Lisa, I need to know how to handle this calmly without fighting and things being said that will be hurtful. Most of the time my husband doesn’t want to talk about his son and the issues. I am ready to move out of my home. Please lead me in a positive direction.
Dear Lady T:
This can be a tricky issue. It’s quite common for adult children to move into their parents’ home because of a financial or psychological crisis, says Dr. Grace Gabe, a psychiatrist and co-author of “Step Wars: Overcoming the Perils and Making Peace in Adult Stepfamilies.”
But it can be especially difficult if a parent has remarried and/or has younger children still living at home.
It’s important to be fair, says Gabe. “Would you be inclined to allow your own biological child to live in your home under the same circumstances? If so, what kind of commitment would you make in terms of length of stay and your own financial assistance?” she says.
You and your husband should talk about these questions until you reach an agreement, Gabe suggests. Create some house rules--guidelines that apply to all your adult stepchildren and biological children. Share them with all the adult children in your family, she advises.
In addition, consider some of these suggestions from Gabe: 1.Write an agreement.
Preferably before an adult stepchild moves in, prepare a written agreement that states the ground rules for living in your home for a specified period of time, with provision for renewal. This agreement should address the stepchild’s responsibilities for rent, food, household chores, telephone, utilities and noise levels. Periodically review the agreement; this will allow you to renegotiate after you have lived with each other for a short time. 2. Include an exit plan in the agreement.
That’s particularly important if the adult child moved in due to job loss or divorce, both of which could become an indefinite stay. The adult children moving in are usually asking for temporary help. They should be able to give you a realistic plan for how and when they can become independent again. 3. Discuss issues with spouse.
If the biological father is paralyzed by guilt about neglecting the child when younger, the stepmother might tactfully point out that allowing such behavior now is not helping the adult child develop useful social skills. In many cases, however, it is necessary for the stepparent to have a one-on-one discussion with the stepchild about creating a mutually respectful relationship. It’s important to let your spouse know you want to have that discussion. Ask him for suggestions about how to make the discussion go well. Take the time and be courageous enough to talk directly to your stepchild about how you treat each other. This can really improve the atmosphere. You can't force yourself to be friends with your stepchild, but you can focus on being civil, says Gabe.
You might want to read chapter seven of “Step Wars,” which addresses this issue.
Good luck with this difficult situation.
Lisa Lisa Cohn has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Parenting, Mothering, Your Stepfamily Magazine and other publications. She writes an advice column for Philly Women (www.philly.com) and is the co-host of Stepfamily Talk Radio (www.stepfamilytalkradio.com.) She is the co-author of One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories and Advice for Stepfamilies and The Step-Tween Survival Guide and Lisa has been quoted about divorce and stepfamilies by the Associated Press, Washington Post, Time Magazine, msn.com and other media outlets.