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  1. #1
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    How to deal with a runaway teen and family?

    Well, my teenage sister Ashley, has run away for the third time. The first two times it was shortly before Christmas, and my parents knew she was at her boyfriend's house so they just drove there and brought her back the same day. This time around there isn't anything they can do because Friday was her 18th birthday.

    She claims that she's depressed and "can't stand" living with my parents because they are "too strict" and are "insensitive". I personally think that's a crock of sh*t. If anything my parents have been far too lenient with her. She's the baby, she has always gotten her way, she can do no wrong. She has a sour attitude towards my parents, myself, and our other two sisters. None of us can hold a conversation with her without her saying something nasty, negative, or rude. Basically she just goes all "emo" every time the littlest thing doesn't go her way, and I think she's just using this so-called "depression" to manipulate my parents.

    My parents have let her boyfriend make himself at home at their house, at the discomfort and expense of our other sisters who dislike him and feel uncomfortable with him around everyday. They asked my parents to limit his visits to 2 times a week, and they did nothing. They brought him to my apartment for a visit WITHOUT even asking me if that was ok, if it weren't for my older sister telling me about his coming I wouldn't have known. I asked my mother not to bring him, as I wanted family only time (my OWN boyfriend was not even invited for this particular visit) and she said it would be rude to un-invite him, he was like family, and brought him anyway. My parents took him out to dinner with them, on family trips and outings, and basically put out three of their other children to spoil their precious baby and her boyfriend.

    My sisters and I don't like him because he has made some rude remarks about my parents "harsh rules", my two other sisters, and tells numerous lies and untrue stories. He posted on facebook that my Dad's rules were "f***ing stupid" and had said all sorts of expletives about my mother as well, and really for no reason considering how generous my parents were to him. Ashley's grades have plummeted since dating him, her behavior has worsened, and now she has put my family through endless drama threatening to kill herself and running away multiple times.

    I'm at the end of my rope because as angry as I am with Ashley, I'm almost as equally angry with my parents. My sisters and I told them from the beginning he rubbed us the wrong way, and was making inappropriate comments. We told them that they should be keeping an eye on them and setting boundaries. They should talk to her about having a boyfriend for the first time, having sex, ect. They just hand waived it and said "oh she's a smart kid! She'll figure it out!" YES. She's so smart that she dropped out of high school with only 3 months to go, and dumped her family for an unwashed miscreant that has no job, no car, no education!!!

    Now I have to deal with my mother whining and wailing about the whole situation. We told our parents the first two times she ran away to set boundaries, take away her computer, cell phone, ect. And they said "well she promised not to run away again!!" so they didn't even really do anything proactive to help the situation. My mom is going through menopause, and she's hysterical about it all. As much as I want to be supportive, I offered my support before, and it was thrown back in my face. I know Ashley will come back eventually when her and the loser boyfriend run out of money. I want to tell my parents if they let her back in that house they will never see me there again. I'm done with Ashley, unless or until she cleans up her act. It's not fair to my other sisters who live in the same home (one of whom has a mild autism) to have to get the shaft in favor of someone who could clearly care less about them.

    At this point I don't really know what to say to my sister if she comes back, or even my mother, who I'm quite angry at, but at the same time I do feel for her. I'm trying to be supportive/understanding, but in all honesty it's really hard to not say "I TOLD YOU SO!!!!"
    If anyone else has been through a similar situation, or is good with advice in general...I sure could use some

  2. #2
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    My only advice would be...............boundaries. Very strict boundaries.

  3. #3
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    Well, as you say, she's 18, so there's basically nothing they can do (unless she has a credit card that they pay, in which case they can just cancel it and cut her off. I would hope if they're paying for her cell phone they quit doing that, too.) I'd ignore her if she contacts you, and let her ruin her own life if that's what she wants to do. You CERTAINLY have no obligation to her boyfriend and forcing you to include him in a family visit was way out of line.

    As far as telling your parents you won't come to their house if/when they take her back in....well, that's up to you, and I would look out for guilt trip attempts, but you should do what is best for your own mental health. You could always say that your parents (minus baby sister and any romantic barnacles she happens to have) are welcome to visit you, but you are not going to their house until that situation changes, and stick to that. Though she might not come back this time, you never know, so it may be a moot issue. In any case, do what causes you the least possible amount of mental/emotional stress. Seen too many relatives work themselves into ulcers over dealing with poison family members.

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    Boundaries and rules won't help so unfortunately she will have to hit rock bottom before she comes around, have you asked your parents if they are prepared to raise a baby if your sister shows up broke, pregnant and dumped?

  5. #5

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    At this point, you need to do what's best for you. You can't force your parents to set boundaries or your sister to behave, but you can set them for yourself. You don't have to see your sister, your boyfriend, or your parents when they are with either the brat or the douche.

    Just like your sister is now an adult, your parents are adults. They made some choices that were perhaps not the wisest and they have to live with the consequences.

