Teens Living on Their Own

Archived Q&A and Reviews


17 year old refuses to live with us - options?

April 2012

My nearly 17 year-old daughter is refusing to live with us. It is a very long story and we have used residential care, years of family therapy, ongoing private therapy etc. but she has not been able to reintegrate into the family. We have been advised by professionals that at this point it is better that she not live with us and should live with another family member.

Unfortunately we do not another family member/family friend that she can live with. Does anyone know of a boarding situation in the East Bay accessible to public transport who would be willing to take a boarder for a little over a year or even part of that time? We are willing to pay her board and keep. We just want her to be safe. She has plenty of psychological support both in school (BHS) as well as out of school with friends and therapists. She does not do drugs or drink alcohol at this point. We believe she will behave well for others and she is pretty independent. She is currently looking at getting a job for the summer.

We are desperate for any leads at this point. We have another child at home that we are trying to keep as normal life as possible going. I know when I was a teen(centuries ago) I left home to live in a boarding house for girls in my home town. It was a good solution for my family situation but I don't seem to be able to find anything like that around here. We are broken hearted as a family so please, no judgment. If you have any leads I would love to hear from you. Thanks Sad mom

This was over 30 years ago, but my younger sister was a hellion, and living together was miserable. She drank, smoked pot, dropped out of school, had reckless sex.... My recently divorced parents discussed having my sister live with my even more recently remarried dad, and he said it wouldn't work out for her to live with them because they didn't have enough closet space (what an a-hole). Anyway, my mom ended up finding a student who needed a roommate, and my almost 17 year old sister moved out and lived in an apartment, took her GED, and got a job. FYI, it took my sister 15 more years but she got her act together, has a BS and MS, and is doing very well. Anon

I understand how difficult this is. When my daughter was 17 she wanted to move out and her being here was miserable for all of us including a younger child. Instead, we agreed to have her go away with AFS to another country for a semester. It was the best thing we could have done. She saw what it was like to live with another family, have a very different life style, lots of freedom and the real challenge of making it on her own in many ways but with some security of being in a home and going to school each day. She came back very changed, appreciating us, completely fluent in another language, a bit wiser (from all the not wise things she had done there)and understanding about choices and how to treat others better. I hope you and your child find your way.... been there

Worried about 18-year-old moving out

May 2007

My son graduates from highschool and turns 18 in June. He has been admitted to a UC for the fall. He is telling me that he plans to leave home for the summer and go live somewhere by himself. He feels this is necessary for his well being. He is on antidepressants and has had a rough year. He is intolerant and unhappy with his family (two disabled brothers, divorced parents, establishment...). He has no work experience, only $500, no drivers license. He is seeing a therapist but plans to stop the minute he turns 18. I think his ''plans'' are dangerous and impractical. He says I cannot make him stay once he's legally an adult. Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing, advice? Alternative that might satisfy his desire to be ''alone''? I only want my son to be safe, happy and healthy. I am very worried. anonymous

From your description of your son and the family situation, he does need to leave home. You're anxious because he doesn't have plans and because he says he'll stop his anti-depressant meds (an 18 year old not having plans is age-appropriate, but stopping meds precipitously must make you very anxious.) I'm guessing that you're resisting his vague plan and your resistance polarizes the situation - he's responding with threats because he feels you don't understand his needs. Our son had to leave home too, and he did so at 16 1/2, but fortunately leaving home coincided with entering college early. It could have been otherwise - we suffered through a year of threats - 'I'll drop out of high school and work at McDonald's, I'll do x, I'll do y' but, looking back, my husband and I got through it by acknowledging his need to leave while helping him develop more appropriate plans. Truth was he was scared to just run away, and your son may be too. Have you considered seeing a counselor together to work through this transition? With or without professional support, you may find the situation more malleable if you honor his need to leave and help him problem solve how to do that in a safe way.

If you have the resources, you might consider a volunteer/language learning stint in another country. Our son spent the better part of two summers away learning Spanish and volunteering - he grew so much but was not out there totally on his own. On the other hand, your son is older - he's 18, and he may truly be ready to crash on a friend's couch and spend the summer working and chilling away from family. Whatever he does, show your interest - be curious and supportive. What's left is the meds. issue, but it's possible he'll be more rational about the meds. once he knows you support his decision.

