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Daughter, 17, is too young to stay alone in hotel

The Baltimore Sun

I'm sending my 17-year-old daughter to college. She is an experienced traveler and needs to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, but I have been told that hotels will not rent to a 17-year-old. Is that legal? Can anything be done?

Even though your daughter may be an experienced traveler, she can be denied a room rental. Why? Because innkeepers may refuse to rent to someone younger than 18 since that contract isn't enforceable.

For an innkeeper, that means that if there's no contract, a teenager could rent a room, charge food to room service and skip out, and Mr. Hotelier could do nothing about it, said Al Anolik, a travel rights attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Further, laws in many states give innkeepers the discretion to refuse a room if they have "just cause or excuse," said Jim Abrams, president and chief executive of the California Hotel & Lodging Association, based in Sacramento, Calif.

Then there's the larger question of whether a 17-year-old should stay alone in a hotel. Many of the moms we spoke with said that if the kid is off to college, he or she needs to learn to handle the freedoms of being out there, so why not? Many of the dads said they would let their daughters stay alone if and when donkeys flew.

So there's no one-size-fits-all answer. But two therapists we spoke with said there might be a time, but this isn't it.

"It's not the same as leaving her at home on a Saturday night," said Tammy Gold, a psychotherapist and founder of Gold Parent Coaching in New Jersey. "This is a ... gigantic psychosocial change. With no one else close to her ... all of these changes could throw her off and could make her susceptible to stress or anxiety."

Susan Kuczmarski, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent's Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go, says, with a laugh, that her book "is all about having parents become less involved" with their kids.

But, she adds, this isn't the time to go from "a short leash to no leash."

So there are legal and psychological reasons that this might not work, and a whole lot of lively debate about what's the right thing to do.

In the end, one idea would be to have your daughter stay with a friend's family or perhaps someone from your church. After all, there are wolves all around.

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