Would you do this for your difficult child?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by welcometowitsend, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. This may sound like a stupid question but I am wondering if you would help your difficult child find an apartment after you've kicked them out. I'm not talking about paying his rent or signing the lease on his behalf. Just going online to look at ads and forwarding him the ads that I think might be good leads for him.

    We have asked difficult child to leave and we gave him some time to find a place. He has chosen to not take the time we have given him but to leave and couch surf / stay in the shelter until he can figure out where he is going to live. In the last week he has stayed at 2 different friends places, the shelter and a couple of nights at our place. He stayed here last night but then insisted I return his knives and lighters to him. I told him that if I return them to him then I can't let him sleep here anymore. I just don't trust him with the lighters as he's been caught lighting off books of matches in his room before and doesn't see any reason NOT to do it (ie. you could burn the house down and kill everyone). Or he could wait until he found his own place and then I'd give him his belongings - then he'd be welcome to stay here until he found a place. He chose to not come back and take his knives and lighters.

    He works part time but has no money saved for first/last. I have considered selling his dirtbike and using the $$ to help him with first/last. He could probably pay about 4-5 months rent with that money depending on the place he finds. What do you think? We paid for the dirtbike but it is his.

    He is only 16 but where we live he is legally allowed to live on his own. He wants to be on his own but needs us to say we kicked him out (and we have because of his choices) so he can collect social services $ to help him pay rent. They will deduct his part time pay off his social services cheque.

    So, I guess my questions are - How much do you help? I'd like to do things like have lunch with him once in a while, drop off muffins if I've cooked some, offer him our old couch and some extra dishes/pots that we have, the type of things moms do for young adults once they are out on their own. I'm just not sure if helping him find an apartment is overstepping - is this something he needs to do on his own? Or should I change the situation from being one of some animosity because we 'kicked' him out to "Hey, I'm so excited that you're finding your own place. I saw these ads online and thought you might be interested."

    On the one hand I'd love to help and on the other hand if the apartment I found didn't work out then he'd surely blame me... or he'd come to expect very quickly that I would do these things for him instead of them being his responsibility and I was just nice enough to help out.

    He is the most inert person I have ever met. He doesn't seem to have an ounce of ambition, no perseverance to pursue things that require any effort whatsoever, no motivation to accomplish anything. So part of me wants to help push him past that and part of me wants to let him find the motivation on his own - even though it may come out of necessity because he ends up sleeping outside one night because the shelter is full and his friends won't have him.

    So, how have you handled these types of situations? What worked for you? What didn't? Thanks so much
  2. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think this is a complicated issue for all of us. And, it's individual and there is no right or wrong answer, we all find our own way.

    Having said that, I was just listening to a therapist last night discuss the challenges of detaching from our kids. He said, it's usually a complicated situation and many of us want a black and white answer, like, should I kick him out or let him stay. He said, the answer is as complicated as the question. He also said, first, define your boundaries, very clearly and make a plan and stick with it. So, if you decide to help, base it on "what are you willing to do without resentment?" And, check inside to determine that generally speaking, when you are enabling it feels bad and when you are doing something with loving kindness, it feels good.

    For me, I made a definite plan of what I was willing to do to help. I communicated that clearly and then implemented that plan. It was very clear as to what I would do and what I wouldn't do after I had helped her get to what I considered to be 'level ground.'

    Since your son is "inert" and has no motivation to pursue his own living space, you might want to allow him to experience the downside of his independence. This first foray into adulthood for him might better serve him if he were fully aware of how much responsibility it takes to be on ones own. If you find him a place and make this transition easier for him, you may in fact, rob him of the opportunity to learn just how tough it can be "out there." At 16 he is so young and not at all experienced in the ways of the world and although our instincts are to protect and help, since he is hellbent on being on his own, my instinct would be to let him. Without the benefits of you assisting in any way.

    In addition, I think it's important to wait until you're actually asked. Has he asked for your help? If not, I would let him find his own way.

    Detachment is very difficult for us parents, and often when we step in to help, we are attempting to minimize our own fear for them,.......... we know better, we have experience, we want to protect. But, he won't learn anything that way and as you said, you also run the risk of him blaming you for the choices you make for him. Our difficult child's are remarkably resourceful when it comes to getting their needs met. He may in fact couch surf for a long time, remarkably, my difficult child stayed on a friend's couch for 2 years!

    You said his dirt bike is his, so doesn't that mean it should be his decision to sell it and use it for rent? That would be a good choice, but it's not his choice. You are looking at all of it as an experienced adult who knows how to be in the world. He does not, but wants the freedom to be an adult. Part of being an adult means being responsible for the choices we make and if they are bad ones, then we learn from that and make a different choice next time. He pushed the envelope in requiring his adult freedom, it seems he should carry the adult weight of responsibility as well. And, I know from my own experience, that is WAY harder on us then it is on them.