    Not to this extreme, but my little brother went through something like that as well, and my parents did eventually reach the point where they cut him off. His behavior lasted a hot minute after the money/help was cut off. My best friend's youngest brother went off the rails, and his parents are still bailing him out. He's 27, has Chrone's disease, a heroin addiction, a rap sheet a mile long (including driving a car into a family house and armed robbery), and at least two kids that we know about and one of them is special needs. I'm not saying that your sister will ever be that extreme, but it took a huge emotional toll on my friend's emotional well-being and health. She eventually had to say, I will not see my brother. I will not communicate with him. I will not have anything to do with him. She's been a lot better since she's done that. Her parents were upset by this, but my friend has her own family and their health/safety to consider.

    There's not a lot you can do for your parents, but you can and should take care of yourself.
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

  6. #6
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    Focus on you, I agree. Set rules for your house. If you don't want to see the boyfriend say he is not welcome in your house.

    I would advice, for a possible future relationship simply stating that to you sister, and also tell her hat as long as she follows you rules she is welcome, and that you love her. Just don't give her an inch, and remember to say that you don't like her choices, but you like her. If you are interested in a relationship 20 years down the line.

    I think your parents should do the same (and give her the safe sex talk), but you can't control them.
    If you get frustrated with them, make rules for them too - as in I love you, you are my parents, but I don agree with how you handle Ashley. Please don't speak of her troubles when you are in m house/talking with me.

  7. #7
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    Oh my goodness, this thread reminds me of a similar situation that my mum's closest friend experienced with her teenage daughter 27 years ago.

    Fast forward to 2013 and the daughter has no job, is an ex- heroin addict, unmarried with three children (and one with learning disabilities) to three different men, and still expects financial handouts from her parents. It's so sad because the phrase, 'a person bent on revenge digs two graves,' springs to mind.

  8. #8

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    I'm sorry, Smiley. My sister did some very similar things -- I remember how awful it was.

    My family had a very wise psychiatrist who told my mother, "You have to let her hit rock bottom." That is an unbelievably hard thing to do -- it was hard enough for me as her sister, I can't begin to imagine how hard it was for my parents. But they did it. Rock bottom was a long, long way down. But once she got there, she turned her life around. Thank God, she is doing SO much better now.

    All that to say, you have the right idea. You can't make your parents do anything, but keep doing what you can to encourage them to set boundaries and let her go. And encourage them to go to a good counselor too. I hope and pray that things will get better.
    Charter member of the "We Always Believed in Ashley" Club and the "We Believe in Ricky" Club

  9. #9

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    Do you live at home? How old are your sisters?

    A lot of sick people there. You are not going to be able to fix it. They need help. Save yourself. You are the only person you can help. Good luck
    DH - and that's just my opinion

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiley0884 View Post
    Now I have to deal with my mother whining and wailing about the whole situation. We told our parents the first two times she ran away to set boundaries, take away her computer, cell phone, ect. And they said "well she promised not to run away again!!" so they didn't even really do anything proactive to help the situation. My mom is going through menopause, and she's hysterical about it all. As much as I want to be supportive, I offered my support before, and it was thrown back in my face.
    Pretty common dysfunctional family triangle: you have your sister whom you acknowledge is effed-up, your mother who is enabling her, and you are your mother's release valve/doormat. You believe that Mom is "normal" except for this situation with your sister, right? That once you can convince your mother to stop enabling your sister, everything in the family will be hunky-dory? Forget it. Your mother is an enabler, which is just as effed-up as the acknowledged effed-up person. Arguably the enabler is more dangerous because they'll convince you that they're "about to" set boundaries, but they never will. See the classic cartoon series of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. If you don't want to be the figurative Charlie Brown in this scenario, you'll set your own boundaries and protect yourself from this mess.

  11. #11

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    I can totally understand your frustration. My sister when she was about 14-15 was behaving like she was being incredibly hard done by at home which just wasn't true. My mum was a single mother and on a single mothers pension as well as working as a house cleaner to earn extra money for us. My sister had no appreciation of what my mum was doing. She was also quite violent which was very frightening. I overhead some girls at school talking about my "poor" sister and I let rip into them about how they had no clue and how difficult my sister was making it for the rest of our family. Why they even spoke that way in front of me when they probably knew I was her sister was really stupid.

    I agree with the thoughts here that she needs to find her own way and sort out her own life. She is 18 so there is not much you can do about it. She obviously has a sense of self-entitlement that you cannot do much about and she has taken advantage of your parent's attitude. It is good that you can blow off some steam here but at the end of the day you have to also learn how to deal with the situation and accept that you can't change her with her current attitude and state of mind.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the advice everyone

    Quote Originally Posted by heckles View Post
    Pretty common dysfunctional family triangle: you have your sister whom you acknowledge is effed-up, your mother who is enabling her, and you are your mother's release valve/doormat.
    Exactly. Although I'm pretty straight forward with my mom. She wants advice, so I'm not going to sugar coat it, and neither do my other sisters when she's crying to them about the situation.

