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16yo with SN has huge crush on me: need advice (long, delicate)

(21 Posts)
rhetorician Sat 29-Dec-12 21:13:58

One of my close friends has a daughter with GDD. She is 16 and I have known her all her life; I am very fond of her and have done my best to support her mother and her over the years. The problem is that the daughter has developed a huge crush on me and this is expressed (in my view, and my partner's) in an inappropriate manner. When I visit she gets very excited, and continually hugs me, touches me, asks me (sometimes quite aggressively) to call her sweetheart, tells me she loves me etc etc. She is tall, strong, and can be quite intimidating. My friend does little to discourage this, other than to tell her to give me space sometimes, but seems to think that this expression of her feelings is legitimate (NB: I am not saying that her feelings are not legitimate), and acknowledges her feelings.

I am a woman in my 40s, and she is a 16 year old girl. What would you do in this situation? I feel very uncomfortable, and that it isn't fair on the girl either - but I am not the parent of a SN child, so I don't really know what kinds of difficulties her mother and step father might have (I think the partner is aware that this behaviour is not appropriate) in explaining where boundaries lie. I worry too that the wrong message is being given - and despite the fact that their son and my daughter (almost 4) are great friends I have kind of avoided being in their house. Today it was the girl's birthday and exactly the same pattern happened as was the case when I last saw her this summer. Except that my daughter noticed it and commented on the girl's behaviour.

I fully expect to be flamed: but I would really appreciate your advice as to how to approach this, and also how to broach the issue with her mother. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

blueemerald Sat 29-Dec-12 22:22:25

I used to work in a special needs school where 90% of the staff were female and 80% of the students were male. Students developing crushes on staff was very common (3-4 a term) and, depending on the student, sometimes a chat or series of chats was enough sometimes the member of staff had to move to a different part of the school (primary most often).

I don't know how you could approach this with her mum but do you think the girl could understand the fact that you don't feel the same way?

WeWilsonAMerryChristmas Sat 29-Dec-12 22:32:28

I don't think you can fix this on your own, I think you need to have the parents on side - have you tried talking about it with them, on your own (without the kids there?). Either say what you've said here, or if you think that will not be 'heard' by the mum you could talk about general boundaries with adults now the daughter is getting older.

I think this kind of behaviour, while not the child's fault, may make her very vulnerable and does need to be addressed from that point of view, unfortunately.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Sat 29-Dec-12 22:39:27

Gosh that's really awkward. I don't have any experience but just wanted to say that you have no reason to be flamed. I also think the parents should be doing something about it, its just so hard to know what.

rhetorician Sat 29-Dec-12 22:41:14

WeWilson I think that's right - I worry about less scrupulous people than me; I think I need to talk to her mum and tell her that both I, and my family, are uncomfortable. To be fair blueemerald I think that her step father has tried, but she is getting mixed messages. Thanks for your replies.

WeWilsonAMerryChristmas Sat 29-Dec-12 22:47:51

I wouldn't use language like 'having a crush' - I think that would maybe then become the thing they fix on, rather than the issue - which I read as 'I'm concerned some of DDs behaviours with other adults aren't appropriate. Of course, it's fine with me, but I worry that some of the things I've seen may not be appropriate outside our group of friends, and are making her vulnerable. What do you think? For example, yesterday she did x - what if she did that with someone she didn't know? Can I help you work on this with her?'

rhetorician Sat 29-Dec-12 22:53:22

to be honest it's not fine with me - I mean of course I pose no danger to her, but it makes me very uncomfortable, and isn't fair to my partner or my children: when I am there, she is literally in my space almost all the time. As soon as I tell her to back off (as nicely as I can) she is back, or calling my name. It's very awkward.

rhetorician Sat 29-Dec-12 22:54:15

to the point where dd1 (who really isn't like this) was saying 'that's my mummy' a lot today

WeWilsonAMerryChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 11:25:49

Tbh your level of comfort or discomfort isn't hugely relevant to the situation though - the dd isn't doing it to make you uncomfortable, she's doing it because her disability means she can't moderate her actions based on social norms. Because she's disabled. Yes, I agree that the parents should attempt to tackle the behaviour - as i said above, it could make her very vulnerable - but without knowing the young woman, i cant predict if any intervention will be successful.

mariammama Sun 30-Dec-12 11:34:17

Three issues
1. you (and your family) feel uncomfortable
2. this behaviour could make the child vulnerable
3. the mum doesn't see a problem

1. You have every right to have some boundaries, and if there's no way to enforce those, then staying away is reasonable
2. at some point, the dc needs to be helped to learn social rules, to keep her safe and to maintain her access to the outside world
3. this require extreme levels of tactfulness. If you aren't blessed with these (I'm usually not), is there anyone to delegate the chat to?

rhetorician Sun 30-Dec-12 12:47:31

WeWilson I accept that my levels of discomfort aren't relevant, but I do think it is asking a lot of my 4 year old to understand the girl's behaviour; she (dd) isn't aware of the notion of romantic feelings etc. Mariamamma I am not sure I am blessed with the kind of tact this requires and am wondering about asking someone else to bring the subject up. It would probably be better coming from someone other than me. I don't want to make things more difficult, I don't really want to not be a part of the girl's life either.

