Overnighters with the Girlfriend/Boyfriend

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  • Teens and sleepovers with BF/GF

    (9 replies)

    I'm wondering about other families' rules on letting your teen's girlfriend/boyfriend spend the night? Do you have a "you must have been dating for at least XX months" rule before allowing it? Or do you allow even brand new relationships (less than two weeks) to spend the night? Or never? We want to give our teen a safe space to enjoy their relationships on every level, but also want to help them know how to set and hold good boundaries. We have good and open communication with our teen. 

    In case it isn't clear, these would be sleepovers with the presumption (but not requirement!) that the teens would be sexually active in our home. Thank you. 

    No sleepovers at all no matter how long my teen has been in a relationship until they are over 18. There are just too many potential disasters in terms of misunderstandings, bad break-ups, the other parents not being told the whole truth, etc. Things can go terribly irrevocably wrong before the legal age of consent.

    After 18, bringing a BF/GF home from college for example, is an entirely different matter. No casual hook-ups allowed, but an actual partner is okay.

    We allowed sleepovers in the same room after our teen had been dating her boyfriend for about a year. They were 17 at the time and they stayed together for 3 years. Before that the boyfriend slept on our couch and sometimes our teen would sleep on the couch with him too. 

    This is a question we have very recently had to deal with. For our 19 year old who is still living at home, we have an agreement of once per week. They had to let us know at least 24 hours in advance. And we also said that they had to have been dating for at least four months.

    so far, it’s worked out OK. We have also had the conversation about birth control and the importance of protection for both parties. We have a good relationship and this has worked for us. It was really challenging to figure this out, and there’s no right way. But we found that it helps us get to know their partner and for them to be safe.

    I hope this helps. We’ve also found that having these conversations over a favorite breakfast place or coffee somewhere outside of the house tends to take down the stress level. Good luck.

    I was only comfortable with "after age 18" for my 3 kids. With my first kid it first came up when he wanted to bring college GF home for a visit. I reasoned they were already sleeping together at school. I offered her a separate room if she wanted it. I didn't want her to feel that sex was expected. With the third kid, it came up in his senior year of high school. I said no, not till 18. But we had a don't-ask-don't-tell policy for daytime visits - bedroom door could be closed and I wouldn't interfere. 

    By the way the mom of my son's high school GF invited my son over for an overnight stay more than once. We two moms talked about this ahead of time and she assured me it was just an innocent sleepover - she said they just wanted to snuggle, that they are very chaste and they are not having sex, parents will be at home, etc. This turned out to be false, as my son told me after the fact. My son seemed to be not 100% on board with what the GF wanted but he couldn't articulate it. He seem relieved to have my rule as an excuse.

    In retrospect none of my kids had serious relationships prior to 18, so this was not a difficult decision for me. I think that a sexual relationship can be complicated for many teens, and they don't always understand what they're in the middle of. I worry especially for teen girls, who may have a romantic vision of adult love but who stand to lose the most.  I believe my kids had a pretty skewed idea of relationships in general, just because of the message they were bombarded with in music videos, computer games, and access to internet porn. If they had been in committed relationships in high school, I might have made a different decision. I do believe it's possible for teens to have loving, mature relationships. My oldest is now in his 30's and he does have a couple of friends who found their one true love in their late teens, and are still together. But this was not my experience with my own kids.  

    Our daughter had only a few intimate relationships towards the end of her high school years, so we allowed her to have these sleep overs. It felt important not to make this one of the battles. I preferred to make hard drugs or unhealthy behavior be what we would draw the line with. We also felt she had a certain maturity about it. And when I stepped back and put it into perspective I felt like it was not something that was dangerous or harmful. I think it also helped her feel like we trusted her to make the right choices. I would go with your gut on this one. 

    If teens want to be sexually active, they will be regardless of whether you allow them to do so in your home or not.   My feeling was that it was better to offer a safe space.   When my son was 16, he and his girlfriend wanted to spend the night but not have sex.   I spoke w/ her mother on the phone and we were on the same page about it which was lucky.  She got birth control because condoms with 2 teen virgins would not be smart.   They were in a loving relationship for quite awhile.  But we also had to discuss pregnancy and abortion in case something happened.  I think that frank discussions are important about birth control and a possible pregnancy.  I also approach sex as a natural, beautiful and fun experience if done with respect.   Not sure how I would have felt if there were a bunch of hook-ups.   

    We allowed our son to have his girlfriend sleep over in spring of his senior year of high school as long as her parents were comfortable with it. We made sure he was using condoms. I actually thought it would be helpful for him to be able to discuss this stuff with us before he went off to college. If kids are having sex I would rather them do it someplace where condoms are easily accessible and not in some odd outdoor place where they were less likely to be prepared. As a parent it does feel awkward at first when your kid is having sex in your house but you get over it quickly.

    We let our 17-year old HS senior have his GF stay overnight after about 3 months, but they had already gone on a weekend overnight with a group of friends (unsupervised) to our vacation house by that time. This was during COVID and they had all lost their senior year, so it seemed like the least we could do given that it was a very responsible group of kids, and given that our son and his GF were very committed. No regrets at all, it felt good to support their relationship. 

    Separately, our 15-year old daughter is not yet interested in romantic/sexual relationships, so her coed group of friends (3 boys, 3 girls) have sleepovers all the time. I was trepidatious at first, but all of the parents monitor and we're all sure there's no sexual activity (or interest). So that's also something I wouldn't have considered once upon a time, but am glad the kids are still able to be kids without a lot of assumptions about sex getting in the way.

