I recently found evidence of a sexual relationship between my son, 13, and his friend, 14. I think he was relieved to be found out, he admits he felt slightly pressured, although engaged enthusiastically.
As most of the inappropriate behaviours occurred via text, my husband and I have taken away his telephone and had long chats about sexuality and healthy relationships.
I’m unsure what to do about the girl, however. We communicated via text, which she preferred. She was beside herself that I’d tell her parents, that I’d cut her off from my son (whom she’s not dating, she has a boyfriend).
She gave me a list of reasons about why she messes up and swears she won’t do it again, if I just don’t call her parents.
She comes from a strict family who, nevertheless, doesn’t really know what she’s up to. I’m worried about her possibly self-harming and other repercussions.
As she has texted out nude selfies to people with whom she’s not intimately involved, I worry more about the long-term impact on her life than on the short-term impact of familial punishment.
I’m also reluctant to get into a caring relationship with a girl whom I see as unstable and manipulative.
You already have a caring heart about her, but need to set your own boundaries. At 14, it’s her parents who need to be made aware of her inappropriate and potentially dangerous behaviour, especially with her nude selfies available for circulation.
You can demonstrate your own parenting example by telling them of your son’s involvement, and how you and your husband handled it.
You may also gently alert them that she feared punishment, acknowledged that she kept “messing up,” and listed reasons.
Hopefully, that’ll prompt them to take a big-picture look at their daughter’s behaviour.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who felt “stuck” with a critical and grumpy husband (Nov. 26):
Reader – “I could’ve written that letter, word for word.
“You’re right - she is stuck, as am I, so far. I, and possibly she too, spend more than 50% of the time with the children. In order to separate physically and financially, there must be a means to support oneself.
“And there’s the recognition that with a separation, there’s the possibility of shared custody (with a harsh, too-critical father).
“So many women do not leave their husbands because they don't want to NOT be with their kids.
“I’m trying to protect mine from being with a miserable and mean individual without the “buffer” of mom running interference.
“Unfortunately, my children (now in their early teens) will probably be very angry with me, for breaking up the family in a year or so, once I’ve arranged to support myself.
“Had I left ten years ago when they were little, life would’ve moved on, with them somewhat oblivious to the reasons for the split.
“My husband, like hers, is a good provider financially, and participates in running kids to some activities. But the negatives far outweigh the positives.
“I wish I’d separated sooner, I just didn't know then how bad things would get.
“Only when faced with the harsh reality of losing one's family might these husbands change, but don't count on it.
“Next year I’ll return to teaching and suffer the consequences of a separated family.
“It is so not what I wanted for me and my children. But I’m looking forward to the peace and the healing.”
A 'Sister' in Spirit
FEEDBACK Regarding the married woman who had sex with another man (Nov. 27):
Reader – “I saw red flags for emotional abuse/controlling behaviour from her husband’s behaviour.
“Emotional control - totally inappropriate and harmful in itself - so often escalates to abuse.
“Having someone followed? Surveillance on a spouse? These are well beyond the line of “jealousy” or “suspecting an affair” and could be dangerous.”
Ellie – I appreciate your zeroing in on this perspective. I did focus more on her suggestion of suicidal feelings – “I don’t feel the strength to carry on” – and her reference to seeking mental health help.
That’s why I emphasized her value to her children and those who do love her, and urged her continuing with professional help.
But you’re correct that there’s an apparent sub-text of living with a very controlling husband. She should review his behaviour with her counselor and weigh options regarding her physical and emotional safety.
Tip of the day:
When your own child’s inappropriate behaviour involves other minors, you must alert their parents.