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Relationships Advice: Custody of a Troubled Teenager

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Dear Loveawake: My husband and I are happily married for 5 years now and we are blessed with 2 beautiful daughters, aged 3 and 19 months. The problem is my husband’s sister, a single parent, is dying of cancer and she has 2 kids, a boy, 15 and a girl, 10. She is his only sibling and she wants us to have the custody of her kids. I have no problem taking in her daughter, but my fear is about the boy. He is really bad news. I mean, he not only uses foul language, he beats up on his sister, fights with his mom, watches porn, smokes and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is taking drugs. My sister-in-law is slipping away and her son is really out of control. Every time they visit, he would bring porn tapes into our house and even after we confronted him, he wouldn’t mind us and still tried to sneak them in. We caught him trying to log into porn sites with our internet account and when my husband confronted him, he lied and said that they are just pop-ups and it was not his fault. My husband is really torn within because his sister, who is 15 years older than him, had been like a mom to him all his life, taking care of him when he was a child and doing things a mother should do. Their own mother, also a single parent, worked all the time and she is in her 60’s now and she lives with us and takes care of our kids while my husband and I both work full-time. My mother-in-law is really putting a lot of guilt on my husband talking about how family sticks together, etc. but she is really blind to her only grandson’s actions. We have tried to talk to her but she thinks this is what all teenagers do and all he needs is a father figure in his life. But personally, I think he is beyond that. He needs to be in a boot camp or something. I am really afraid of the possibility that he might rape our daughters or even kill us in our sleep. My husband said that if we turn him away, he will end up on the street and either kill or be killed. Personally, I would be less afraid if I didn’t have two young toddlers at home who are totally defenseless and can be easily influenced by his cursing all the time. The boy does not respect or listen to anybody and we really don’t know what to do with him. My sister-in-law has about 2-3 months to live and she needs to make out her will but her position is either, take both of my kids and keep them together or the deal is off. Am I selfish in denying her dying wish after all that she did for my husband, or should we just take her “ticking bomb” son in and hope for the best?? Please help!! – Jill

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Dear Jill: This is a very difficult situation that you are in, but I really can’t see you taking in a child who is so out of control. Whatever he is doing now will only get worse when his mother dies. I can’t imagine the pain this young man is going through but I don’t believe that you are equipped psychologically to handle this type of child. You would need years of training to take on this type of responsibility. This is truly a decision of what will feel “less bad.” Either decision you make, will not feel good. If it was just you and your husband, I think I would guide you differently, but since you have more than just the two of you to consider, I think that you would be subjecting your own children to a dangerous individual as well as his friends. Usually, as the saying goes, “Birds of a feather, stick together.” The 10 year old deserves a chance but your sister-in-law is making this an impossible situation by demanding that this be a package deal. I think you are going to have to be honest with her and tell her that you have decided that you cannot handle the 15 year old. Even if he has not been part of this boy’s life, you should try and contact his biological father, who is really responsible for him and should be involved in his future. If not, you will have to look into a good program (boot camp) that could possibly shape him up. If there are no other relatives or alternatives, then perhaps your husband’s mom could move in with these children for the next few years. You would then either have to find live-in help, or quit your job to stay home with your children. I do not think your marriage can survive two full-time working parents, a disturbed teenager, a newly acquired 10 year old, a live-in mother-in-law and two children under the age of 4. You do not want to follow in the footsteps of his sister and mom. You’ll need to be the strong one here because someone has to be looking at this from a rational point of view. In this case, following your heart will lead to disaster. It will be interesting to hear what our subscribers think. – Loveawake

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