    I posted something about this for a similar inquiry a while ago, but I don't see it in the archives. I don't object to teens having safe, consensual sex (and always kept condoms in the bathroom cupboard for them). I did object to having romantic partner spend the night because that suggests a certain kind of relationship that I felt was too serious. My teen daughter objected, but she is a young adult now and recently told me she is glad we had that rule bc her high school relationship was already pretty intense, and it helped to have boundaries!

  • I have an unusual question but would like to know other parents opinions because I was raised in the other country with much stricter rules so want to know what is considered culturally ok here in the US. My daughter was born and raised in California. We have difference in opinions about what is acceptable and normal here.

    Is it sexual and inappropriate for 16 years old girl to cuddle her 16 years old boyfriend in a bed? Is it inappropriate for them to sleep in the same bed (during the day or at night) with the bedroom door closed? Would you allow your daughter to do it? We spoke about contraception and risks of teenage pregnancy etc. She says that they both agreed do not have sex until done with high school. And that in her opinion cuddling is not sexual...and that my request that if he sleeps at our home, she should be in other room is ridiculous.  Is it?

    I would just say that at 16 years old, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that they are engaging in only “cuddling”. Of course you know your child best, and perhaps religious or other factors reassure you that your child (and her boyfriend) are somehow well outside the norm...I would also say that even if you did ban sleepovers or insist they keep the door open, they’ll find other places and ways to be sexual with one another. These days, 16 is actually a little “late” to begin sexual activity. It sounds like you’ve covered the basics about birth control. Wishing you the best. 

    Culturally things have changed a lot over the years, probably from the influence of media and availability of contraception.  Maybe they really enjoy the physical contact and it is not sexual as they have said they want to wait? My daughter had her first serious boyfriend at age 16. She had been as put birth control pills by her doctor "for acne" at age 15. Since the boyfriend lived far away, she would regularly stay overnight at his house on weekends. The parents did their best to make them sleep in separate rooms, but I know they had plenty of opportunities to be together. I was even younger when I first had sex, and would have done it regardless of anything my parents did or said. My daughter's boyfriend stayed overnight with us several times, and since we didn't have a spare room, I asked them to keep the door open while they were in the bedroom.  I wanted to keep the communication open and wanted to encourage her to have a healthy outlook on intimacy.  My parents were very strict and felt compelled to give me an earful about the dangers of sex or how "bad" it was.  I believe this attitude affected my ability to enjoy sex as an adult, and in a marriage for almost 30 years. 

    I'm glad you have reached out and asked this question. So often teens get the idea that some behavior is acceptable for whatever justification they have. Then a cycle begins of "my friends are allowed to, so it's all good!" I'm grateful for this forum where parents can discuss important topics openly.

    My son was in an intense and exclusive relationship beginning at the end of his freshman year of high school. It is a healthy relationship in that they treat each other respectfully, and when arguments arise, work them through by talking. My husband and I spoke with the girl's parents. Fortunately, we each think highly of the other's teen and get along well ourselves. We agreed that they could be together in our homes with an adult present. They were allowed to be in the bedroom if the door is fully open. Overnights are allowed when traveling (her family had a cottage elsewhere), not at home, and then in separate bedrooms. We are fine with them cuddling on the sofa watching a movie or talking, or outside with a fire going in the fire pit, etc.

    I'm aware they found other locations in which to be more physical with each other. I can't control that, but I can set appropriate boundaries in my home. They respected those boundaries.  We had many talks about how to care for one's self and the other - physically and emotionally. It's really important to talk about the emotional side of these types of relationships with your teen.  

    The teens broke up, got back together, broke up again. They are now seniors and continue to have a supportive friendship (no longer a romantic relationship).

    I'm sure you'll thoughtfully decide what is best for you and your daughter.

    I would not allow sleepovers period. Hormones surging and even the best of teens lie to their parents. I think age 16 is too young for the true intimacy and ramifications that come from sex at this age. I would say post high school is a more reasonable time to reconsider sleepovers between a committed couple. 

    No, I don't think it's ridiculous for you to set rules that you feel comfortable with. I myself have a 15 year old daughter who has a 15 year old boyfriend and have had to field several requests for him to sleep over since they've been together (it's been almost a year now). He lives kind of far away so I understand  the wish but I know they are sexually active and I don't want to make it easier for them. Besides, I'm especially not comfortable with that happening in my house. Maybe your daughter and her boyfriend will just cuddle but I find that hard to trust with the hormones raging at that age. She may even think she won't but then she can change her mind at a moments notice. I remember being 16!!  I told my daughter that I thought relationships were hard enough without sex complicating it at this age and that I didn't think young teens were mature enough to handle the intensity of a sexual relationship. She had a painful break up in the last  relationship and I told her, just imagine how much more painful it will be when the sexual connection has made you that much more attached?  I said, you are free to disagree and not like what I say, but you still need to abide by my rules. The funny thing is, she agreed with me when I put it in that non judgmental way. Of course she has since disagreed but I'm okay with that. Good luck and don't be afraid to stand your ground!

