Grandma Wants to Help Despite Abusive Son-in-Law

By Amy Dickinson | November 18th, 2022

Where does a loving parent draw the line in helping a daughter and grandkids?

crying mother and daughter sitting on a bed. Photo by Albertshakirov. A concerned grandma wants her daughter, two grandkids, and verbally abusive son-in-law to move in with her. See what “Ask Amy” advises. 

A concerned grandma wants her daughter, two grandkids, and verbally abusive son-in-law to move in with her. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of “Ask Amy.” 

Dear Amy:

I am the grandmother of two wonderful kids – a 7-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy.

My son-in-law has been overly critical of my granddaughter since she was four, and now is starting to treat the younger child the same. My daughter stood up for her children three years ago and they separated for six months, mainly because of his inability to be more patient with the children. (There were some other issues.) She and the kids lived with me at that time.

They’ve been to counseling off and on for a couple of years.

His behavior is mean, calling them idiots, and he often uses foul language.

He tries to teach them patience and manners by yelling and holds the older child to a standard that he doesn’t reach himself.

He has never hit them, but is very intimidating.

He is a stay-at-home dad because of some health issues and hasn’t worked in two years. He rarely cleans, and doesn’t cook or do laundry.

My daughter doesn’t want to hear my opinion anymore. She knows he won’t change and she would have to kick him out again, so she pretends it’s not that bad.

They are having financial problems and I want to offer to have them move in with me.

I have plenty of room but am worried about not being able to get along with my son-in-law all the time.

I know that I would probably take on most of the childcare and housekeeping, but I want what’s best for the kids and my daughter.

Should I make the offer?

Sad Grandma

Dear Grandma:

Your daughter has asked you not to engage so thoroughly in her marriage. Moving this family into your household would place you directly in the middle of it.

If your daughter perceives your legitimate concern for their welfare as judgment and pressure, she might respond by defensively digging in her heels.

Rejecting help is the strange dynamic that is sometimes part of an abuse cycle.

It is possible, too, that the counseling this couple receives is helping to reform your son-in-law’s behavior.

If things are not improving, providing housing, childcare and housekeeping for the entire family would actually keep this father in the mix, when it might be best for the children if the parents separate. If all of you lived together, your home would cease being a safe-haven and would become ground zero.

Your daughter has already separated from her husband once. She and the children have lived with you before; you should make sure she knows that this is always an option if they need housing again.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from an abusive son-in-law to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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