, and life-altering stuff.

"I dare you to throw this up in my face later--but what kind of birth control do you have?" ask her in a way you're most comfortable with. "He should have the 'protection', but let's go get you some in case he's an ass..." Go with her to pick some good rubbers out.

In the end, as parents find out, you can't control the RESULT (her choices), you can only control the level and quality of your effort. You are doing your part.

If she crashes and burns--and lots of teens do on their way to responsibility--your part is to be there to love her, while she learns her lesson. Its hard--but you can do it.

Your mom would be so proud of you for caring about your sister.

I'll never argue with you again.
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Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 12:06 pm
Pheonix - she knows about protection, and assured me that they're using it (pills and condoms both) - I'm mostly worried about the 7 years difference. I've got too many X chromosomes to be a male figure in anyone's life, but it's better than nothing, I suppose...

The main problem is that I'm not an expert here and she knows I'm not, and I know her doing this right now is asking for trouble, but I don't think she respects my opinion here enough to actually listen to me in this case. She's always had this symptom of being the younger sibling where she wants to do everything first and feel more "adult". She listens to her close friends, but they're all the same age and they don't see a problem. I see where they're coming from though, since when I was their age, I had a friend that was doing the same thing and I didn't think twice either. It's amazing how much wisdom you get in 3 years, if you can call it that.

Boomerang - he's worried about the family breaking up too - in fact a lot of our close relatives have been trying to keep in closer touch with us. But he's not really able to fix things any more than she is. They both act like children when they're around each other.

From what she said, she doesn't consider it a real monogamous relationship, and she's still going after other crushes on top of it. I'd love to bring my sister up to college, but it's on the other side of the country. Sad

Lash - thank you for the advice and encouragement. (Really. Smile) I want to try and meet him when I go back home for the spring (about a week from now) and actually get her to introduce us to check him out and also so that maybe she won't feel like I'm not being open about it (and maybe she won't feel the need to be secretive about these things for 3 months anymore). I know she's going to be 18, and she's old enough to make some of her own decisions, but she's also going through her last semester of high school and I don't think she needs additional stress now, especially if he turns out to be some weird creep. I know I haven't done as well in college since my mom passed away, and she's having to deal with applying to universities and taking APs and so forth too. I know that she probably needs to learn some lessons through experience, but I don't want her to screw up her future in the process. A lot of my friends in high school wound up seriously messing up with drugs and sex and dropping out and I don't want to see the same thing happen to her.

And please don't use this as a reason to never argue with me again. :wink: I know I'm wrong at least some of the time, no matter what.
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Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 02:36 pm
rufio- Embarrassed I don't know why I thought that you were her brother. Sorry for the mistake.

I am just wondering what is the age of consent in your state. I think that the thought of being thown into the slammer might give Romeo something to think about!
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Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 06:51 pm
Damn. My post doesn't give me away--but I was sure you were her brother, as well.

Probably something as lame as "rufio"--the name seems masculine. Amazed again at my pitiful sex assignments.

But, you're still great!
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cicerone imposter
Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 07:03 pm
rufio, A tough situation to be sure. Without any experience with a 17 year daughter myself, it seems that Phoenix would be the right person for wise advise on a2k. Otherwise, you might try your local social service agency or college counselor. You're in a tough spot, and you need outside help. Taking on the load by yourself at your young age and own responsibilities would be overwhelming - even for an older sibling. Good luck to you.
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Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 07:43 pm
Hi Rufio,
I'm sorry about the loss of your mother. I think it's great you are trying to be there for your sister. Here's a chart for age of sexual consent so you can look up your location.


Seventeen is very young to be out on her own. She's living with a friend, but young girls on their own aren't much better than one girl on her own, maybe worse...

I agree that you should try to meet the guy. I also think you should stay intouch with your sister as best you can although you're 20 and away at college and that's a lot to ask of you as well.

It's a tough situation. I wish there was a magic answer.
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Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2005 10:57 pm

All you can do is keep in touch and keep listening.

Your sister has launched herself into an adult life and even if your mother were still alive, your mother wouldn't be able to shove her back into the egg.

You indicate that she's still planning on college. Obviously, you support her. Show her that you support her. Sounds dumb, doesn't it. Most common sense sounds "dumb".

Is your father paying for this apartment? Does he know about the mid-twenties swain? Is he functioning as a parent or just quivering with his own loss?

Hold your dominion.
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Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2005 06:04 am
To add to the two above... i also thought rufio was her brother... maybe something to do with how she writes- she has that older-brother-looking-out-for-younger-sister vibe.
I think if she's launching herself into this with no apparent fore-warning then you're right to be worried... but i also think that even with your mom around she might not really want to listen right now. Your best option may be to not try to be the authorative figure... jus try to talk to her a lot so she feels like she can confide in case something goes wrong
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Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2005 05:56 pm
It's so sad that you had to lose your mother. I'd be willing to bet that some of your sister's rebellion was amplified by that fact.