    I was in a quandary about this with my own teen. I had to be honest with myself about why it made me uncomfortable. Aside from just "That's how I was raised." I decided that my legitimate concerns were 1) health & safety (pregnancy, STDs, etc.)--which she was well-educated about, and 2) defining "inappropriate" behavior--which was basically what would be uncomfortable/embarrassing if I walked in on them. Beyond that, I realized that what she does physically with a partner is actually none of my business. 

    My son is 17 and this has come up during the past two years. I also have two older sons but they didn't have romantic relationships until after high school, so this is new for me.

    RE cuddling in bed:  This is something that did not happen when I was a teen -- if you were cuddling in bed with your boyfriend, it was because your parents weren't at home and there was going to be sex. But I have noticed that kids nowadays do sincerely believe in physical affection without the expectation of sex. I've observed a lot of snuggling up on beds while watching a movie or looking at youtube on their phones.  I am mystified by this. To me, cuddling together on a bed seems like "pretend" sex.  But my kids insist it has nothing to do with sex and they genuinely feel it is very innocent.  My 17yo cuddles with his GF and also has several friends that are girls that do this occasionally when there is a group of kids hanging out in his room. I don't insist on the door being open, but I will knock and then immediately walk in with a made-up reason for the interruption (snacks!). There is never any hanky panky going on. There does seem to be a line for them between friendly cuddling and sexy cuddling. We were recently at a large gathering where the teens were clustered in one of the bedrooms, and my son told me afterwards that a teen girl that he didn't know sat on his lap and began stroking his thigh. He was confused and uncomfortable.

    RE sleepovers: The general rule in my house is they can't sleep in the same room together. Definitely not in high school. My main concern is that kids under 18 don't understand all the subtleties of a sexual relationship and I don't want to be the one who provides them with a testing ground.  It also just makes me feel uncomfortable. My 17 year old has never suggested a sleepover with his girlfriend. They are not sexually active, at least not yet. If he asked me if she could stay over I would probably say OK if she sleeps in a different room and if her parents say OK.  After high school is different, especially if they are no longer at home. I am fine with the college girlfriend staying over when they come for the weekend. This was a bit hard for me to come to terms with the first time it happened, but I realized they were already sleeping together at college so it seemed silly to make them sleep in separate rooms. Since graduating college, my two older boys have moved out and moved back in at times, and I am fine with a long-term girlfriend staying over. But not someone they just met at a party. This recently happened with my son who has moved back in while he's in grad school.  He isn't in a relationship right now but he met up with an "old friend" (his words) who stayed overnight. I had to tell him that I'd rather he didn't have sleepovers here. It is too awkward for me to be greeted in the morning by a young woman I don't know.  (I am thinking about changing my mind about this, though, after reading this article in the Atlantic: "Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/5...  It made me feel sorry for them.)

    Well, this is just one mom's opinion. You must do what feels right for you!


    I also did not grow up in the US, seems like I grew up in a more progressive, less puritan place so my perspective is different. I work quite a bit with teens and have two of my own. What I hear repeatedly from adults who grew up here as well as from those who are currently teens (clients and friends of my kids) is that any kind of sexual behavior is taboo at home so teens end up hooking up in random places like school, parks or cars. I don't understand that. I much rather that my kids have their first sexual explorations in a safe, known and private environment where they are respected and feel safe. We expect our kids to respect each other, to make sure they are acting in consent, to explore their sexuality yet they find themselves needing to do these things in secret with the danger of being rushed and intruded upon. 

    I would like to advocate for allowing teens to conduct their sexual explorations in the privacy of their own bedrooms, while making sure they have access to safe practices, including consent. This may mean having actual conversations with them about this, not just alluding do it...I also want to recommend www.omgyes.org a website with respectful, non-porn information about female sexuality that can be useful, probably for all ages. 

    I just want to clarify  my earlier post by saying I am fine with my 15 y/o daughter cuddling with her 15 y/o boyfriend in her bed and they do that quite often, but the door stays  open and the lights are on. I have let him sleep overnight, but he's downstairs in the living room and she's upstairs with me. For me it's not about trying to control whether she is sexually active or not, it's setting boundaries that I feel comfortable with in my home and giving her the message that it's a big deal to be sexual at age 15 and not to be taken lightly. I helped her get birth control and we talked about STD's, so I feel she is pretty knowledgeable and safe.

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College freshman and sleepovers at boyfriend's

Jan 2015

Our daughter is a college freshman living on campus about an hour away from home. We are paying 100% of her tuition and living expenses. While we know while away at college she is on her own in terms of behavior, while she is home we expect her to respect our house rules and also the house rules of others.

During the way too long recent winter break we had repeated episodes of her staying overnight at the boyfriend’s (or rather the boyfriend’s mother’s home where he lives) in blatant disrespect of his mother’s wishes. Boyfriend’s mother is very upset about the unauthorized sleepovers as they are against her values, morals and house rules and also set a poor example for her younger daughter. Our daughter has also lied to us and says she is staying on campus when in fact she went to spend the weekend with the boyfriend several times prior to break. Basically her attitude is “I’m 19 and a college student so I can do whatever I want.” Our attitude is “You may be legally an adult but you are also 100% financially supported by us and living in our home. Just because you are 19 that does not mean you can disrespect others’ values and house rules.”

While she does understand that she cannot have her boyfriend spend the night at our home, we are troubled that she would be so rude and inconsiderate to the boyfriend’s mother, who has been very kind and gracious to our daughter during the almost 3 year off and on romance. As an aside, the boyfriend is a chronic pot-smoker, has cheated on her several times and is disliked by all of her girlfriends.