    I believe having meals with him, baking muffins and offering some household items all seem appropriate. They are all warm and caring acts of a mothers love. Sometimes it's hard to make those distinctions of what is enabling and what is love, but we wander though doing our best and then I think as time goes by it gets easier for us as we master the ins and outs of this new territory. It's very good that you're questioning all of it as you move through it and seeing advice, it helped me to do that too, to stay out of the FOG which wraps around us and keeps us stuck doing the same behavior but expecting different results. Good job!
  3. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    He's awfully young, it'll probably be tough for him to figure things out on his own unless he's pretty mature, so a some subtle help might be ok. You know him best. You have to do what you can live with .. I think RE has a good point about the "gut feeling" you get when helping being an appropriate indicator.

    One thing I will say is to be prepared for the possibility that even if you do the research and give him leads, he may not follow up on any of them. This happens with my daughters frequently, and it can be very frustrating. In my case(s), I stopped trying most of the time. I wasn't going to waste my time if they weren't willing to take the ball and run with it once I gave them the info. Maybe do a test run on suggestions and see how it goes? And keep your expectations low.
  4. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My son was in his early 20's and I did help him find his first place. He managed to find the others. I have helped somewhat financially in one place. We helped with good old fashioned sweat equity on one.

    I see nothing wrong with a little assistance as long as he minds his manners. All I had to do was walk towards my car or look like I was fixing to put my purse away and Cory jumped into line...lol. Ye Debit Card is powerful motivator say Confucius!
  5. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I can see both pros and cons at helping. Trying to help and him not doing his part may be incredibly frustrating and make your relationship harder. Helping him can also diminish some lessons he needs to learn. I also assume that your system is similar enough to ours that if you don't help, social service will do it more or less.

    But he is so very young and it really isn't realistic to expect him to really be able to do all that kind of things that living independently means without any emotional support and some coaching. I know mine wasn't even close to ready to all that, when he left at seventeen (okay, he is more immature than his years) and needed quite a lot of practical help and advise in his independent living. He still needs at times. We were lucky that he was and is driven to make it, so it makes helping much easier and less frustrating. I can easily see how us trying to give advise etc. could be really frustrating and hard to our relationship with him, if he wouldn't even try himself.

    maybe you could try giving him tips and see how it goes? If he just scoffs them off and makes you boil from frustration, when you do know that trying to help him wasn't such a bright idea. If then again he does take some of your advise and tips in, you are helping your relationship with him and that is a good thing.
  6. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    How would he pay rent once he is in his own place? Does he work and make enough to pay rent?

    He is young so i think i would let him couch surf as long as possible. Unless it was a dangerous environment.
  7. Thank you so much for your responses.

    I texted difficult child this morning (I pay for his cell phone on the condition that he keeps in touch with me) and clarified that he did want us to sell the dirtbike for him. Yes, he does. OK. When I was talking to him yesterday we were discussing apartment hunting and I said I'd seen some apartments on kijiji (like Craig's list). He asked if I could email them to him so I did. When I texted him this morning he said he didn't have internet access to check his emails last night. Might be true might not. He lies constantly. Regardless - I gave him some leads and now it's up to him to follow them if he wants to.

    He has to find an apartment and hopefully a roommate before social services will give him any rent money. He does have a part time job and said he's going to ask for overnight shifts on weekends so he can make more money. If he can get two overnights and a couple of shifts during the week he should be able to make $1000 a month. His rent will probably be half that. I believe social services will claw back $$ depending on how much he makes but I'm not sure how much it is. If they claw it all back his budget will be very tight. If he was making a real effort and needed a bit of help his Dad and I would be willing to help. I'd buy him clothes for birthday and Christmas, some food sometimes and dental. Being Canadian his doctors/hospitals are covered and with such a low income he'd qualify for free medication as well - if not I'd pay for his medications because I DO NOT want him going off his medication.

    I did take him to sell his video games etc. at the pawn shop because you have to be 18 to do that. He got $150 and was disappointed because he figured his stuff was worth $300 - Lesson #1.

    On a positive he said he made a promise to himself to go to class - on a negative the school called today to say he skipped 1st period. Ugh. But he is on his own and making his own choices and I have decided not to say anything about it - doesn't do any good anyway.

    He also said he's excited to possibly get his own place and I will be excited for him too. Well, as excited as I can be knowing how tough it's going to be on him. I told him that we'd help him move and give him some furniture - although I think he'll end up with just a room/shared accommodation because he can't afford an actual apartment without at least one roommate.

    In some ways he is incredibly immature and in other ways he is very smart and capable. If he could overcome the immaturity, the laziness and the complete rejection of responsibility he'd be great!

    Thank you so much for helping me think through all of this. It has helped a lot. I think I'll take a small step back and see what he does from here. It will be tricky to find a balance of coaching and helping appropriately versus enabling him to continue his poor behaviour and lack of responsibility by helping too much. I imagine I'll make a lot of mistakes before we get through this. :)
  8. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    WTWE, this quote really struck me. It sounds so much like me at your difficult child's age. I was a near-difficult child throughout my teens, but when I left home at 17 I became an (almost) model citizen. All of a sudden it was up to me to find a place to live, pay bills, buy groceries, cook, look after my health, blah blah blah. It made me realize that, when I had someone to rely on to do the heavy lifting for me I would just hand over all responsibility, such as getting blind-drunk at parties, knowing my older brother or cousins would make sure I got home safely. When I was on my own, it was all up to me and the instant responsibility did me a world of good.