These situations generally resolve, so don't lose hope. We have a wonderful relationship with our son (now 25). Familiar with the struggles

My two cents would be to be very affirming to your son. It sounds like you have already tried everything else. Tell him you are proud of him for his various accomplishments (like getting into a UC). You could agree with him that a fresh start over the summer may be just the thing. You could offer to help him in any way he likes. For instance, if he would like you to, help him search for possible housing in the area with roommates and help with the deposit. There are lots of summer sublets in berkeley and he could live with a group of young guys. You could help him start looking for a job now. He can apply at theaters, video stores, etc. Try to brainstorm about other places he could work. Perhaps you have neighbors who need yard work or other assistance. Offer to pay for driver training over the summer, if you think that he wants this. Since he has been depressed, but is not suicidal, there is little basis for you to restrain him. As he gets ready to go to college, he needs to be successful in more independent endeavors. You might also want to read the book, ''uncommon sense for parents with teenagers.'' Wishing you the best! another mom of an 18 year old

Although there are any aspects to your problem, the antidepressants may be making things worse, in a way. While it is recognized that they may increase suicide ideas and risk, this is one end of a spectrum of distorted judgement, sense of self and reduced impulse control. Think back to how it was before he was taking the meds. He may bave been more depressed, but also less grandiose and more realistic. If so an adjustment of the meds may be called for. Carl

He's right, you can't stop him. However with only $500 and no plan, it sounds like Real Life will get in his way. Maybe it's more like wishful thinking on his part. My son's first attempt at 17 was blocked when I wouldn't co-sign a lease; I had suggested a summer sublet with other students. He did leave, went to live at a friend's where he's been for nearly two years. Alternatively, what about a summer program for teens like Tawonga Quest ''http://tawonga.org/tawonga-teens/tawonga-quests/index.php''? They're shockingly expensive, so he'd need help to do it, but there may be a few openings left. anon

My daughter left home when she was 18. She had a job, and tried going to school at the same time, but she needed to work too many hours to cover her expenses. (we paid her school expenses) She kept coming up short every month. Your son will probably find out very soon what our daughter did - its expensive to live on your own, even sharing an apartment with 2 or 3 other people.

Both my husband and I worked our way through college, me without financial aid. A kid can't do that anymore. There's no way they can make enough money at entry level type jobs. Its really sad. BTW, she just moved back home. Jenny

18 year old out on her own

Dec 2006

My 18 year old is out on her own. We told her we would pay for college. Last semester she started at DVC, but dropped all of her classes because she couldn't commute and work. Now for this semester, she said she is not enrolling because she wants to save money.

The problem is she has occasionally asked us to help with a bill or rent. She seems to always have new clothes and have time to ''hang out'' with friends. My question is, when do you cut them off. We are still paying for her cell phone and auto insurance. I think she wants the best of both worlds - not work too hard and hang out with friends. We have even offered to her to live at home and go to the local college, but she says she wants to be near her friends.

I thought we had instilled in her how important a college education is, but she seems to be slacking off. At the time we were her age both my husband and I were totally on our own. We were hungry but we didn't starve. When is the time to cut them off and have them sink or swim? Frustrated Mom

Now you don't want to lose your relationship with your daughter, do you? Because that's what might happen if you cut her off. It sounds like you're very upset because she didn't turn out the way you had hoped. She's not living the life you wanted her to live. That can be very upsetting to parents especially when they try hard to instill in their children values they believe in. You have to ask yourself, what's more important to you? Harming your relationship with her to prove you're right and that she better do what you tell her, or accepting her the way she is? I mean she is out of your house and she is building a life for herself. As I'm sure you are aware, the cost of living these days is quite a lot higher than it was a generation ago. Whereas a job was all you needed to get by in the old days, today it may not even pay the rent. So I wouldn't attribute your daughter's need for you to pay her cell phone and auto insurance purely to laziness and unmotivation. If I were you, I would continue to pay for them. You wouldn't want your daughter to get into a car accident and not have insurance, would you? That would be tragic for your daughter, for you, not to mention any other injured party.

