Sage Advice: Grandmother Feels Trapped in Her Own Home

By Amy Dickinson | October 3rd, 2018

A mother struggles to set boundaries with her own daughter

Ask Amy

Dear Amy: My 36-year-old daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter live with me.

My daughter has a small business which brings in barely enough income for her to survive; it would be difficult if not nearly impossible, for her to get her own place.

My daughter seems to get involved in one bad relationship after another, pays minimal attention to her child, drinks excessively, relies on me for childcare, rarely helps around the house and frequently cannot give me the agreed-upon rent of $300 a month.

I am approaching retirement age, but feel I can’t actually retire, as it will mean selling my house and finding something smaller that I could afford.

While I would be OK with telling my daughter that she needs to paddle her own canoe, I’m reluctant to abandon my granddaughter.

I’ve suggested, begged and hinted that my daughter get some counseling.

She has struggled with depression and anxiety and takes medication, which doesn’t seem to help much.

Any ideas?

– In a Tough Spot

Dear Tough Spot: Your daughter cannot reach her potential, as a person and a parent, until she stops drinking. Her alcohol use interferes with her judgment, triggers her depression and affects her ambition – and the efficacy of her medication.

And you cannot even begin to get out from under this until get some professional and therapeutic coaching about how to stop enabling your daughter without abandoning your granddaughter. Suggestions, hints and begging are not going to cut it. You have to create and maintain enough pressure and workable consequences to try to force your daughter toward change.

You also need to fully absorb the very real possibility that your daughter will not change. Will you try to force her out of your home? This might be a challenge, certainly if she refuses to go (I have read of parents actually selling their homes and moving in order to force out a resident family member).

You should contact your local department of Family and Childrens Services to connect with a social worker who could work with you to develop a plan and locate services to help your family. If your daughter refuses to attend sessions, go on your own.

You should also attend a “friends and family” support group (check for a local meeting).

For inspiration, read: “Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children,” by Charles Rubin(2007, New Century Publishers). Rubin’s central message is about how to stop enabling and set boundaries – in order to save your own life.

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. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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