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Can I Take My 19 Year Old Son's Car Away From Him?

by Thelecia
(Tampa, FL)

Annie, recently you answered my question about my 19 year old son who wanted to transfer to a different college....partly because of his girlfriend.

I told my son that I would support his decision to transfer to the community college and then on to the local university.

I have run into another issue with him that I am hoping you can advise me on.

I asked that he stopped returning home(girlfriend's house) every two days due to the amount of money that I have paid for his campus apartment that he is only in 2 nights a week. I explained to him that I expect that for the remainder of this fall semester that he would remain on campus...using the apartment that has been paid for more than just two nights per week. He has not done this and continues to return home every two days.

In the meantime he secured a job in our home town, which I specifically asked him not to do and asked him to find work near or on campus and provided him with leads on job openings. He ignored that request as well.

Two weeks ago I was upset that he continued to disregard my request (even when I supported his request to transfer) and told him that if he returned home again that week I would drive him back to school and his car (which is in his name...a gift from his grandfather - my father, given to him last spring) would stay at our home and I would cancel the insurance. I also shared with him that the following weekend I would give him a "pass" to come home so that he could attend his high school's homecoming event. That was only 10 days away.

Last weekend, (which was the weekend I expected him to remain at school) I called him/texted him a few times each time he said he was at school and told me of things he was doing. He lied and got caught, as I saw his car parked at his girlfriend's apartment. He also lied to me about quitting the job that he got here in town and pursuing the job near campus. The job involves using his car for delivery, which our car insurance does not cover, yet he continued even after I shared with him the information about the car insurance.

He has returned home again this weekend, arrived last night (again not home, but at the girlfriend's house). With all that said, my question is: Do you believe that I have a right to take away his car to prevent him from returning home every two days?

Again, I am his main source of financial support, tuition, books, food, gas, apartment and car insurance. I am feeling that due to all of my support that it is not unreasonable for me to require that he spend the majority of his time on campus and in the apartment that I have paid for, in advance, at the beginning of the fall semester, which will require a $1,000 cancellation fee when we terminate the lease so that he can transfer to the hometown college.

I am hurt and angry that he has lied to me and doesn't seem to appreciate all of the things that I have done for him in order for him to go to college and work with him on transferring in the spring. I do not feel that it is unreasonable that I require him make some concessions (even if forced) as I have done for him.

What are your thoughts Annie?

Comments for Can I Take My 19 Year Old Son's Car Away From Him?

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Hard To Let Go - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Thelecia,
My apologies for the delay in answering your question. I know you are feeling hurt and angry that your son has lied and does not seem to appreciate you.

To be blunt, I have to say you sound pretty controlling to me, and I am not surprised your son has ended up lying to you. You have backed him into a corner and the only way he can maintain his job and his relationship with his girlfriend is to lie to his Mother, which is a horrible position for him to be in.

As for taking his car away from him, I don't believe you do have that right - it is his car, given as a gift and in his name.

Yes, you do have a legitimate concern about the insurance not covering it being used as a delivery vehicle, and if he wants to use it for work, then maybe he can pay the difference, or take over the insurance payments himself.

It is so tricky when we are still financially supporting our kids, and yet they are at the age when they should be making their own decisions. Parents have a tendency to make that support conditional. And in your son's case it seems to me you really do not want him to be seeing his girlfriend. To expect him to wait ten days before seeing her, and then really only supposed to be coming home for a reunion, does not seem reasonable to me.

I know you are concerned that his grades will suffer with all the extra traveling he is doing, but I am wondering if there is a part of you that is wanting to make it difficult for him to have a relationship with this girl. You are setting yourself up to be in opposition to her, and this is not going to do anything positive for your relationship with your son. If anything, you are pushing him into her arms by being negative about the importance of this relationship and creating obstacles and demands that have pushed him into lying to you.

In terms of the money you have spent on his apartment - don't use this as a reason to control him. When kids live at home, they stay at friends places, they go out, they sleep over - and we don't tally up how much money they are wasting not sleeping in their own bed.

I know it seems like he is not using his apartment very often, considering the cost of it, and is only staying in it on the nights he has classes the next day - but really, what reason is there for him to stay there if his job, girlfriend and family are back home? It seems to me, apart from the insurance issue using the car for work, he has planned things pretty well, to get a job in town where his girlfriend is makes more sense when he is transferring back anyway, and it makes it easier to see her when he does not have classes the next day.

He was not happy with his roommates anyway, found it difficult to study there, and disliked the drinking culture, so to me he is acting more responsibly to create a more supportive living situation for himself.

Part Two Follows . . .

Hard To Let Go - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Whether this relationship ends up being long term, who knows - but the more you try to control him seeing her, the more he will rebel and seek the company of a woman he is clearly very attached to. He has to learn the balance of relationships, study and work, and it is a learning curve to fit everything in. He will only learn that if he lives it - you organizing his time and allocating when he is allowed to "play" teaches him nothing.

