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The care and handling of teenage girls. (Not a romance thread.)

BasilBasil Registered User regular
edited November 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
So my extended family finally caught up and bit me in the arse after twelve blissful years of me only being vaguely aware that they exist in some form far away from me.

A recent reunion/wedding sealed my fate, and in a year give or take six months I will be the proud owner of two intelligent, beautiful, sheltered and incredibly paranoid sisters in their late teens, shipped directly from a walled, dogged and guarded compound in South Africa to my backward home in Canukistan, Alberta. My favorite aunt's daughters, see. (Lovely woman, we really get along great. I never expected her to give me her kids, though. It would have been ace if she'd consulted me first. I had the option of vetoing the deal, but the girls are adorable and I won't be harmed too badly financially... and the alternative was them living in a tiny apartment all alone. Now I get to pay for my soft heart.)

I fear for my sanity. I'm a 20 year old Uni student in a good situation, housing them won't be a problem, money isn't an issue given reason for expenses, and short of someone's untimely death they are coming, but... Well. Meep?

How in the name of any god you could choose to name can I prepare for being the on the spot guardian for two girls who, including and beside the obvious anxiety, are going to be completely and utterly out of their depth? I'm going to be handed a 17 and 18 year old who have never in their lives walked down a street without fear, and have been chauffeured to and from their destinations past walls and iron gates for as long as they can remember. I know where they're coming from, but I moved young.

It's a doozy, and a very odd situation. I'm not involved in the relocation process and school registration and the like, but I am expected to take care of 'em until they settle down, get jobs and eventually find places of their own to live. That'll take years. I'm certain I can deal with any material issues that crop up, but when it comes to family and living together with people and taking care of them I'm going to be learning as I go. Gosh, even when I lived with my parents I only spoke to them once every other day, even when I was a kid! This is going to be a rough change.



Parents and boarders out there, I'm a low maintenance guy. Outside of a computer, a gym membership and food I don't need much, but could any of you give me an idea of what sort of things I might want to secure to make a pair of young adults feel at home? I've got plenty of room for them, and furniture I can get from auction, but there are other things.

What might I expect emotionally from girls who've just traveled outside of their country for the first time? I won't be their parent, but I imagine that parental sorts of issues are going to crop up anyway. For that matter, which online resources are good, solid reads?


I don't even know what questions I should be asking, here. I'm just scrabbling for all the information I can get. Experiences with family coming from abroad, advice for handling siblings, anything.



I know I'm making it sound like I figure I'm being handed a pair of completely useless dependents, but considering their home situation I'm looking at the worst case, and I know that at their age maturity is relative. If I end up being big brother, I want to do right by them. I won't be completely alone in this, my family lives in the city, but I'll be on the spot every day. This is a pretty scary responsibility, it's not just a case of providing a roof and the occasional hot meal.

Thanks for any thoughts or links you might have!

Basil on
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Posts

  • Caramel GenocideCaramel Genocide Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Wow, that's a doozy.

    Will there be any nearby female family members/good friends of yours that they can go to if they need to talk about female things?

  • Aoi TsukiAoi Tsuki Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Sounds like a hentai anime setup.

    Are there any support groups in your area or at your uni that might be helpful? The answer is yes; you just have to do some poking around. I think most of what you're looking for would be for stepfamilies, but it should work.

    Some people already have said stupid things, but I'm ignoring them because I just found a potato in my fridge that looks like it's smiling.
  • BasilBasil Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yar, both things I hadn't thought of.

    Yeah, I've got three women on hand whom I can hook them up with, hopefully they won't be too lacking in nice people to talk to. I hadn't considered family support groups at all, that's a great idea, thanks! I'll bet they've got a lot of information on hand. I only had a brush with that sort of thing when my parents took "How Not To Traumatize Your Kid For Fun And Profit 101" before their divorce went through.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    And make sure you get them some good coats. I knew a guy who moved from South Africa to Toronto at 19. He spent part of his first winter walking around with a big :| face. It was a shock, for sure.

    Good luck, though.

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  • TrowizillaTrowizilla Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Having been a shy, sheltered teenage girl myself, albeit one who didn't change cultures like that, here goes:

    Have they already finished high school? If not, talk to them about what they want to do about that. If they have, talk to them about college. Taking community college classes until they get more comfy with the culture (lots of Cs!) would probably be a good idea.