    You believe that Mom is "normal" except for this situation with your sister, right? That once you can convince your mother to stop enabling your sister, everything in the family will be hunky-dory?
    Not by a long shot! In all honesty I think my mom is a huge hypocrite for enabling my sister, and then constantly bitching about my Grandmother (her mother in law) enabling my Aunt, who has her own issues. That's a whole separate drama, but my mom was constantly bitching about how she had to "deal with it" because my Grandmother lives with my family. Long story short my sisters and I kept giving her advice that she wouldn't take, so I finally blew up at her and told her I didn't want to hear another word about the situation if she refused to be proactive. She scaled back her bitching about that topic, but she still gripes from time to time. My mom has a ton of issues, and for the most part I can deal with it, but this is just out of control, especially because my sisters and I feel as if we're getting the shaft in favor of Ashley. It's always been like that, but now it's egregious.

    Your mother is an enabler, which is just as effed-up as the acknowledged effed-up person. Arguably the enabler is more dangerous because they'll convince you that they're "about to" set boundaries, but they never will. See the classic cartoon series of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. If you don't want to be the figurative Charlie Brown in this scenario, you'll set your own boundaries and protect yourself from this mess.
    Perfect analogy. At this point my main concern is the welfare of my other sisters. One of them has broken into hives from the stress. I don't live with my mom so at least I can limit the phone calls and just tell her I'm busy if it gets to be too much. I don't even want to visit my parents for Easter, because I just don't want to get sucked in to the drama. I can't face my parents and listen to them "woe is me" when it truly does bother me that my parents blatantly ignored our wishes and put Ashley's needs before ours. It hurts, but I just have to accept that it's probably always going to be like that.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    I'm sorry, Smiley. My sister did some very similar things -- I remember how awful it was.

    My family had a very wise psychiatrist who told my mother, "You have to let her hit rock bottom." That is an unbelievably hard thing to do -- it was hard enough for me as her sister, I can't begin to imagine how hard it was for my parents. But they did it. Rock bottom was a long, long way down. But once she got there, she turned her life around. Thank God, she is doing SO much better now.

    All that to say, you have the right idea. You can't make your parents do anything, but keep doing what you can to encourage them to set boundaries and let her go. And encourage them to go to a good counselor too. I hope and pray that things will get better.
    That's really good advice. My mom is seeing a therapist and my sister Ashley was seeing the same one as well. To be honest neither of them have made any progress. But I guess if you don't want to be helped there's not much a therapist can do. Taking her to the therapist was probably the one pro-active thing they did, but I'm not sure if it was a good idea for my sister to be seeing the same therapist as my mother. Their reasoning for being so "soft" on her was her threats to kill herself if she didn't get her way. It seemed to me she was manipulating them, but I can understand not dismissing a suicide threat. Everyone in our family was telling them to have her committed if they TRULY felt she was a danger to herself, but my mom decided against it, because "She said she didn't want to go!" Well, NO SH*T sherlock! What person that needs to be committed actually knows whats best for them? Really?!

    I hate to sound like a jerk, but if she wanted to kill herself she would have tried already. My older sister tried twice when she was a teenager and my parents treated her quite harshly in comparison.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiley0884 View Post
    I can't face my parents and listen to them "woe is me" when it truly does bother me that my parents blatantly ignored our wishes and put Ashley's needs before ours.
    So, don't listen to their "woe is me" monologues. Hang up the phone, leave the room, whatever. You've already discussed this to exhaustion. By providing an outlet for their "woe is me" garbage, you are acting as a release valve. They can pay for a therapist if that want that particular service, plus they might actually accomplish something in counseling.
    Last edited by heckles; 03-11-2013 at 03:26 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matryeshka View Post
    At this point, you need to do what's best for you. You can't force your parents to set boundaries or your sister to behave, but you can set them for yourself. You don't have to see your sister, your boyfriend, or your parents when they are with either the brat or the douche.

    Just like your sister is now an adult, your parents are adults. They made some choices that were perhaps not the wisest and they have to live with the consequences.
    Just repeating the above as it is right on.

    Can your sisters move out of your parents' house? Sounds like both of them are over 18 if Ashley is the baby. Even with her gone, it sounds like the house isn't a terribly good environment for them.

    You say that this guy is Ashley's first boyfriend? Eek, what a nightmare.
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    Quote Originally Posted by genevieve View Post
    Just repeating the above as it is right on.

    Can your sisters move out of your parents' house? Sounds like both of them are over 18 if Ashley is the baby. Even with her gone, it sounds like the house isn't a terribly good environment for them.

    You say that this guy is Ashley's first boyfriend? Eek, what a nightmare.

    They're both working on moving out, but I don't see them as getting to that point anytime soon since my parents haven't bothered to equip them with any sort of life skills to transition into adulthood. One of them is 21, never had a job in her life, and is getting by with fairly average grades at the local community college. She's a good, respectful kid, but very sheltered, somewhat spoiled (not to the extent of Ashley) and to be honest kind of lazy. My older sister has Aspergers, and really has gotten the shaft out of all of us. My parents treated her quite harshly has a child/teenager, and while they brought her to psychiatrists and doctors, they didn't really do any of their own research on Asperger's nor did they offer much support when she was being bullied in school. She can't work because she recieves government assistance, but she's a full time student and is quite intellegent.

    It's definitely not a good enviornment for them, but hopefully they can get it together soon and move out on their own.

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