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Son Wants to Spend Spring Break with His Girlfriend

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: While on a family vacation, my 15-year-old son met a girl of the same age. He spent almost all his time alone with her, often staying out too late. This behavior was surprising because he's always been very obedient.

He wants us to let him spend his April vacation in California with her. He says he'll pay for his ticket and other expenses if we will let him go. We don't think he should go because he isn't old enough. Also, he hasn't known her very long (only 3 or 4 weeks). We don't know anything about her parents, in whose care we'd be leaving him. Should we let him go?

A: I wouldn't allow my child to spend Spring Break with another family that I didn't know. I'm guessing that your son is smitten with this girl. As you might recall from your teen years, his emotions and hormones are in high gear and he probably won't welcome any argument that you present against his visiting this girl, regardless of its merits. He did not do himself any favors by acting irresponsibly while in her company in terms of curfews.

If you could gain enough of a good sense about this girl's family from conversing with them at length, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of letting your son visit her. Ask yourself what would be risked by letting him go. If you can't offer a response that is rooted in a fear for his overall well-being, then I'd be persuaded to trust him as the responsible young man that you know him to be. I would also strongly recommend that you invite this girl to visit your home over the upcoming vacation. Your son needs to understand that you are providing him with a way to see this girl. Seeing her is the main objective here, not seeing her in California.

Call this girl's parents and get a feel for who they are as parents. Don't be afraid to ask them questions, as this is hardly a plan for your children to just see a movie together. After speaking with her parents, discuss your thoughts about the situation with your husband and then negotiate a decision with your son. I'll bet that your family will come to a reasonable decision based on mutual respect and sound judgment. Thanks for writing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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