    Go out with them a lot: on walks, to the grocery store, to the movies, whereever, just to get them used to going outside without an armed guard. If you have non-threatening friends, have them over a lot after they get settled in. You're not so much older than them that it's inappropriate for your friends to befriend them, and having a lot of people around will help with the shyness.

    They're probably going to be lonely and homesick. Learn their favorite foods and make them often (even better if you ask them to help), offer to set up a webcam so they can talk with people from home if it's possible, go do whatever tacky tourist stuff is around Alberta. If they seem really upset and it doesn't seem to be easing over time, look into counselling.

    Since you didn't have a very close relationship with your parents, you need to learn to be emotionally available to family. Basically, if you're not feeling totally antisocial, do whatever you need to do in a public space. Want to watch a movie? Watch it in the living room and ask your cousins if they want to join you. Paying bills? Do it at the kitchen table. Cooking? Chat with whoever's in the kitchen, ask for help (even if it's just "Can you hold this while I pour?"). A lot of family closeness is just proximity and being willing to talk, even if you're only talking about inconsequential things.

    Also, you may want to have a set of (reasonable) ground rules, just in case they do the stereotypical sheltered kid thing and go wild for a bit. No parties without asking you first, no illegal drugs in your digs, let you know if they're having overnight guests so you don't go for a glass of water in the middle of the night just to be confronted by a naked 18-year-old dude, etc..

  • trentsteeltrentsteel Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Most people I've met that are "fresh off the boat" actually seem to aclimatize themselves very quickly when they are young. Basically no matter what their background is, they see our materialistic culture, want it, and then do whatever it takes to fit in so they can be part of it.

    I think you'll find them quite well behaved. It might even be fun to show them around and stuff, show them Star Wars for the first time, etc.

    It could be very rewarding in a way.

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  • vonPoonBurGervonPoonBurGer Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Basil wrote: »
    I'm going to be handed a 17 and 18 year old who have never in their lives walked down a street without fear, and have been chauffeured to and from their destinations past walls and iron gates for as long as they can remember. I know where they're coming from, but I moved young.
    Is it really still that bad where they live? I'm in Pretoria right now for work, and while everything is still surrounded by walls and gates and razor wire, I have it on good authority that most of the violence and danger is confined to certain neighbourhoods these days. And by "good authority" I mean senior officers of the South African Police Service, who are my company's clients here. If crime was ubiquitous and widespread around here, these guys would definitely know. Anyway, I get the feeling that things have improved significantly over past years, so these girls may not be as sheltered and dependent as you might think.

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  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    You might want to try to set up 1 meal a day that all of you are going to make a point to always attend so you can check up on them and vice versa. That could give some stability and give everyone a set relaxed time when they can bring stuff up to the others.

  • CasualCasual flap flap flap wiggle wiggle wiggle Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Man they're 17 and 18. Thats as near as makes no difference adults, how much looking after could they need? Give them food water and shelter the rest they should be able to sort out for them selves I would think.

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  • SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Seconded on the 'go shopping frequently' for the first while. Winter is.. well, goddamn cold if you spent your life near the equator. Fuck man, summer in Alberta is cold if you spent your life near the equator.

    Shopping also is a huge step forward in cultural acclimation. You meet a garden variety slice of people, the accents are put into immediate context (familiar words, situations and phrases), and you get a picture of the 'stuff' that the people around you have. That helps put things into context- this is what 'normal' people do, these are the basic public expectations, etc.

    It's going to take some time before the 'touristy' feeling wears off. Depends on the persons. Sometimes people never really get over thier homeland, sometimes they do. It can be a year or two before things really sink in. Meanwhile, creature comforts are nice; try finding a few specialty shops that sell South African products, like drinks and local foods for a taste of home.

    Making friends and meeting people is going to be huge. They'll need to get out, and they'll be adults in Alberta (well, the seventeen year old may have to wait a bit, but its coming soon) so they'll have the run of wherever they are. People, as it happens are somewhat universal, good people are good people no matter where they are from, and you can spot a douche from just about any nation with the usual accuracy.

    Be aware though, that some culture scenes may need to be described- affiliations like drug culture aren't always obvious to outsiders, and personal choices aside its good to have eyes open- not to choose for them, but just so that they are made aware of what situations exist and what they look like. When everything is a shade of different, it can be harder to distinguish motivations.