Question is, how have other parents dealt with this behavior and what types of consequences do you feel are appropriate for this blatant disrespect of just our but the other parent’s rules, as well as the lying? If we do not impose consequences she would basically try to do this every single night she possibly could. We also have younger teens, so we definitely do not want them to think we condone this type of behavior. Dreading summer break

Let's game this out. Your daughter is sexually active, just like 75% of American 19-year-olds are. That's not something you can stop. You can't stop her from eating chocolate for breakfast, you can't stop her from wearing that ratty sweatshirt to bio class, and you can't stop her from having sex. If you try to control things you can't control you will only make yourself crazy.

And she's not sexually active as a slap in the face to you. She's sexually active because that's what she wants to do. She's an adult and she has the right to have sex with her boyfriend. Don't personalize it. As for lying about sleepovers...well, what do you expect? She knows you don't like it, so she's going to lie either through omission or directly. By taking the position you are, you are incentivizing lying rather than fostering open, respectful communication.

So what can you do about this? You have limited leverage. If you want to take away your daughter's college support, you certainly can. It's your money. So if she has to drop out of school and take a job at McDonald's, would that feel like a win for you? One of the things about withdrawing your support is that your income will still be counted against her, probably making her ineligible for grants despite her own low personal income, so to stay in college she'd have to take out very large student loans, or drop out and hopefully return after a period of being self-supporting. Again, would that feel like a win for you? Or for your relationship with her?

In a similar vein you can cut off contact with her until she meets your moral guidelines. She might decide to be a better liar until college is done, but I can't imagine you'd have much of a relationship with her after that.

I gently encourage you to think of your daughter as an adult who needs your supportive, evidence-based guidance. Pretending that no one has sex before marriage results in high rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs. Abstinence-based ''sex education'' has proven time and again to be an utter failure--kids still have sex, but they're so shamed into thinking it's a dirty act instead of a normal part of life that they don't use condoms, don't take the pill, etc. Is this the message you want to send to any of your daughters?

My daughter is now 24. What I want for her is a healthy sex life with partners who treat her well. I don't want her to be a virgin when she gets married--I want her to understand her own sexuality and find someone with whom she is sexually compatible (as well as compatible in all the other ways that matter, but we're talking sexuality here) so that they can have a long and happy marriage. I don't want her to wait for marriage and thereby encourage her to rush into an early marriage with someone she doesn't know well.

As for your daughter's boyfriend's mother--that's really her problem. Stay out of it and don't personalize it.

want a supportive, honest relationship with my daughter

This is very disappointing behavior -- mostly in terms of the inconsideration your daughter is showing the boyfriend's mother. I assume you have spoken to her about how wrong it is to go against a parent's house rules; it seems that she is not having him stay over at your house because it is against your rules, so why would it be OK to stay over at his house? It sounds as if her boyfriend has a pretty bad relationship with his mother and probably convinces her it's OK to disrespect her. However repellent this might be, I think it is out of your hands. It is up to the boyfriend's mother to set the limits at her house and to hit her own kid with sanctions. If your daughter breaks your rules, then you can talk about removing support. Since the boyfriend and daughter apparently have no place to go (aside from boyfriend's house), they need to ''get a room,'' so to speak. And if they do move in together and you don't approve, you can refuse to pay for lodging. It is very tough to convince kids that a boyfriend or girlfriend is bad news; such efforts usually backfire. But you can deny support if she gets into behavior that you feel is destructive. another mother of a transitioning teen

If you are 100% supporting her, it's easy. Cut off money. She disobeys you, you don't pay for x. No problem. anon

I also have a college age daughter, so I know what you are talking about. It sounds like she is obeying YOUR house rules, but not the boyfriend's mom's rules. I don't think you can impose consequences for this. Nor do I think you should try to control where she spends the night. If she is home for vacation, I think it is fair that you tell her she needs to let you know if she is sleeping at home or not (because you might not be able to sleep soundly if you are waiting to hear her come in at night) but you shouldn't ask her to tell you WHERE she is sleeping when she is not at home--that is not really your business anymore. I think you should tell her that you are disappointed in her for violating the trust of someone who has been good to her, and the other mom should tell her the same thing. The other mom should tell her directly, not by sending a message through you. Then the other mom can also choose to impose consequences on her son if she wants. best wishes

She certainly owes you the behavior you prefer when you are supporting her, and it sounds like your desires are reasonable. It all depends on how you think she will react to ''punishments,'' and how good your sources of info are--if she can hide her behavior from you, there's no point in making deals depending on it. The hard truth is her future is in her own hands at this point; you can only try to influence her, you can't control her, and she probably has to learn some things the hard way. But I suspect that you are enabling her current behavior, and that some firmness from you will be better for her in the long run. Reduce the support, however much you think will be most effective, and let her know you'll be prepared to offer more again if she behaves responsibly. Then be firm, and keep your fingers crossed. Maybe this will help: in my extended family the pattern is, after a warning or two, to cut a misbehaving student off for a year or more, during which they realize they can't do it themselves, modify their behavior and apologize, and make a deal to work to pay what part they can of the cost of subsequent years, if the parents cover the rest. It doesn't always work out, but something always does. Believer in responsibility

I've been thinking about your posting, and I can see that you've got some difficult issues at-play. I feel for you! In addition to being a mother of teens, I'm a nurse practitioner who works in women's health. I see young women like your daughter very often, and so I'd like to offer a perspective from the point of view of the professional with whom she might be discussing birth control, STDs, vaginal health, and more: young people who want to have sex will find a way to have sex, no matter what. (This is probably true of people of all ages.)

