Monday, June 9, 2008

Visiting Teen

“Hubby has agreed to have troubled 18yo nephew stay with us for 6 months at the request of his brother (boy's father). He will be coming from overseas. He has been involved in 3 car accidents which stemmed from alcohol and drugs (he was driving once) and has a history of party drug use. Argh! I don't think we need this as a family. This is the 3rd time that hubby's siblings have sent wayward offspring. I'm not convinced that this is going to be successful and I would hate to end up on bad terms with the boy or his mother and father.

After the other 2 times, hubby said, that's it, no more. Then he caves in again and agrees to this. I can't imagine this boy settling in here. He likes to party and have fun. And we'll have to be the ones that say 'no'. I'm also concerned about any
possible influence he may have on my teens.

The deal is done though. Now I need some guidance on what type of rules and boundaries to set down and how to spell it out to the boy.”


What a messy situation.

I’m not sure I believe in done deals, by the way. Until he gets on the plane, the whole thing can be canceled. Once he’s on your continent, he can always turn around and go back to his parents.

I’m also not too hot on rules and artificial boundaries. However, I do think it is critical that you know your own boundaries, and that you are able to clearly articulate them to him. For instance, will he have access to your vehicles? Do people have sleep schedules that need to be respected? Will he have his own space, privacy, and time on his own? If he’s working for you, what are the safety requirements?

The most important thing of all, I think, is this: does he want to come to stay with you?

What are his intentions? If he’s wanting to make changes in his life and he’s excited about staying with you, then it seems to me that it’s up to you to be clear about what, exactly, your expectations are. Is he a guest? A tenant? An employee? Is he paying his way by working for you? Are you hosting him? Will he get a job and contribute financially to your household? Are his parents subsidizing his visit?

Are his parents forcing him, via emotional or financial obligations, to visit you? If so, I’m sorry. I think if he is there without believing that he’s chosen to be there, it will be more challenging for all of you. It will, I think, become even more important for you and your family to focus in on what you’re wanting from this situation, and to really hear his concerns and his desires.

So, what is the nature of the agreement? I think clarity about what you all want from the situation is crucial. And frankly, I would be much more interested and concerned about what his plans and goals are than what his parents want. His parents won’t be there. He will. You will. It’s up to you, your family, and him to figure out how this is going to work, what exactly you’re all hoping to accomplish.

And then, of course, what kind of back-up plans do you have in place? It seems obvious to me that if it isn’t working for you or for him, he will need to be able to hop back on a plane and head home. How about in-between situations? What happens if things are difficult – how do you plan to resolve your differences? It strikes me as a potentially painful and damaging situation for everyone if you buy into the idea that you’re “stuck” with each other.

What made the other two times unpleasant for you? What was good about those two time? If you can address, in your own mind, what didn’t work for you before, you can put plans in place to prevent a repeat. If you can find the bits that worked, you can figure out how to have more of the good.

And since you are agreeing to this, I think it’s important for you to be able to really welcome him. Assume the best, and give him a real chance to meet or surpass your expectations. Expecting him to corrupt your kids and disappoint you isn’t going to be good for anyone. So look inside and figure out how you can be present in a positive way for yourself, your family, and this man.

I realize I haven’t really answered your question. I don’t know the answer – it’s so entirely dependent on the fine details and the individuals. The broad brushstrokes? Look for ways to support his independent endeavors. Protect what you love about your home and your family. Assume that you will be able to solve the problems you encounter.

I hope this is at least a little helpful!

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