DH and I have power of attorney over a 14 year old - J (15 in January). J wants to be adopted by us, but that's not possible, so we will be trying for guardianship after the holidays if his mom will agree. DH and I are both 26 years old. I was the mentor to this child before he came to live with us. To his friends and such he refers to us as mom and dad, and he calls us his parents. Relationship with his mom is not good and he has stated repeatedly that he does not want to go back.
Previously there were not a lot of boundaries or supervision with his mom. He lived primarily in K-Town, which is where his friends mostly are. Then he moved to P-Town for a couple months before his mom landed in C-Town, which is close to us, and where he has some friends but not as many as K-Town.
The problem at hand is that because I was his mentor before, he told me everything. He still tells me a lot, but more then. He tells me all about his friends and what they are up to. I know that his friend Phi from P-Town has lots of feelings for him, that they were left alone together a lot when he lived in P-Town (but that he has not had sex yet). I know that his other friend in K-Town is very into pot and once took J to a college party.
J has never had a girl over to our house. My husband and I have discussed how we would handle that because we would rather him have a girl here where we know how he is supervised then have him go there and not know. Even though this has never happened, J told me that he wanted to go visit Phi at her house and didn't want to have her over here because he knew I wouldn't leave them alone. Well, he's right. I wouldn't. The door would be open and I would check in every once in a while. I told him that we would try to figure something out so he could go visit her, but I truly don't want him to go over there. I don't trust the supervision at all. I don't know anything about her family.
Last week we got into a discussion about his friend from K-Town that smokes pot and took him to the college party. He wanted to go visit him and I said no way, no how. He told me that if I wouldn't let him, then next time he goes to K-Town to visit a different friend, he will just make plans to see this friend and not tell me. I told him that wouldn't be a wise idea and that will impact him going back to K-Town at all. I told his that his safety is most important to me, and I don't want anything happening to him. The conversation stopped.
So now he wants to go see this girl, Phi, in P-Town. P-Town is an hour away. More than likely, it will not happen when he wants it to (Christmas break) because it would need to be something where I have things to do in a town close to there anyway, otherwise I would be driving for four hours for him to see this girl. And I just now realized how chaotic our Christmas break really is, with not a lot of wiggle room.
I'm just struggling. I like that he is open and honest with me, but I feel like every time he is I use it against him. He tells me about Phi and their supervision, and I don't want him there. He tells me about K-Town friend and what he does, and I don't want him there. He told me about another friend (B) that went to parties every weekend, and I told him he couldn't go if that friend was going to a party. Eventually, isn't he going to just stop telling me? What do I do? We did have a big trust thing going, where he knew that I trusted him to do the right thing - he decided not to go to B's house because he didn't want to be caught in an awkward situation of telling his friend no to a party, but his comment about going to K-Town and making plans with that friend without telling me kind of throws a wrench into that.
Well he's 14 and from the sounds of it, he's not an idiot it also sounds like he really does trust you and he respects you. I say don't wait until the next time he asks for something that you don't agree with just sit down and talk with him. I do mean with him, this isn't about laying down the law. Explain what you feel and why you feel that way and get him to talk about what he feels and why he feels that way and see if the two of you can come to a mutual understanding about things. Like his gf can come and visit and they can have the door closed, but you can come and knock on the door and be admitted to the room without delay for instance. The lines of communication are still open and it's up to you to keep them open, at this point the teen rarely closes those lines without reason which is often because the adults just don't listen or show any respect for the autonomy of said teen.
If it looks like I'm trying to pick a fight... I'm not, I'm rarely that obvious.
Thank you! I think you nailed it. Him and I do talk quite often about how I feel about things and work on compromises. That approach has worked wonderfully for us in the past, so I don't know why I didn't think of continuing it.
Keep offering those things that you are comfortable with. Tell him again you'd be glad for Phi to come to your place. Ask him if he's really willing to forgo a visit with Phi simply because he's unwilling to leave the door open. Because from that perspective, he's the one saying 'no' to getting together with Phi.
Yes, keep talking. Keep listening.
Totally. I can't tell you how much I would have appreciated this when I was a teen. To be asked what I think, and have my opinion treated with respect? Would have gone a long way towards maintaining trust, even if my parents ultimately disagreed with me.