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Ask Lisi: My teen refuses to go to bed. What do I do?

My teenage daughter refuses to go to bed at night, and it’s disrupting the family and causing tension and resentment.
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Lisi Tesher is an advice columnist for the Toronto Star.

Dear Lisi: My teenage daughter refuses to go to bed at night. She’s all over the house, talking loudly on her phone, laughing, eating everything, and then finally crashing on the basement or living room couch. My husband finds her every morning on his way to the gym — makeup smeared, teeth unbrushed, still clothed — and sends her up to bed. When I hear her alarm incessantly going off, I ask her to turn it off and get up for school.

No response. So, I turn it off because it’s annoying! I get myself and my younger children ready for our day. They are still too young to completely dress themselves, let alone make breakfast or lunch.

By the time I’m leaving to get the little ones to school and myself to work, my husband is returning in a rush to start his day. And as I leave, I tell him that his daughter is still in bed.

This cycle is killing me. I’m stressed and not my happy self for my little ones; they are stuck listening to tension and yelling in the mornings; and it builds resentment between me and my husband. But I don’t want to deal with her!

How do we get out of this rut?

Step-hell

To answer your question: with third-party help. You didn’t make it clear until your sign off that you’re a blended family, and though that’s not an excuse, it is a factor. The age difference between your teenage stepdaughter and your two younger children is significant. Your house is out of sync.

You don’t want to continue this way, essentially pitting part of your family against the other. I strongly suggest you and your husband find a professional who can hear the problem from your perspectives, engage in conversation with your daughter, and then find the balance that best suits all your schedules.

In the meantime, perhaps your daughter can move down to the basement. There’s less chance she’ll wake anyone or stress you out in the mornings. Your husband may need to cut his gym sessions shorter to deal with his daughter.

And consequences need to be in place if she is late or misses school, doesn’t clean up, etc.

Dear Lisi: My husband and I have allowed our son (he’s my stepson) into our home after being incarcerated. It’s been a few months, and he is just starting to look for work. He is being very picky regarding what jobs to apply for.

How do I get through to him that he should be applying for everything since he now has a criminal record? I would love for him to get a job and move out. He is paying rent, but it’s not about the money; we would just love our privacy back. There are no boundaries now, for example, while talking to my husband, our son will comment on what I am saying. We (my husband and myself) don’t get any privacy as our son is always in the room.

Help for sanity

Your son is obviously no longer a child, and therefore you don’t need to treat him like one. You and your husband need to set up boundaries in your home and expectations.

For example, you expect him to get up at a decent hour, make a concerted effort to find a job, and help around the house. Set up a time when you and your husband separate from him, and go to your own room, whenever works for you. It is, after all, your home.

And set an expectation of time for him to get a job, find an apartment, and move out. Offer to help him with rent if that’s an issue, but he needs to get out on his own.

FEEDBACK Regarding the reckless parking lot driver (Jan. 3):

Reader – “I see two very possible scenarios: 1) He was just a jerk. Unfortunately, there are many on the roads today. It is NEVER worth a confrontation. I always just wave them on.

“Or, as you mentioned in your response, 2) he may be experiencing a MAJOR life issue. I can tell you that when I got the call that my father had just passed away, I became everything I detested in a driver. At that time my mind was only on one thing, which was getting to the hospital. In hindsight I see how stupid that was and sincerely regret my actions.

“Or imagine if he was a parent with a child in distress? How many people complain when an Amber Alert goes off in the middle of the night, but would do anything if it was their own child?”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca or lisi@thestar.ca