I know what it's like to see a younger sibling turn out a little short of what you'd have liked to see. My sister is (hopefully!!) not having sex with an older man while lying about her age, thankfully. But she still does stuff I don't approve of. The only thing you can do is tell her your concerns, but leave it up to her to do what she wants with her life. Although she's technically a minor, she's at an age where she probably won't listen to authority or common sense. At least she uses condoms and birth control. Let's just hope that this guy is clean.

Has she told you why she lied about her age? I am uneasy about any relationship founded on a lie. If it gets serious, I wonder what it'd do to his trust for her when he found out. But again, this is a life lesson she has to learn, and although it's painful for you to watch, it's the only thing you can do at this point.
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Reply Wed 16 Mar, 2005 12:55 am
I admire your will to help your sister. It's something only a centered person would do.

Unfortunately I can only hope it all goes well. I'll send good wishes.
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Reply Wed 16 Mar, 2005 09:43 am
The one thing that kept me out of trouble at seventeen were my plans and dreams for the future. I had a boyfriend and all of that but my dreams and life goals kept me from making stupid mistakes. Talk up your sisters' plans for college. Don't ignore or dismiss the boyfriend but shift the focus and make college the most important thing.
Every young girl needs a big sister like you. Even if she doesn't appreciate you now, some day she will.
Best of luck to you both.
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Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2005 07:06 pm
wow i do have to say thats rough. I just turned 18 and what shes going through pretty much sounds like what i went through. I moved away from my divorced parents when i was 16. Leaving my older brother(crack head) my mom, and my best friend my little sister. I would give anything to have her back in my life, the way we used to be. I cant say ive lost a parent, but ive lost my whole family to stupidity. When i turned 17 i met a guy, he was 20 and was on his way to moving into the big city. Me hating life and my whole family for breaking apart, and changing i left. I left the comforts ive only ever known, and havent gone back. My sister followed shortly behind me at the age of 16. She moved in with her new boyfriend and her family. We barely talk, shes addicted to drugs. I hope your sister isnt doing anything silly like that. If sleeping with a 24 year old man is all she is doing, and hes not hurting her, i imagine shes doing fine. IM 18 now and i feel so grown up, and i know its not that easy for adults to believe but i havent had to borrow money i havent had to beg, ive always had food and a place to live. I know how to take care of myself. She has been through some rough times, her mom dieing was only the start. She doesnt need a big sister to preach and nag, (that scares them away) But perhaps she needs her sister as a friend a confidont someone to be there when he breaks her heart. You will never show her sense, us teenagers are to stubborn for that. Instead she needs yah. I hope i have been of some help.
Take Care
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Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2005 01:17 pm
Babes, that sounds harsh.
I have had several friends who have lost a parent or close relative.
Of course i say for this reason i can understand your families loss but never fully comprehend it. I wonder if perhaps you sister has a lot of your mums attributes (only a thought) and perhaps she reminds your father so much of your mum, maybe you both do, and human nature may mean is loss is so he still can't fully be strong for you both yet. It may be painful for your dad to feel that he can not be the glue inplace of your mum and has only after her passing fully realise to what extent he misses her. His attempts at doing the right thing with your sister 'seemed' to have driven her away, so he may feel he has lost his daughter also(many parents feel sad when children leave the nest) this maybe coupled with a sense of failure. Maybe they were both grieving so deeply still, while living together, their hurt manifested as outward anger or other strong emotions and they did not know how to deal with it and interact with each other. Sadly grief is on going longterm. I mean that each person in your family will have personal memories of your mum, and while grieving may feel no one fully understands how they feel, and how personal their grief is.
As for your sister seeing an older man, he may have a young mind. Your sister may be mentally ahead of herself and she sounds sensible and that the pill and condoms is someone not intending to get pregnant. I am sure she also may feel older than she is as she is living on her own. If it was my sister i'd find out what her future plans were, meet this guy(you might think crumbs they are perfect match! (they may have something in common), but go on a girls night FIRST just the two of you, dance, be merry then in the morning talk about how you were worried about your father. How u feel he relied on your mum and ask what happened to make her leave. If you know ...can it be resolved? Could you both cook for your dad, and talk about the great things about your mum together, just the three of you.
When a friend of my mums lost her son of 22, my mum insisted i kept going round to play(the house wasn't fun anymore and I didn't really understand why at 10), she would insist although it was hard to talk to the mum and dad that if she saw them in the village, she would go and talk to them about the whole family. She was sometimes met with positive smiles of coping and other times met with them near to tears. Often at first long silences. My mum would respectfully listen to whatever they wanted to say, or give a sympathetic smile.
My mum told me that after a passing, people will all show their respect, will all show sympathy. Long term, people forget and avoid the issue, mum had my older brother and said if any of us dies she would talk about us all the time. A long time later my mum's friend told me when i was about 16/17 that during that time, while my mum would walk cross the street to ask how they were doing - months after his passing, most people were still crossing the street to avoid the awkwardness.
She told me she always appreciated my mum and her actions greatly.

Perhaps deal with for family situation and the rest will fall into place.

take care, i really do feel for you, xxx
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