My husband shares custody of his two daughters with their mother. The daughter, 16, isn’t taking physical distancing seriously and goes out. The 14-year-old’s friends can’t go out so she stays home alone and angry.
He’s tried to explain the gravity of the situation but they’re not open.
The mother has unaddressed mental health issues and is not following health officials' advice around the virus.
Both girls have a history of problematic behaviour at school, and refuse to participate in counselling.
The older girl dropped out of high school in January. She vapes, smokes cigarettes and pot, and has had many sexual partners in the past several months.
She left our house in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep to be with her friends. Later, she returned to her mother's apartment, which is what she does when her father tries to set any boundaries.
When the girl and her mother have a fight (frequently) the daughter wants to come back here sooner. But we don’t know where she’s been and with whom.
The younger girl blames her dad for her sister not being around while she’s bored at home.
So, we’re dealing with the wayward teen, and the angry/ resentful one who stays in her room and won't talk.
We worry about our own health being exposed to the virus. We’re at a loss as to what to do about the older girl's lack of conscientiousness and cannot count on the mother to take a united stand against the virus.
Is there some way that my husband could still reach his older daughter? What can we do to protect all of us?
My husband wishes he had full custody, and I support this for the good of the girls, as does the girls' maternal grandmother.
But it won't happen any time soon and we need to deal with the immediate matter of COVID-19.
S.O.S. from Parents
Yes, you all do need help!
Your situation is complicated, with Dad being seen as an unfair enforcer.
So, start by calling on knowledgeable people on the front lines through the internet and YouTube videos, which many teens believe more easily than parents.
Dad needs to show some of what’s happening from the coronavirus outside the family situation.
Example: Watch together the video of the Detroit bus driver who died just two weeks after a female passenger coughed openly, showing that when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks, the virus droplets are in the air to harm others.
Then watch a TV news clip of CNN broadcaster Chris Cuomo being filmed in his basement about having been infected by the virus without knowing how or where he was exposed to it.
Hear him talking about the terrible chills, constant fevers, weakness and nightmares he’s experienced, despite being a healthy, active man with young kids.
(I’ve mentioned this in my column before but have been personally struck by his openness).
Your husband should then move quickly to a softer tone of concern for them as sisters, and their friends… not about yourselves and their mother.
What if their refusal to keep the distance from other people that doctors and scientists recommend, causes death to a friend of theirs or their sister?
He should say that this period of being super careful about distance rules, will eventually end, IF we all do it. If we don’t, more people will die and the rules will have to continue.
Our son married his partner in the southern US, having transferred there since she’s divorced with a child and can’t move.
He was on a work visa (fragile during a pandemic) so they married quickly to pursue a different visa.
We couldn’t attend due to the virus scare.
My relatives here followed them on Facebook, which they found very entertaining.
The couple both have university degrees and had good careers.
I told my sister-in-law I’d send a wedding picture.
She said she’d seen them on Facebook but didn’t say they looked nice, or ask where she could send them a card, etc.
She’s done this before but since he’s our only child who just got married it’s a low blow.
Her passive aggressive behaviour is meant to be totally hurtful, which it was.
It seems withdrawing is all I can do.
No response is your best one. The loss is hers.
Tip of the day:
Show the realities of what COVID-19 does to victims, to teenagers who resent strict rules.