    Hopefully they'll be interested in cultural immersion, and maintain ties back home. It can be a rough go, even when everything is pleasent, so be prepared for moods and tensions, boundary testing, etc. relax, go with the flow, but be clear about your own boundaries and expectations. They're still teens after all. Doesn't sound like you are thier guardian so much as cultural facilitator, so theres some of that pressure off. Could be a pretty good time, hope all goes well.

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  • Forbe!Forbe! Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I worked with a girl over the summer who came from South Africa. She adapted very well to the environment. We were working in rural Northern Minnesota, so there wasn't much to be afraid of besides bear. She said it took her a few weeks to get used to not worrying about her safety.

    Make them feel comfortable in your home. Make sure your locks work, and show them where the telephone is and give them the number for the police department, and other emergency numbers (better yet list them by the phone).

    Try to hang around them when you're out and about, be casual, don't talk about crime in your area unless they bring it up. But don't try to be too overbearing.

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  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Casual wrote: »
    Man they're 17 and 18. Thats as near as makes no difference adults, how much looking after could they need? Give them food water and shelter the rest they should be able to sort out for them selves I would think.

    Leaving for college makes a lot of people go pretty wacky, and at the same age that's a much less dramatic change than what these girls are gonna feel (plus you have the distraction of schoolwork). It's good to be prepared.

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  • Forbe!Forbe! Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Casual wrote: »
    Man they're 17 and 18. Thats as near as makes no difference adults, how much looking after could they need? Give them food water and shelter the rest they should be able to sort out for them selves I would think.

    When you're coming from an environment where it's common to turn the news on or read a news paper and see a picture of a man being necklaced while locals laugh and carry on, it is a little more complicated than that.

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  • spacerobotspacerobot Registered User
    edited November 2008
    Since they are so close to your age, hopefully it will be easy for you to hang out with them. Check with your university if there is a department for international students. Often times there will be a person in charge of the international students to help them with anything they need and make them feel comfortable. That person should be able to give you a lot of pointers or maybe even let the girls come to some events that are geared towards international students and international clubs. There may even be international students from the same country as the girls and they could help you meet up with them.

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  • BasilBasil Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Basil wrote: »
    I'm going to be handed a 17 and 18 year old who have never in their lives walked down a street without fear, and have been chauffeured to and from their destinations past walls and iron gates for as long as they can remember. I know where they're coming from, but I moved young.
    Is it really still that bad where they live? I'm in Pretoria right now for work, and while everything is still surrounded by walls and gates and razor wire, I have it on good authority that most of the violence and danger is confined to certain neighbourhoods these days. And by "good authority" I mean senior officers of the South African Police Service, who are my company's clients here. If crime was ubiquitous and widespread around here, these guys would definitely know. Anyway, I get the feeling that things have improved significantly over past years, so these girls may not be as sheltered and dependent as you might think.

    It's a bit of a tossup on that front, while it is the case that certain neighborhoods are quite safe while others you simply do not enter, these two have already had the pleasure of seeing their mother carjacked at gunpoint twice as children. After jacking number two their father decided to take some precautions. As far as I'm aware many areas have calmed down a lot, but the parents never relaxed. They're just terrified that something will happen to their kids, so they're moving them here now that they're close to being legal adults. These two have been treated as expensive packages for a very long time.

    From what I've heard from a bloke who went on a trip last month, Pretoria is in pretty respectable shape right right now. But Johannesburg's a little worse off. There's still a good slice of Africa here and there. In my case I moved at eight years old, but I already knew what bombs and gunfire sounded like and was aware of how to use a rifle. It's that sorta deal, you don't stop looking behind doors just because you know there's nobody there. (I got in so much trouble here for asking a teacher how a person was expected to use their weapon with it stuffed in a closet with a safety lock on.)

    Thank you all very much, there are more resources available than I'd thought, and those are some great points.

    I'm going to be a bit strained by all the outings, but I share a similar mentality to theirs, so that'll be okay. I'm just very aware that there's a possibility of one or both not taking to this smoothly, their mother fingered the younger one as her worry. You've got eighteen, and then you've got eighteen, after all. The reason I'm concerned is that I've seen a couple of my friends, both women, completely ruin themselves after leaving home and they only went across Canada to study. Ah, with luck, eh?