I realise that she isn't doing any of these things with any malign intention, or really, any sense of their impact on others. I suspect that it would take a lot of patient work to change her behaviour - her step-dad did say that they were working on this stuff (boundaries etc, I assume) at school, so perhaps I could ask them if there's any things I should do to help reinforce those messages?

CatchingMockingbirds Sun 30-Dec-12 12:54:13

I don't think there will be much you could do without having her parents on board, but if you are close (and you dont think they'll be offended at all) you could mention that you've noticed their Dd's change in behaviour recently and think it could be a good opportunity to practice personal space and boundaries and if there's anything they recommend you could do when she displays these behaviours towards you.

CatchingMockingbirds Sun 30-Dec-12 12:55:44

they were working on this stuff (boundaries etc, I assume) at school, so perhaps I could ask them if there's any things I should do to help reinforce those messages?

X-post with you there, well if the step-dad has mentioned that then yes you should go from that angle then.

rhetorician Sun 30-Dec-12 13:20:05

yes, I think co-opting me rather than making it conflictual is the way to go; it's not as if anyone is at fault, but that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Thank you all for your sensible and sensitive advice; I really appreciate it

WeWilsonAMerryChristmas Sun 30-Dec-12 14:00:19

Sorry to keep pressing the point, but you're interpreting it as 'romantic love' which is a totally NT construct. This girl is having trouble understanding, expressing and containing her emotions - it doesn't necessarily follow that she has a crush on you - that's an NT spin on it. I keep coming back to this point because if you say to the parents 'your DD has romantic feelings for me' it's likely all hell will break loose and your - perfectly valid - points will be missed. Because it's highly likely she doesn't have romantic feelings, just feelings that she doesn't understand, probably mixed up with copying some behaviours that she's seen around her, on TV, etc.

rhetorician Sun 30-Dec-12 16:37:14

WeWilson - no, it's ok, it's a point that I need to get my head around! part of the difficulty is that the language I've used about it is the language used by her mother (to an extent), plus the teen tv shows that she watches. She has always been quite attached to me, and this is just the teenage version of that I suppose, but it is quite hard to handle, especially when I have 4yo and 1yo who also need my attention

blueemerald Sun 30-Dec-12 17:26:42

It's perfectly possible that she has a crush/sexual feelings for the OP. I've seen plenty of teenage boys make it extremely clear that they have sexual feelings for members of staff/other students.
I would treat it as a crush when talking to the mother etc as down playing it perhaps allows it to be swept under the carpet as "just the way she is" and leaves her open to abuse. I understand how you feel about crossed boundaries (I spent 4 hours a day 4 days a week for a year with a certain girl with severe autism/PMLD never more than 1 foot away from me) but I wouldn't communicate that to the mother as she may get defensive/offended I would stick to a "I'm worried about her" approach.

Are you sure it's a crush? DS1 (13) is very unaware of personal space. He also explores the world in a very sensory way, so will sniff people. It's not a crush (he does it to everyone he knows, male and female) but I think is a way of recognising people. He will smell someone twice for example if they have changed perfume. He'll also try and sit on their laps (again no crush - he likes sitting on laps and always has), and he leans in trying to get pressure back from people. There's no romantic feelings attached to this - he's done it for years - and is part of sensory seeking behaviours (he used to climb under sofa cushions and try to persuade people to sit on the sofa).

I agree with WeWilson tbh. I would do what I always try to do with ds1- tell him what I want him to do, not what I don't want him to do. I find that telling him to 'sit down' while pointing at a chair away from whoever he needs to give space to works well. Or 'stand here' - again away from whoever needs some space.

rhetorician Wed 02-Jan-13 20:07:48

can't be sure, I suppose; it is accompanied by a lot of 'I love yous' and so on and so forth, but that could just be language from TV. Like your DS, jimjams she isn't very aware of personal space, although this does seem largely to be visited on me when I am there. I don't know how far she is like this with everyone, but from my observation, she isn't. Perhaps with her mother, but I've not seen it with anyone else really.

DS1 is like this with people he knows, he wouldn't do it to a stranger, although he has his favourites.

It depends on her level of understanding. DS1's understanding of language is limited which is why I tend to stick to 'sit down' pointing to where I want him to sit. In his case the sniffing and pressing against people is sensory driven, so if he leans in and someone pushes back he's getting what he wants (and will do it all the more). So I prefer him to move himself away when told to sit down and give people space that way.

rhetorician Wed 02-Jan-13 21:40:03

I don't know enough about her specific issues although that rings bells jimjams - my relationship with her hasn't been about her SN, or at least only insofar as this determines our interactions. I rarely discuss the specifics with her mother now (did when she was tiny and no-one knew what her potential was) and that's been good, but feel that i need to know a bit more to know how to handle this best

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