Ask Amy: Teen houseguest requires real supervision

May 7

DEAR AMY: Recently, I had a relative’s teenage daughter come stay with me over a holiday weekend. She had been having issues with her parents and at school, so I thought this would give everyone a rest and a breather. The teen is close to my older kids, and I thought they might be able to mentor and nurture her.

The entire weekend reminded me of the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” I haven’t had that much drama in my house since my own daughter was a teenager — and to top it off, my own kids gave her alcohol when I wasn’t with them. I was truly disappointed when I found out.

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

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

Now I’m at a loss to explain to my two adult (ages 24 and 22) children why this was a colossal mess-up. They are adults and should know better, right? Can you please give me some guidance? -- Horrified

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

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

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

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

DEAR AMY: When we first moved into our neighborhood about eight months ago we noticed our cat-loving neighbors starting to invite our cat, “V,” into their home. They let him have free rein and even let him sleep with them on their bed at night with their other cats.

At our house, “V’’ gets a cozy bed, quality organic food and lots of love. We don’t, however, let him sleep on our bed or jump on the counters or do whatever he wants.

They have hinted that they would appreciate us giving them money for the extra food our cat eats while “vacationing” in their home.

He stays with us most nights but wanders over there during all hours.

I want to remain on good terms with my generally good-natured neighbors but do not want to enable their enabling by giving them money for cat food. Am I wrong? Any suggestions? -- Shoo Kat

DEAR SHOO: Your cat should not be roaming the streets, catting around. In addition to the awkwardness with your neighbors, your cat could be exposed to infectious diseases such as feline leukemia — along with the old-fashioned bad influence your neighbors convey.

You could also face a situation where your cat simply prefers your neighbor’s house to yours and repatriates. Are you prepared to fight over custody of this cat?

If you aren’t willing to keep your cat indoors, tell your neighbors, “Please don’t let ‘V’ into your house. We don’t think it’s a good idea, and we worry about him when we can’t find him.”

DEAR AMY: “Worried” was a busy grad student working on a crisis hotline who was feeling overwhelmed and depressed. I thought your advice to her was compassionate and correct: People who bring comfort also need comfort. I hope she takes your advice to see a therapist. -- Social Worker

DEAR SOCIAL WORKER: Her life sounded draining and exhausting. Therapy would help her recharge her emotional batteries.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2014 by the Chicago Tribune

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