    I hope that you have a similar experience with your difficult child. Taking a small step back might be the best thing you can do for him.

  9. Trinity - Thank you. I am hoping that he is like you were. There is a part of me that thinks he may be that type of person who doesn't accept responsibility until he has to. I hope now that he is on his own and has to take responsibility for himself (that is if he doesn't have friends parents trying to swoop in and save him) that he will accept that responsibility and mature.

    On a positive he has not missed any school this week. 3 days of attending his classes. Yeah! It may just be because he has to attend classes in order to get social services but I don't really care why - he is going to class. :)

    On a negative he was horrible to me when I took him to the doctor on Monday and when I went to meet him at school yesterday to give him his medication at lunchtime he didn't show up. I will only give him a few days worth of medications at a time because if he were to have an entire months worth and lost them while he is couch surfing then he is in a heap of trouble because the pharmacy will not give him any more until the month is up. Anyway, I dropped them off at the office and texted him to tell them they were there.

    Hopefully he can string some more positives together and move forward. I can keep hoping that he's going to get into his early 20's and be one of those people that said 'this was the best thing my parents could have done for me.'
  10. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I can understand the need to monitor your difficult child's medications, especially with the constraints from the pharmacy. We live with that as well, and it can really cause problems. Still, if your difficult child is going to treat you horribly when you're taking him to the doctor, is there any leverage you can use on him? Can you make him find his own transportation, or would he just ditch the appointment if you didn't drive him there? It's a delicate balancing act, that's for sure.

    And yes, I think that once your difficult child is on his own he will look back and realize that it was the best thing you could have done for him.

    In my case, I left of my own accord rather than being thrown, but it was one of my best decisions.
  11. Trinity - I think if I made it the least bit difficult for him to get to the doctors then he probably wouldn't go - I think the idea of 'making me pay' would outweigh his need/want for his medication.

    I am going to be taking him to the family doctor next week as he's been complaining of excessive thirst. It is probably just a side effect of his medication but I want to get his blood sugar checked just in case. There's no juvenile diabetes in our family but you never know. I hope he is better this week than last week.

    I am going to solve the issue of him and the medication distribution by having the pharmacy package his pills and dispense them a week at a time - it will cost me a little more in dispensing fees but it will be worth it to separate that from our relationship so there is one less thing to fight about.
  12. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I understand. Doctors' appointments are clearly not where you want to exert leverage then.

    Those compliance packs were a life-saver with my difficult child. Made things so much easier in so many ways -- from making sure that whoever was supervising his medications knew what he was supposed to take and when, to reducing the amount that could be lost or stolen at any given time.

    Yes, removing yourself from the equation as much as possible is sometimes the best strategy. To this day, there's a whole list of things that I will not do with or for my difficult child. (Driving him places, taking him out for one-on-one time like I do with the other kids, giving him money...blah blah blah.) Holdovers from the bad old days, all of them, but every time I've relented his rotten behaviour comes back in full force, so those lines are firmly in place. It stinks, but if that's the price of having a relationship with my son then I'm willing to pay it.

    I hope everything works out well with the plans you're putting in place.
  13. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I would help. The goal is to have your difficult child become a productive citizen. If he's helping himself, then you're helping him move forward in life. It's not just a handout that's going to be wasted in the long run.

    But, if he has no goal or plan how will he support himself? How will he pay for food, transportation, incedetals or rent? If he is just depending on the sale of a dirtbike for his only money, then don't, you'll end up paying for everything. You'll help him when he a direction and he starts his plan. You know what to do.
  14. Trinity - my difficult child seems to be the same as far as the bad behaviour returning if I relent on anything. Well, his bad behaviour hasn't gone away at all yet but it gets worse if he thinks I'm softening.
    husband doesn't want me driving him anywhere anymore unless it is to the doctors. He likes to yell at me in the car and call me names and last time he slammed the door so hard I thought he may have damaged it.

    Upallnight - Right now difficult child is couch surfing at a friends place. Initially they said he could stay until the end of November, then December, now they say he needs to find a place but they aren't going to put him out on the street (he won't learn anything from that but at least he will be warm and safe). So for now there is no need for me to help. He has a part-time job and makes enough money there that he could contribute to the household groceries where he is and still have a little bit of money left over for entertainment and such. So right now he doesn't have a plan and isn't going to get any help from us (aside from paying for his guitar lessons if he continues to show up and practice).

    If and when he formulates a plan and gets his own place husband and I will give him the money for first and last (from the dirtbike), we will help him move and give him some furniture if he needs it. That's what we've decided for now. If he is working hard, going to school and has some direction in his life then I would be willing to help him with groceries and clothing - that type of thing.

    Thanks for your reply. With the advice here and some time to think through things I think we've formulated a decent plan. I'm sure it'll change as we move along.