    This might actually be fun.

    9KmX8eN.jpg
  • Hardleft_335Hardleft_335 Registered User
    edited November 2008
    I think short trips without too many people around would be best at first. It would be terrible for them to freak out in the middle of a mall because they dont feel safe. Maybe go out to a restaurant or a movie theatre on a slow night.

  • Shark_MegaByteShark_MegaByte Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    It sounds like one of the most interesting parts of the experience may be teaching them to moderate their safety-paranoid tendencies as they're out and about. It'd be easy for them to err in either direction - to stay so overcautious that they have trouble functioning in public, or to relax so much that they actually put themselves at risk.

    A girl could miss out on a fairly big slice of life if she refuses to ever walk alone after dark, even in reasonably safe areas. On the other hand, being in a reasonably safe area is not a guarantee that she'll arrive home breathing and in once piece. "Step casually, but don't forget the mace."

    A homeless guy trying to start a conversation with you at a bus stop is no reason to freak out. It's when he starts following you that it's time to get edgy :P

    And that kind of thing.

  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Basil wrote: »
    Basil wrote: »
    I'm going to be handed a 17 and 18 year old who have never in their lives walked down a street without fear, and have been chauffeured to and from their destinations past walls and iron gates for as long as they can remember. I know where they're coming from, but I moved young.
    Is it really still that bad where they live? I'm in Pretoria right now for work, and while everything is still surrounded by walls and gates and razor wire, I have it on good authority that most of the violence and danger is confined to certain neighbourhoods these days. And by "good authority" I mean senior officers of the South African Police Service, who are my company's clients here. If crime was ubiquitous and widespread around here, these guys would definitely know. Anyway, I get the feeling that things have improved significantly over past years, so these girls may not be as sheltered and dependent as you might think.

    It's a bit of a tossup on that front, while it is the case that certain neighborhoods are quite safe while others you simply do not enter, these two have already had the pleasure of seeing their mother carjacked at gunpoint twice as children. After jacking number two their father decided to take some precautions. As far as I'm aware many areas have calmed down a lot, but the parents never relaxed. They're just terrified that something will happen to their kids, so they're moving them here now that they're close to being legal adults. These two have been treated as expensive packages for a very long time.

    From what I've heard from a bloke who went on a trip last month, Pretoria is in pretty respectable shape right right now. But Johannesburg's a little worse off. There's still a good slice of Africa here and there. In my case I moved at eight years old, but I already knew what bombs and gunfire sounded like and was aware of how to use a rifle. It's that sorta deal, you don't stop looking behind doors just because you know there's nobody there. (I got in so much trouble here for asking a teacher how a person was expected to use their weapon with it stuffed in a closet with a safety lock on.)

    Thank you all very much, there are more resources available than I'd thought, and those are some great points.

    I'm going to be a bit strained by all the outings, but I share a similar mentality to theirs, so that'll be okay. I'm just very aware that there's a possibility of one or both not taking to this smoothly, their mother fingered the younger one as her worry. You've got eighteen, and then you've got eighteen, after all. The reason I'm concerned is that I've seen a couple of my friends, both women, completely ruin themselves after leaving home and they only went across Canada to study. Ah, with luck, eh?

    This might actually be fun.

    They might also drive you insane though. I've had secondary experience with two kids suddenly joining the family. By secondary, I mean they joined my aunt's household as opposed to mine. I made a concerted effort to draw them out by telling them stories about the family and myself. You know the ones. That story about how you set fire to the carpet when you were trying to figure out what would happen if you lit all the matches in the set at once. Or when you went down that huge slide and your tear-away pants got caught and you ended up coming out head first and pantless. Etc, etc. I found these were the best things to talk about. They're funny, they're about you/the family and if they're slightly embarassing, it lets them know you're opening up to them which is really important.

    Don't rush anything. Even if you're all pally with them for a while and they don't really seem to be reciprocating, give them time. They'll open up to you when they feel like it's safe to do. You'll probably have an easier time at this since it appears that your cousins' lives, though uprooted, were not marred with grief like mine were. It took a few months but I knew I was making progress when they actually told me a story about when they were back in Malaysia, something they had never talked about since they had come over from there.

    It can be pretty rewarding and kinda gives you dad experience.

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