Of course, it's important that your daughter respect the rules in your home. But, if you decide that your daughter can't have sex with her boyfriend at your house or her boyfriends' house, where will they likely have sex? Will they be less likely to use condoms, if they are not at home? If your daughter has to hide sex from you, what else will she hide about her reproductive experiences and choices?

It sounds like her boyfriend might not be such a great guy, so one helpful intervention would be for you to foster an environment in which your daughter is the least likely to get pregnant or get an STD. The more safety she has around sex, the less likely these two things will happen. In my experience, the more daughters feel comfortable talking to their mom about their sexual lives, the better the choices they make. The more they feel they have to hide, the riskier their behaviors.

I wonder what would happen, if you said something like, ''I know you're having sex, and I want you to have safe sex. I think you're more likely to be safe, if you're at home. I also don't want your younger sisters to walk in on you and your boyfriend getting it on, and I don't want to run into him coming out of the bathroom at 8 am. That would embarrass everyone! Do you have any suggestions for how we can handle this?'' NP Mom

The more you vilify your daughter's boyfriend, the more she will want to be with him. That is the way with teenagers. Instead of consequences and punishments, I suggest you make friends with the boy. Invite him to dinner. Talk to your daughter about his good qualities. He is not all bad. No one is.

In addition, you need to understand that you cannot control someone else. Your daughter has to make her own mistakes. Talk to her about the pros and cons of her actions, and then let her make her own decisions and take responsibility for whatever happens. She is essentially an adult. It looks like she is going to have to fail a few times and learn a few life lessons. Sorry! Anon

MYOB. This is not your problem. She is not disrespecting your household rules, she is violating the boyfriends mother's rules. The boyfriend's mother needs to enforce her household rules herself. When my kids (20 and 24) are home I expect them to communicate their plans and when the plans change -- I will be home at midnight, change in plans I will stay the night at Bob's house. But that's it. You can tell your daughter that you are disappointed that she is being disrespectful to the boyfriends mother, but that is where it ends for you. She is 19 and it's past time for you to land the parental helicopter. not a helicopter parent

17-year-old daughter's overnights with her boyfriends

April 2006

Our attractive, bright daughter has disappeared for a night (and sometimes 2) on 15 occasions over the last year. Lately she calls at midnight to say she won't be home, but for the first 8 or so AWOLs, we never knew how long she'd be away 'till she arrived home the next day. We've been worried sick and sleepless most of these nights. On the rare occasions she'd answer our cell calls and/or voicemail pleas to ''check in'' or return, her answers were evasive about the who, what, where, and why. We tell her we worry about her driving on freeways and hilly terrain in the rain at night in the old '93 car she's allowed to drive. She keeps us in the dark about much of her life. (She's always been private and ''quiet.'') And so, it took a ton of sleuthing to find out that she's been seeing a 21-yr.-old college guy ... at his college and at his Berkeley home on weekends.

Once she got over her break up with him 3 weeks ago, she started sleeping over with a new guy and with maybe another (with and without parents at home we gather.) On one occasion she slept over with a ''platonic'' guy 'cuz she was too tired/drunk/both to leave the guy's house and go home with her somewhat-troubled girlfriend.

Are overnights common for 17-18 yr.old females these days? Our daughter doesn't seem to care about her health and safety(we constantly tell her about DUIs, date rape, STDs, AIDS, and cervical cancer from multiple partners at a young age). After giving her a variety of consequences (including groundings), we took away her car privileges for 2 weeks (she then began to ride the train to see her boyfriend at college). This meant us driving her to and from high school since she refused to take a bus, call a taxi, ride with friends, etc. Through all this, her grades have slowly slipped as has her commitment to her high school sports team. Her fatigue causes her to miss classes and sports practices. What more can we do? We worry that she might fail high school and/or threaten her college acceptances. Though she says we're the problem, we do have a son who's doing extremely well at college and never was more than minimally defiant. She has refused every sort of therapy we have offered. Sad, frustrated parents in Lamorinda

I'm so sorry to hear about what you are going through with your daughter. It sounds to me like she has some serious issues. I hope you can get the whole family, or just you parents if she refuses, into good therapy asap. One thing that struck me was your (very justified) concern about her behavior threatening her HS graduation and/or college acceptance.

I wonder in cases like this if our (we parents') focus on keeping kids on track for college might sometimes get in the way of what we need to do for them. Frankly, your daughter in no way sounds ready for the freedom and responsibility of college life. She won't even get herself to school by herself! And risky behavior away at school could have worse consequences with no base to fall back on. I think you should consider a much more serious approach that aims to get her to wake up and take responsibility for her own life. another Lamorinda mom

I'm stunned that your question was whether your daughter's behavior is ''normal'' for a 17-18 year-old girl. Its not. Really. She's throwing her childhood away, and taking risks with her life -- as you pointed out.

You may get other opinions, but to me it is neither normal nor acceptable. Either she's so depressed she doesn't care, or she's making a statement you haven't figured out yet. She has no respect for you as parents, either way, and she still needs you to parent her.

