Adult problem children
My problem is with my adult children. They are constantly getting into trouble, and they deal with it by coming to live with me. It is one thing after another. I feel like I am being punished for doing the "right" things, such as keeping the same job for 23 years, not breaking the law, and paying my bills.
I enjoy having my house to myself. But since I have a house, my kids seem to think that I owe it to them to take them in when they mess up. I can't see my grandchildren on the street, so I do take them in. I am really resenting that I cannot make plans to live my life the way I want to because I take on their responsibilities. I am in a trap of my own making I just don't see the way out.
Can you give me some insight into a new way of dealing with this? I would be grateful.
How sad it must be for you to see your efforts at parenting reach so little fruition. I can only imagine how terrible you must feel when your grandchildren are faced with homelessness. Yet, the cycle will never stop until your children hit bottom. I'm not sure what it is that they are doing or not doing as you didn't say. But, they have to "hit bottom" before they will consider getting the help they will need to straighten out their lives.
I'd suggest that you either tell your children that your grandchildren can live with you while they, your children, get their own lives straight but that they themselves are not welcome. You can also offer to help them contact the appropriate assistance in your community, such as welfare, drug rehabilitation facilities, twelve step programs, The Fortune Society, or if needed some form of protective services such as a battered women's shelter. However, do not offer to pay for their treatment. Most communities have some form of low-cost psychotherapy available. The only exception to that rule is helping to purchase prescribed medication and then only if you know that they are being used properly.
I have a motto I often teach to parents in your situation. "We can love our children, and we do. We can worry about them, and we do. We can pray for them, and we do. What we can't do is save them."
One last note. You say very little about your own life. One reason that adult children feel they can keep "coming back" is that they see their parents' lives as meaningless without them, the children. The more involved you are in enjoying your own life, the less likely they will be to ring the doorbell. And, I should add, you might find yourself less willing to let them in and more determined to set the limits which will force them to help themselves grow up.
Therefore, let me leave you with a prayer, which you may want to post next to your telephone to share with your children when they call looking for your assistance. "God, let me live my life in the joy which you have offered on this earth. Let me live to the fullest of my potential. And, Lord, may I always remember to pray for others that they learn to live their lives in Your joy as well. I can not save them from themselves, but I ask that You give them the tools to save themselves."
Kenneth A. Weene, Ph.D.
This question was answered by Kenneth A. Weene. Ken Weene is a graduate of The Institute For Advance Psychological Studies at Adelphi University is a licensed psychologist practicing on Long Island, New York. His orientation is holistic and eclectic. In addition to a variety of contributions to the professional literature, Dr. Weene has published a number of poems. Before entering private practice, he directed Children, Adolescent, and Family Services for The Counseling Service of The Long Island Council of Churches. Ken's central belief is that life is a gift to be experienced, enjoyed, and celebrated. He knows that this is sometimes difficult in the face of physical, emotional, and other forms of distress and sees his goal as helping people to find their inner peace and joy in the face of stress and anguish.