He is basically an adult, albeit dependent on you financially. It is hard for him to be able to appreciate your support when it comes with strings, rules and demands. If the money is really the issue then negotiate with him to pay you back for the apartment - even if it takes him 5 years.

If the issue is really you are finding it very hard to let him make his own decisions, and particularly getting attached to a woman you don't really approve of, then it is up to you to learn to let go. You have to trust that he is a great young man, but he will not always live his life exactly as you think is best. It is NOT your business to control that. Your business is deal with your own life and learn to have a relationship with your son that is based more on being adults, not being the Mom that always has to sort everything out, make the decisions, and decide what is best.

For him at this point in time his relationship is a very high priority. So accept that and get to know her. Instead of blocking it and making it difficult, include her and get to know her so you can understand why he loves her. He is doing everything he can to be able to maintain his schooling, a job, as well as a relationship. If he had a girl on campus you would barely see him, he would be spending all his time away, so there are advantages to him coming home. Look for the good in his decisions and help him to make the best of it, even though it is not your ideal.

Let go and trust you have really done your job as a parent. Yes he still needs some practical support, and if you let him be an adult, he will also still come to you to discuss issues and make decisions. And the close bond you have will always be there if you don't push him away. He needs to make his own decisions about what is right for him, AND live with the consequences.

It's fine to share your concerns, but ultimately he needs to decide what is going to work for him. Yes you can make his life very difficult by withdrawing financial support, but what does this achieve? He will be able to appreciate your help and support much more when you are not dictating how he lives his life.

Actually it is often not until our kids have children of their own that it finally sinks in what their parents have done for them!

Part Three Follows . . . .

Hard To Let Go - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Focus on building bridges with him, loving him unconditionally, but maybe financially supporting him with some conditions - perhaps he has to pay some back, maybe he has to take over some of the expenses. But don't make the financial support conditional on him limiting the time he sees his girlfriend. It simply is not a workable option. He can't even be honest with you and say how important she is to him because he knows you disapprove and don't want him seeing much of her. Wouldn't it be nicer if he could tell you how he feels about her? Or shares some of his fears or doubts, or joys, without feeling you are going to tell him what to do?

I know it is not easy letting go when our kids grow up, we have invested the most important time of our life in them, and we have so many hopes and dreams for them. But ultimately you have to let that go, and just let him blossom into a young man in his own right. You've done a great job raising him, let him be his own person.

Good luck,
Annie D :)

Thank you again Annie!
by: Thelecia

Thank you for your response Annie, it's been soo hard for me to figure out what is the right thing to do in regards to parenting a 19 year old....or not parenting. I've had a hard time trying to determine the boundaries. While not my intent to be controlling I can appreciate that it does appear that I am and my son must think so as well. He did share with me that he told his employer that he could no longer make deliveries with his truck and they pulled that duty from him, so all is well there.

And you're right, I do have a problem with his girlfriend, even though I have only met her once. Mainly because she's older and has never been a college student and it appears she is not supportive of him.....based on what he has shared with me. And more importantly I just learned, from my son, that she is refusing to use birth control. So I have counseled my son on the risks involved with this behavior....even offered to purchase it for her as he shared with me that she said it was expensive, so I offered whatever assistance she needed...clinic visit, etc. She has not accepted.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question Annie and for helping me work through this. I think I'll have my boundaries more in control when my 2nd son goes off to college in two years!

Not Easy!
by: Annie Desantis

Your son clearly has a very close relationship with you, and is able to share very intimate information with you, so cherish that. He is clearly aware there are aspects of this relationship that are not ideal - no relationship ever is.

Hopefully he is using birth control, since she won't, I agree with you here, that is risky behavior, but he is certainly aware of that.

Try to include her in your family, she is his choice for now, and you need to get to know her other than via his concerns, or your own. Where the relationship ends up, who knows, but for now let her get to know his family, she will understand his values better for knowing you.

It is always harder with our oldest children, we have to cut our teeth on them first! But actually my younger son left home first - he missed getting into the course he applied for because of his age and decided to go out on the road selling for six months while he decided what to do. He was only 17, and shortly after met a young woman who was traveling Australia and within weeks had moved in together. She was 9 years older than him, and when he told me they were going to go to Asia together I drove over 1,000 km to meet her to check her out!

But she was lovely, and 13 years later they are married with two gorgeous children, and I couldn't have wished for a better Mom for my Grandchildren. It was not what I had imagined, and sadly they live in London, so I don't get to see them as much as I'd like. We never know where our children's lives are going to take them, and all we can do is love them and let them go, they have their own path to take.

Keep the doors of communication open, listen more than you give advice, and he will be closer to you when he doesn't have to push against you.

all the best,
Annie D :)

Great Responsibility
by: Kitchen Benchtops

Yes I think you can take the car away from him. Getting and using a car is a big responsibility that a 19 year old maybe cannot be given so much trust. Let the time decide.

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