Of course, she may also have ADHD, or another fairly minor disorder that allows her to be more impulsive -- and have significantly less self-esteem -- than other girls her age.

She needs both counseling AND continuous supervision right now. If she can't get both at home, I guess you need to send her somewhere else. If sending her off is not an option, I'd try a group like ToughLove, and I certainly wouldn't be planning to pay for college if her attitude remains disdainful, selfish and self- destructive.

Life is hard, but most kids get through this phase without self- destructing, even if they encounter challenges and get some scars. I think that is what I'd consider normal. Still My Daughter's Keeper

I would stongly recommmend a wilderness program for your daughter. Our daughter went to one in Arizona (from a BPN post on the website) that has done wonders for her and our family. It is expensive, but some insurance will cover at least part of the cost. Your daughter needs intervention. There are ways of having her go even if she does not agree to it (like using a transport service). Good luck. anon

Wow, I can see how this concerns you. I want to state that at 17 - 18 years of age, sexual relations are fairly common for teen girls. I believe it is about 70%? I have two or three concerns here. One, is she sexually active because she is in a relationship or other, bad self esteem reasons? Two, if you know she is drunk, why do you let her have a car at all? I would surprise her and do a drug test the morning she comes home. If she refuses to do one at home, perhaps you want to consider having a date set up with Thunder Road in Oakland, a drug rehab center, to take her to, without her knowledge of course. Third, why are you driving her to school? As a mother of a strong willed 16 year old, although never a private girl, when I give her a consquence, I must follow through 100% or lose the battle. She is still controling you by refusing to help herself, you are helping her in her destruction. If she wants to fail high school, let her. I doubt she will, however, she just wants to threaten you with this. If she misses a week, then she will have to make it up. If she has to go to community college, then so be it. She is old enough now to have to seriously consider the choices she is making. And I strongly suspect more than alcohol is going on, although, that is enough to completely cloud one's judgement. Sit her down and explain to her the choices she is making and the potentail consquences and that you will not be held hostage to her threats. Get a book on tough love, save her life.

Best of hope for you and her, and there is hope still, anon

Having read the responses to your post, and having been a girl who snuck out of the house to be with boys (younger than 17, too), I want to add a few things.

After years of reflection, I've realized that my ''sleeping around'' had a little to do with raging teen hormones, and sexual discovery and desire, and even more to do with the fact that I felt that my parents didn't really understand me. They sat down; we talked; they made a certain effort, but I was too busy figuring out who I was to get it. And talks about risky behaviour are virtually worthless -- this is a TEENAGER, the personification of invincibility. Most teenagers don't think ANYTHING bad is going to happen to them.

Your actions will mean more than words at this point -- do NOT let her use your car, for instance -- and, as another person suggested, you should have clear, unequivocal consequences for irresonsible behaviour. But understand that you cannot control her. I hope that clear consequences, with your statements about why you're choosing the consequences you choose, will help get the message through to her that you care deeply for HER; not only for her future, college, and so forth, but her happiness and well-being. Better still, ask her to come up with appropriate consequences. You may be surprised at what she comes up with. I'm sure that, deep inside, she is longing for your guidance and structure. Trust me, she is NOT happy now. She is floundering.

As for your son, they are two separate individuals; clearly, your daughter's needs are vastly different from your son's. So, there's no sense in comparing the two of them, and comparisons will only make your daughter feel worse. Your daughter is not doing what she's doing to hurt or punish you -- if you take her actions the least bit personally, you're in trouble. A final note -- read ''Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers'', by local author Michael Riera. There should be some helpful strategies in there for you, that will help you to reconnect with your daughter. very best of luck to you all! 47, but was once a troubled teen...

17-year-old son wants girlfriend to spend the night

May 2001

Our 17 year old son has requested our permission to have a sleepover with his 17 year old girlfriend. They have been together for 7 months. We are very uncomfortable with this notion and so far have not given the okay. According to our son, his girlfriend's parents think we are irrational for not allowing them to do this. We have not yet spoken directly to her parents about this.

We consider our son to be very responsible and in general give him lots of freedom and independence. We have talked with him repeatedly about sexual issues and have told him that smart people can do very stupid things when it comes to relationships. He has shown himself unable to set limits with his girlfriend in terms of getting home on time, limiting phone calls, and other such things. This suggests to us that he would have difficulty setting limits with sex too. We are worried, also, about his girlfriend and how much influence she has over him.

I don't think we are being overly conservative, but I wondered what other people thought.

I am going to be frank (and I also recognize that I am only seeing one side of the equation) but I see a lot more sexual precociousness and even agressiveness from the girls my 2 sons date than from them. My boys are more reluctant and slower to get involved sexually than their girlfriends. This is the reverse the stereotypes of norms for teenage boys but in this case it is true and I've heard from grown men that it is true more often than one would think. I therefore think you are quite right to be cautious and your son may actually be grateful for this. He needs to feel there is a way he can escape (save face) if he in fact is feeling pushed. Have you checked out his own feelings carefully? Is he able to be honest with you about it? Is he saying he feels ready for full, out in the open, mature sexuality or that he feels he ought to feel ready?

This said, I know someone who has said that when he was a young teenager his parent allowed any sleeping arrangement he chose and thought it was cute that he brought home his 14 year old girlfriend when he was 15. He seems to express that this was fine, easy, no problem, no danger...etc. I was shocked. My own parents would have had my hide nailed to the wall for such. (and did once).

