DEAR ABBY: My 15-year-old son has a friend who stayed with us for five months during football and basketball season because he didn't have transportation to early-morning practices. In the beginning it was one night, then it eventually became full weeks, full months and so on.
We treated him like our own, providing food, washing clothes, giving him snack money. But when I asked him to assist with basic house chores, he would laugh and find ways to not help. It would frustrate me but, not knowing him too well, I let it slide.
We have never met his parents, and neither of them reached out to express gratitude for taking care of their kid. They have three other kids, and the pattern seems to be the same -- pawn them off on other people.
Thankfully, the athletic season changed, and the boys were in different sports, so we got a break from supporting an extra person in February. My concern is, he is coming around again needing rides to school. I feel it is not my problem. This has led to some heavy discussions with my husband.
I feel the boy's parents or grandparents need to take responsibility for assuring their child makes it to practice, has extra money to purchase snacks and rides to and from school. He sees it differently. How can we let that boy fall through the cracks? Mind you, he wears name-brand clothes, glasses and shoes, yet his parents do not assist him in the most important aspects of his life.
I feel horrible because I don't think it is our job to provide for him, but I try to teach my kids empathy and responsibility. So how do I justify myself? How do I get my husband to see we can't continue to be a crutch for these people? Or am I wrong? Help! -- TRYING TO HELP IN THE SOUTH
DEAR TRYING TO HELP: Your "houseguest" may have name-brand clothes, glasses and shoes, but from your description, he is being severely neglected by his parents. That they would allow him to live with another family whom they haven't met is shocking. That they would expect you to foot the bill for all of his needs while they pretend they don't have a minor child for whom they are responsible is negligence.
If he resumes staying with you, insist that he stop acting like a guest and assume the same responsibilities you have assigned to your own children! Your husband should back you up on this. Understand that if the boy is unwilling to do that, the example being set for your children is a very poor one.
Frankly, I think child protective services should have been notified about what has been going on a long time ago.
DEAR READERS: This is National Women's Health Week, so I'm offering a "gentle reminder" to make your health a priority. Eat healthy, allow time for exercise, manage your stress levels, get the sleep you need and schedule that appointment to see your doctor or dentist that you've been postponing. Take steps to eliminate behaviors that put you at risk -- smoking, texting while driving and not wearing a seatbelt. Your most precious possession is your health, so please take care of it. For more information, visit womenshealth.gov. -- Love, ABBY
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)