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Teens' Space at Home

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens' Space at Home


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Teen wants to live local but separate from our family

July 2013

Seeking a loving host home for my 14yo son who is looking to live local but separate from our family. He attends school on Solano Ave in Albany, so ideally he will live walking distance (North Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito OK.) He is generally an upbeat, helpful person and completely self-directed, also on a quest for a job and further independence. Please respond if you are interested in providing a stable, secure living situation for a somewhat at-risk youth who is fleeing the nest early. Nurturing, mentor-type, and family environments are preferred but as long as your record is clean and you would like to find out more, we will be happy to discuss possible arrangements! local mom


I think it is important to think about some issues that may come up with your request.

For one, your son is a juvenile. If he is living in a room in someone else's house, who will have legal responsibility for him? You will and,at the same time, you will not be involved in his supervision. Will the person whose home he lives in have liability and what happens if your son does something illegal? What happens if he does something to harm himself or if he is ill?

I would hesitate long and hard before letting a 14-year-old live with someone you do not know, especially if it is a kid who is ''at risk'' and I would hesitate long and hard having your son in my home,as I would be concerned if I am a surrogate parent or what my role would be with your son. I do not think you can legally send a 14-year-old to rent a room, like an adult, without supervison.

As for work, your son is not 16 years old yet. Working under age 16 means he will need a special work permit. Many employers will not employ a young teen for the above reason. There are also limits as to how many hours he can work at his age, even with a special work permit granted. If your son wants to get work experience, he can ask neighbors to mow lawns if he has the equipment. He can babysit. And, he can volunteer, a great way for a 14-year-old to get work experience. anon


Anyone have a detached addition for teen use?

Oct 2012

Hi parents: We recently moved into a two-bedroom home that has one combination living/dining area. We're thinking about building a detached multi-purpose room that our 15 yr old can use to hang out with friends, and a place for our college-age daughter to sleep when she visits.

Our son currently uses his bedroom as his hang-out space, but the space is limited for guitar jamming or using a TV/gaming system without disturbing other family members. One concern is that, with a detached unit, the teen could become detached from the family. While our son is fine with that, I don't want to lose the family connection, especially if he chooses to go out there alone.

Any thoughts from parents who might have encountered similar situations on whether or not this is a good idea to pursue? thanks


We don't have one, but it's something I've thought long and hard about, having an almost-teenager, 2 younger kids, and a 3-bedroom house. I don't think an addition would be any different than if we lived in the midwest where houses are much bigger and cheaper, and having a finished basement teen room or some other ''family'' room that was separate from the ''adult'' space. As long as he's not sleeping out there, he will still need to be a part of the household, eating and sleeping with his family. My 12 year old is CRAVING her own space, and I'm trying to figure out how to carve something out of our existing space. If you have the means and space to put in a separate room, go for it! heidi
You asked whether the addition might fracture the family because your son might spend too much time there, away from the rest of the family. I don't think this would be a big problem. It's not too different from teens who have a space in the attic in a big house where they are fairly isolated from the main family activity. You just make sure everyone still comes together for dinner and events and checks in. I think it's a good idea to establish what the rules are ahead of time. Can parents make unannounced visits? Are friends allowed to sleep over?

Just a little cautionary tale: My son's best friend in high school lived with his family in a small flat, so when their kids were teens, the parents converted their detached garage into a ''den'' for much the same reason you have. It was a popular spot for my son and his friends where they could hang out, listen to loud music, and watch the game, without bothering the parents and vice versa. The boys would sometimes stay over on a Friday night. I was friends with the parents and knew all the kids and it seemed fine; it was great for the boys to have a kind of club house. One day the mom called me and told me she was no longer allowing sleepovers, and was calling all the parents to let them know. She hadn't paid much attention to which boys were there at any given time, and it turned out that some of the boys were telling their parents they were at her house when they weren't. Or they were coming over and then leaving to go somewhere else, and either not returning, or coming back in the wee hours of the morning. She realized this when one of the boys' mothers called her on a Saturday morning to find out when her son was coming home, and on questioning, none of the other boys had seen him since the previous evening, when he had left on foot to go somewhere else. It turned out that he had gotten very drunk and had passed out on the way back, and didn't wake up till late the next morning when he made his way back home, to everyone's relief. My friend realized that it could have been much worse, that she couldn't monitor what was going on all night, and that she didn't want to be ''that mom'' that other kids were using as an excuse, so she put a stop to the sleepovers. Bottom line: give some thought ahead of time to rules!


Don't do it, Everyone I know who had a separate structure or an out of the way bedroom, den etc for teen use soon discovered that their teen was doing drugs, drinking, sneaking out, etc. The list goes on. these were 'good' kids, every parent was stunned when they found out what their teen was doing in the separate addition or the remote bedroom. Teenagers need adult supervision and they need to know they are accountable for their behavior. my kids needed more supervision as teenagers than they did in elementary school. It's a disaster waiting to happen
I have a detached building and it worked out fine. There are only windows on the front (that I can see from the house), and the kids know I can and do go out there whenever I want. (It is treated as a living room rather than a bedroom). It's a great space for the kids to be loud and messy. I think setting up ground rules ahead of time is necessary. Our space is used by anyone, not exclusively the kids. Please don't assume all of them are disasters. I think if you trust your teens, go for it. I see someone responded that ''everyone they knew had problems'', but that person doesn't know me. a mom
We have a detached ''guest house'' -- first used by a live-in nanny, now used as guest space for out-of-town family/friends when they visited. In the last year, my son (now a HS senior) has begun having friends over for ''movie night'' parties: 5-10 kids come over, they all hang out in the guest house, laugh a lot, run back and forth to the hot tub, bring in pizza, pile onto the bed and couches, and watch a movie. Ground rules: No alcohol, drugs or sex; no one comes who isn't directly invited by my son; we parents reserve the right to come in at any time. They are a wholesome bunch, and we have never had a problem. In fact, I am happy they hang out at our house: We know they are safe, and we have enjoyed getting to know our son's friends (they are in private school, so spread around the East Bay and do not pal around after school like kids in local public schools). Mom of Big Guys
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