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My 14-year-old friend plans to stay with an older man

I am worried about my best friend. She is 14 and has started a relationship with a man she met at a party – he is 39. They have flirted but so far nothing has happened. She has told me that she is planning to stay overnight at his house and she is going to tell her parents that she is staying with me. Should I tell her parents or should I keep quiet?

I am very concerned for your friend and you. Your friend may be distracted by feelings of excitement and being wanted, which is why she doesn’t appreciate the risk she is taking. But tell your friend that no man of 39 really wants a relationship with a 14-year-old. He is only interested in sex and it is illegal for him to have sex with someone under the age of 16.

You are torn between concern for your friend and not wanting to risk your friendship, which is totally understandable. But she could be in great danger. You should talk to your parents (or hers) but first ring Childline on 0800 1111 for help and support. You could also ring them again after you have told your parents, and if you need help patching up your relationship with your friend. Your parents should then talk to her parents because their daughter could be at risk.

Your friend’s parents should ring the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 to get advice about how to prevent their daughter staying overnight with this man and thereby protecting her. The NSPCC can also advise her parents about contacting the police, who could make enquiries about the man involved. You would be doing the right thing in trying to protect your friend. It would be so hard for you if you did nothing and
something happened to her.

I want her to spend Christmas with me

Last Christmas I had a big argument with my daughter and son-in-law because I was so hurt. They only spent one day with me but stayed with my ex-husband and his wife from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. So I missed out on Christmas and opening presents with my two little grandchildren. In previous years they have always spent Christmas Day with me. Nothing has been said about this year. Should I talk to them or say nothing?

Talk to your daughter and ask her where she and her husband would like to spend Christmas this year. You could say that you would love them to come to you or you could go to their house. Maybe your son-in-law’s parents could be included. You could also suggest that they go to you and your ex-husband on alternative Christmases.

Hopefully you can spend Christmas Day together but if they are not with you, you can still have a special day with them on Boxing Day or the day after. You could cook a traditional Christmas meal and you could all give each other presents. Ask
them to save some of the children’s presents until then (children frequently get too many on Christmas Day anyway). Then you can still have a family Christmas – and make sure you do something nice with friends on Christmas Day.

Why can’t I commit to a relationship?

All my life I have been surrounded by bad marriages, affairs and divorces. Unsuccessful love is everywhere. Now I am in my first serious relationship with a man and I am deeply in love. We have loads in common and talk openly about marriage and children, even though we have only been together for a few months. I want this relationship to be successful but feel that that possibility doesn’t exist. I am terrified of throwing my heart and soul into it and then, in ten years’ time, one of us falling out of love. Should I just accept that all good things come to an end? 

Try not to let your past experience destroy something that could be really good. When we love someone we become vulnerable because there are no absolute guarantees that one of us will not fall out of love. If you never allow yourself to commit to a relationship because of fear of it failing, you will end up alone anyway. Contemporary partnerships are more fragile, but many marriages and relationships are loving and enduring and, even though they have their ups and downs, they can still last a lifetime. So don’t end a relationship that potentially could be good for both of you. Think positively.

Her dementia is tearing us apart

I am 16, and my grandmother has dementia and it’s tearing the family apart. My grandfather is handling the situation very badly. He gets aggressive and has little patience when looking after her, so they end up fighting. He refuses to get extra help. My mum does everything she possibly can, including cooking their meals. She gets very stressed and is exhausted. Yet she feels guilty that she is not doing enough. Nobody seems happy any more.

You are a lovely caring daughter. Suggest to your mother that she goes to see your grandparents’ GP and asks for them to have an ‘assessment of needs’ so that they can find out what help they are entitled to. The GP will be used to dealing with this situation. Also suggest that she contacts the Alzheimer’s Society (tel: 0845 300 0336,, which can offer help and advice and put her in touch with her local carer’s support group. The society also runs groups where people with dementia can enjoy activities that they can cope with. Are there other family members who could tell your mother what a good job she is doing and persuade her to get more help? 

If you have a problem, fax 020 7938 4609, write to Zelda at YOU, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS, or e-mail Zelda reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally.


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