I have had three teenagers. My oldest put enormous pressure on me to allow her boyfriend to stay over (HIS mother allowed this or that). She also wanted to be able to go into her room with him and close the door. For better or worse, here is what I said, no. I told her it was not a moral judgment on my part. It was simply that it was my house and it made ME feel uncomfortable and in my house that is what counted. I think it was my way of saying sex is not morally wrong but it is a BIG deal--contrary to the popular culture. And, the fact was, it DID make me uncomfortable.

This is a reply to the parent whose 17 year old son wants to have a sleepover with his girlfriend.

If your son and his girlfriend are determined to have sex, probably there is not much you can do to stop them. This does not mean that you have to condone their actions. If you are very uncomfortable with the idea of a sleepover, why consider giving an okay?

You say that your son is very responsible in other areas, but wonder about how responsible he will be in this area. As you told him, when it comes to sex smart people can do stupid things. He has accused you of being irrational through his comment about her parents. Here are some rational questions he might want to consider:

Is he responsible enough to handle the emotions that accompany an intimate sexual relationship?

Is he responsible enough to practice safe sex in the heat of passion?

If she gets pregnant, who will care for the child? Is he responsible enough to be a father?

If he gets a STD, who will care for him during his illness?

I think as parents we can be too concerned about what others will think of our parenting decisions. This makes it too easy to give up taking the hard line when that is what is called for. Teenagers are often trying to sell us a bill of goods. This does not mean that we have to buy it. I would talk with the girl's parents and not assume that they think you are irrational. If they do, what does that says about them?

Clinical Psychologist and Mom of a teenager

To anonymous regarding teenage sex. Just say no. Your son needs to know that you have boundaries and while he still may have sex - he needs to know that you do not approve. Mike Riera's books on teenagers provide wonderful advice about setting boundaries and the need our teens have for adult advice.

Regarding the 17 year old who wants his girl to sleep over. The first thing I note is that you parents are being told that her folks consider you irrational. That may be true - or not. You may be suprised if you are able to gracefully get in touch with them. They may even feel as you do! I assume the kids are sexually active - many healthy 17 year olds are. But seven months is not such a long relationship. And it certainly is not a marriage. Therefore, when it comes to them sleeping together on your turf, I think you have the perfect right to say NO if you are at all uncomfortable with it. Teens may be sexually active but that doesn't mean that parents have to honor or assist them in their love-making. Your son may not be happy about your choice, but that's okay. Setting a limit here sends the message that his sexual life is just what it is - a teenage romance - not the real deal yet. That's an important distinction in my book. Good luck!

This is in regards to the letter from Anonymous about the 17 year old that wants to have a sleepover with his 17 year old girlfriend. This has come up several times at our house with our two teenagers. We have discussed it with the parents of our sons' girlfriends and found that our own resolve became much stronger with the support of another set of parents. Of COURSE teenagers are going to try to push us into letting them have their way and it's our function to thwart those designs and help them stay safe and sane. We've said that at age 18, they'll be on their own recognizance, but until then - they must stay within the limits we establish. Of COURSE they argue that 18 is an arbitrary boundary, but be resolved and be loving, avoid damaging screaming matches (hard for me), and hopefully they won't sneak out of the house and do it anyway.

For a year-and-a-half before they went off to college, our son and his girlfriend of the same age regularly slept together in our home. Her family was rigidly traditional. So our situation was almost the exact opposite of yours.

My wife and I felt that only the wrong messages and situations would be established in their lives, if we forced them to hide their love. Had we done that, there would have been a barrier with a son who was always open with us and still is.

They have now been together for years and their relationship has deepened and matured as they went from high school to college. We successfully coached them in birth control and supplied condoms. But far more importantly, our open interactions with them gave their relationship a context beyond furtive indulgence. Their joy added to all our lives and I believe has set a wonderful example of relationship and its development for our younger child. Both the girl and we felt terrible for what could not be shared with her parents. She felt cut-off in an important part of herself while her parents struggled to maintain their fictions.

In a far less open time, my mother told a friend that there was no reason to force her sons to pay for a motel or go to a dark park. I, as she, believe life is relationship and that it is dysfunctional to isolate teenagers and their relationships from their fullest expression.

I think you should say no. I wouldn't go for this myself, and I would be surprised if any of my friends who have teens at home who would go for this either. Maybe if the kids were in college or living together already I might consider it. But I couldn't deal with my high school student bringing his girlfriend over to spend the night.

I have noticed that my kids seem relieved when I draw the line somewhat conservatively, even while they put up an enormous fuss. It's funny - when I have been more lenient than their friends' parents about some issue, they seem to think there is something wrong with my parenting skills, as if they are getting shortchanged in the parent department. So it is good, I think, to hold your ground on issues you feel strongly about.

I think it would be worth it also to phone the girlfriend's parents and just say you wanted to let them know that it has come up, and this is where you stand on it. You don't need to have a discussion with them if you don't want to, just make a courtesy call. There is always the possibility that you are not getting the full story from your son about what their position is on the subject.

