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My daughter wants to move in with her boyfriend

QUESTION: My daughter is 15 and is telling us she is going to move out at 16 and live with her current 17 year old boyfriend. We have concerns about this and have spoken with her. If she leaves home at 16 and get into any trouble with the police or in debt will we be held responsible for her actions even if we can’t make her stay at home. She believes that when she is 16 she can legally move out is this right or is it 18 or 21.

You daughter is right, She can leave home without your permission at 16. Unfortunately laws have been framed this way because of the need to protect some of our children from dreadful experiences at home and in the process they sometimes make it harder for responsible parents to guide their children in the right direction.

The reality of the situation is that even if it wasn’t lawful, your daughter is of an age that if she wants to move in with her boyfriend there is very little you could do to stop it. The issue is not serious enough for the authorities to act.

Let us hope she does not get into trouble with the police, but if she does she will be the one accountable for it. Similarly with debt: the only way in which you could be held responsible for it is if you sign leases, contracts or rental agreements.

The first place to start though is to lay a foundation so that whether your daughter leaves home or not your relationship will survive. While it may not seem like it to her now (and at times it may not even seem like it to you) that relationship is going to be very important to her life in the near future.

Perhaps there are areas in which you could lighten up which give her a greater sense of independence without compromising your family expectations and values?

Also, it is important to build the relationship in spite of the current tension. It would be a very good thing to find some opportunities to spend positive time with each other in which the conflict areas are not discussed. Maybe have a weekly lunch date during which you both are banned from talking about anything to do with the boyfriend or her leaving home. This won’t be easy at first but if you persist it will become very valuable time during which you will almost certainly rediscover your mother-daughter relationship. It is that relationship that will ultimately give your daughter safety and security and you peace.