My advice is for you to leave the door open. In other words, let your daughter know, that if she ever changes her mind, you will be more than happy to help her go to college. However, I wouldn't try to force her to change her life. The best thing you can do for her as a parent is to let her figure out herself what to do. For all you know, in a year or two, she may change her mind and say she wants to go to college. If she doesn't, you will have to accept that's what she wants. I'm not saying you should pay her bills forever, but right now she's at a critical stage of her development, and you would be doing great harm to her, not to mention yourself, by cutting her off. Yes, you'd get a lot of anger off your chest and feel better about it in the short run. But in the long run, you would probably regret it. She might not change, marry, start a family, and not include you in her life because of what you did. You may not be able to see your grandchildren. Is that what you really want? All because you're upset that she didn't do as you told her to do? I think you'll realize that it's not worth it. A lot of 18 year olds aren't sure what to do with their lives and take time off to work while they figure out what to do. It's not unreasonable that she should want to work and hang out with her friends. Right now just accept the good things she's doing with her life and enjoy her the way she is. Life is too short and precious to cut off your child just because she's not doing what you want her to do. Love her the way she is and you'll be doing the greatest thing a parent can do which is to love their child unconditionally. She'll appreciate it and you'll be happier for doing so. You have to trust that. Anon

I am catching up on reading ''Parents of Teens'' newsletter, so am answering regarding the ''18 year old on her own'' posting very late, indeed.

First of all, I can relate 100% to your concerns because I have been there, and two years later, my daughter is now 20, we are still in the same situation. Our daughter also went to DVC and dropped out due to the commuting/working situation. She transferred to CCC for two semesters (part- time) and did very well in all her classes. She met professors she related to, and seemed to be doing well until she met a young man who was not going to school...then she dropped out mid-semester, wasting about $500 in tuition/books (the relationship, by the way, did not last long).

She does not live in an apartment, as we have a separate room at our home that gives her enough privacy. So, we are not having to help with rent.

We were paying her car insurance and cell phone. But after she really started slacking off--got fired from her very part-time job and wasn't making good strides to find another, and dropped out of school--we stopped letting her use the car (there were some other disturbing issues surrounding her use of the car that made us stop letting her use it, such as the suspicion that drinking and driving were happening). We bought the car for her to use for school and work, and she would pay us a low monthly payment until paid off. When she got fired, she still owed us nearly all of what she owed us for the car. So, we ''repossessed'' it and she can have it after she finishes paying us off for it.

Also, we stopped paying for her cell phone.

She is now working and paying for her cell, but doesn't have enough hours at work yet to start paying for the car. She is actively looking for another job to bring her up to full-time work. The car is the big incentive for her to be fully employed. She also wants to move into an apt. with friends.

My husband and I have decided that she can live here until we move. We plan to move when our younger child graduates high school (another 3.5 years)--if she chooses to stay here and not get an apt. In 3.5 yrs we will be selling our large home and moving to a smaller one up north. Our 20-year-old knows this is the plan, so it is imperative for her to make the strides to work towards her independence by then.

If not, she will have to figure out life on her own, and perhaps in a harsh way, at the age of about 23. Her medical and dental are covered under my employment benefits also until age 23. That would be 5 years that we were her support and her window of opportunity to go to school or be stable in a full-time job. Like you, we groomed her to believe in the importance of a college education, but she has opted not to go to college, at least at present. It was hard for me especially to accept this, but I do now.

I guess the bottom line in this letter is to think about setting a timeline/deadline. You and your husband may wish to get together and discuss a timeline that you are willing to help support your daughter. Once you and he have made a decision, then have another one with your daughter and tell her when you have in mind that she should be self-supporting.

While I didn't like the extremely condescending tone of the one person who answered you, I do agree that it is good to keep the lines of communication open with her, to let her know that if school is not her thing right now, that's OK, but that she will have to make a concerted effort to become self-sufficient and independent in lieu of attending college. And to let her know that when she decides to go to school you will probably help her with education expenses if she goes back within a reasonable amount of time (e.g., as long as it isn't when she's in her 30s or already married, etc.).Best wishes to you and your family. For my family, this has been THE MOST trying time of ''child'' rearing. I do feel for you and hope it all works out in the end! Another Parent of an Adult Child