18-year-old son wants girlfriend to spend the night

March 2002

I am trying to get a handle on the everyone else is allowed to argument with respect to co-ed sleepovers for teenagers. I posted earlier about a situation with a 14 year old girl. I have a couple other scenarios I wanted to ask people about involving an 18 year old boy and his 18 year old girlfriend. I am interested in collecting information to use in discussion with him, so I am really interested in what people would do with their own children in these situations. I'll admit that I'm hoping to be able to say no, actually most people aren't allowed to, but I would really like to hear both sides. First is that they wish to spend the night together either at her house or ours. He has told us that they are already sexually active. Second, they wish to attend sleepover parties at friends' houses together. One other question is, how much difference does being 18 make to you in your decision? Thanks for any input.

There are several issues at work here. First, the child in question, at 18, is no longer a child. So *legally speaking* they have a right to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's rights. Which brings us to the second point, which is that you have a right to dictate terms of their being in your house, or about how they use *your* money/time/resources. You could choose not to fund him going to a co-ed sleepover party, for instance (though if it were my child, then whatever he did with money he earned himself would be up to him, assuming he didn't owe it to me for rent or food or something). If you don't want them sleeping together under your roof, you may make a rule about that. Of course, given that you already know that they are sexually active, if you tell them they can't do this in your home, then they will simply find somewhere else to do it (possibly much less savoury and much more dangerous). The important question is, is this going to get you what you want? The answer to that question will depend heavily on your own values and priorities. What do you value the most here? The safety of your child? Having them do what you want? Upholding your religious/moral convictions? For *us*, we value our open and honest communication with our teen very highly. If we forbade her to do something like this, it would damage that aspect of our relationship, and that's not something we're willing to do. But we *are* pretty unusual in this regard, and it takes a *lot* of ongoing discussion, boundary-setting, and negotiation. (BTW: At 17, she's a virgin (has never had intercourse), and has recently decided to try a 30-day complete abstinence period, modeled after the 40days&40Nights movie.) If she were about to do something we *really* thought was a bad idea, we'd sit down and have a coaching session/family meeting, and discuss it. And maybe we could come up with some compromise that would leave us all feeling like our needs were getting met (hers for personal expression and control over her own body, for instance, and ours for safety of ourselves and her, without sacrificing our communication).

Good luck navigating this sticky wicket!

Anonymous, since I can't ask my teen right now if it's OK to talk about it with attribution.

Thank you for raising this issue in regard to older teens since this has been a topic of numerous heated discussions in my house just this past week (17 year old daughter, to be 18 in July). My opinion about this doesn't change given my daughter's age. As long as she is living in my house, I expect her to refrain from overnights with members of the opposite sex. To condone such overnights would essentially be conveying the message that I condone sex for her at this age, which I *do not*. The most recent plea for an overnight was supposedly settled and the plan was I would pick her up (she doesn't drive) at the boy's house where his family was hosting a party. Shortly before pick-up time, she came up with another pressing reason for needing to stay all night. I nearly gave in, being exhausted, etc. However, I persevered. When I got there the boy was waiting for us by the curb. His eyes looked *very questionable*. (hazy, unfocused, vague). I told him I was there to pick up my daughter was and he went off to get her. My companion and I simultaneously said to each other: I wonder what he's on? When the boy returned I engaged him in conversation about directions to the freeway. He stood back about 4 feet from the car and from that distance I could smell alcohol on his breath. I was so thankful that I did not allow her to stay. I have never met the family and have only met the boy one time before for a 2 minute introduction (hi and bye type). Nevertheless, my daughter argued vehemently for the overnight. I see no reason for overnights for teens with the opposite sex. --- A single mom.

College Freshman wants to bring girlfriend home

Feb 2002

What should I do about this? My 19-year-old son is a freshman at a school in another state (I miss him terribly but that's another story). He has recently begun seeing someone seriously - this is his first girlfriend. I haven't met her - her home is near the college they both attend. He wants to bring her to Berkeley in April for a few days. I am comfortable with the fact that they can spend overnight together anytime they want. My son is sensible and mature. For Spring Break they are going in on a beach house with a group of kids for a week, and I'm OK with that too. But I don't know how I should feel about the girlfriend staying here in his room with him. Isn't it awkward? I consider myself fairly liberal in these things. When I was 19, I was already living with my son's father but back then it was pretty scandalous, and we expected to, and did, sleep in separate bedrooms when we visited his folks. But now I'm the mom, and it's 30 years later. How does this work in 2002? And how do I bring this up with my son? He hasn't brought up sleeping arrangements, just said he'd like to bring her. All I've said so far is I would really like to meet her. Does anyone else have experience with this?

Works any way you want it to work. Your house. Your rules. If you feel uncomfortable with your son's friend sleeping in his room, tell his so. Ask him if she doesn't mind sleeping on the couch or if he will sleep on the couch? Or if they are staying at a hotel nearby. I lived with a guy as well for years, but we always slept in separate rooms when visiting relatives. It's not a question of what year it is. It's just plain respectful. Children, no matter how old they are, do not tell their parents/relatives how they are going to run their house. Bottom line is what do you feel comfortable with.

I would recommend letting them share a bed in your house if that's what they want to do. You don't seem to have a problem with the fact that they're sleeping together in other settings. And he is an adult now (tho' a young one). We have allowed our teenage son to have his girlfriend stay over in his room for awhile now and we're all comfortable with it. Of course it was important at the outset that it was a caring, committed relationship, but because it is that, she has become an valued friend and visitor to the household. If you're just worried that it will be awkward, perhaps it would help to have a conversation with him about it.

You can always try my father's tactic which was providing two rooms but not noticing whether they were both used. That of course assumes tacit complicity, which may not be comfortable.