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Being a Parent to Adult Children

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By the time your child has become an adult, they can become your friend. You want to be able to show your love, and be an ear for their important life decisions. This page is about being a parent to adult children.


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

What do you think of an adult daughter whose only excuse for not giving me a Christmas gift; BD gift; or Mother's day gift is "you're hard to buy for, I'll have to be creative"? She's going on 40 so you'd think by now she'd know what I like.

She has just texted to tell me about the expensive gifts her new husband had given her, but no mention of the ones I'd just given her and her son. I don't think this would bother me so much if it weren't for the fact that my BD will be in a few weeks; she sends a card, but it's always at least a week later.

In her other marriage money was the issue, but now that's not the case. I always felt sorry for her and the kids so I've always done way more than I should. It's hard to break the "care giver, enabler" mode, but I always forget the next Christmas or BD. I know someone is going to tell me I raised her this way and/or when giving a gift you should not expect one in return. You're all right, but non-the-less I'd still hurt.

By weinerdog41 from Lubbock, TX


December 27, 20121 found this helpful
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I would spend/contribute to an individual in need, an animal rescue, your favorite charity or what strikes you. At birthday time after donation, send her a note that you donated to ------ in her name. If her son has no gratitude or shows any respect for you, I would do the same.


Fill a Christmas stocking you fill with bits and pieces through the year for someone who has little, is alone, or needy. Put it on their doorstep in the night --anonymously. Believe me, you will get a beautiful warm feeling when you do a beautiful warm donation. That, sweet Mom, is priceless.

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December 28, 20121 found this helpful
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Stop sending her (and the grandchildren-when was the last time you got a thank-you from them?) gifts. Send a card (no money inside) but leave it at that. If she brings it up tell her the truth-it hurts when she forgets you on gift-giving occasions, and btw it also hurts that she consistently sends belated birthday greetings.

When she throws out that tired 'But it's the thought that counts!', counter with one word-"Precisely!" How do I know this? Raising an ungrateful child hurts. You didn't raise her to be that way but she is that way, and it hurts!


My daughter is 35, my son 30. Both of them did this to me. So when the shock of my "Precisely" hit them, they really tuned me out for a while. Which hurt even more but I figured that if all I was to them was a fount of gifts and money, then the heck with it. My son came around, the daughter still thinks I'm a monster. (Shrug. I'm over it. But it took a while.)

I used the money I would have used for them to take two Angels from the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree. (When my son finally came around I told him about the Angel Tree-he takes an Angel every year now, too.)

My son took over three years to get over the shock. We had a good long discussion about the issue-cleared up a lot of things he never talked to me about before including a lot of his behaviours after I divorced their father when he was 17.

I hope things work out for you and your daughter the way things have for me and my son. He tells me one of the reasons it was so easy to be that way towards me was because although I didn't raise him to be that, watching the way his father treated me (no gifts, no cards, no consideration, no respect) taught him to see me as something of a 'doormat' even though deep down inside he knew that was wrong. He watched my ex (and his family) treat me with disrespect, and when I continued to treat them with respect he thought I was stupid, frankly. While I didn't raise him that way, watching others did raise him that way.


So there might be something else going on with your daughter-she may have grown up seeing you walked all over as you treated others with respect that wasn't returned. There's not a lot you can do about it except to stop knocking yourself out for her, and hope one day she is ready to talk.

I'm praying for you. The most hurtful thing in parenting is thinking your kids don't care about you.

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I have an adult child, grandchild, and another adult family member who have come to live with my husband and me. My adult child keeps her room (and grandchild's) like a disaster area. When everyone moved in I asked them to sign a social contract regarding cleaning, cooking etc.

It lasted for a while. I love having everyone here, we have a large home, but I also like having a neat, clean house without feeling like the Mess Sargent.


My latest attempt was to buy wall storage units. Our house lacks closet space. But, I'm thinking there's more to it than that. How can I get an adult to be cleaner and neater?

By Pamela from Philadelphia, PA


May 1, 20090 found this helpful
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Maybe you can make a copy of that agreement they signed and enlarge it and tape it to the door of the room they enter that is so messy. Maybe that will remind them in a friendly way as to what they agreed to in order to stay there.

Also you mentioned cooking. Maybe you could make a chart Mon-Friday of what days it is a certain persons day to cook making sure you have the things on the chart available for them to easily reach it and prepare the meal. For instance Tues & Thurs that person's name is on the cook chart for the meal and have it say what the meal will be (for example spaghetti & salad) and post that weekly chart to both the fridge and the door of their living quarters and on those days do not cook a meal and if they do not cook it, they don't eat.


Pretty soon they will get the message of the reminder you are giving them that they have been slacking on in their promise given prior too. If they do get involved you could even let them suggest what meals they want to cook on their days. If your doing their laundry> same thing keep their dirty laundry in it's own bin and do not do it. Pretty soon all these hints will reach home to them. If the young child is old enough to participate, make them a chart with awards given as stickers etc. You could also take pictures of the messy room and post it to their door giving them yet another hint to start helping again.

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May 2, 20090 found this helpful
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I agree with Amuck (as usual) and would just close the door if I saw it open. I wouldn't try to "remake" an adult into something they're not. It's demeaning to tell adults how to behave even if they need to be told. I would, however, insist that the mess stay in their space, not in the common living area. If that happens to be the case I'd speak directly to them and let them know how it affects you. You don't mention having a problem with the rest of the agreement as regards to cooking, etc. With any concerns I'd vote for a direct conservation rather than leaving notes, etc. I certainly wouldn't go in their rooms and clean up. If it gets too upsetting you may have to let them know you've had guests as long as you can.

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May 6, 20090 found this helpful
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I had this challenge once with two older teenage children, and this is how I successfully handled it. I asked for an initial deposit (a significant sum they would not want to lose) if they wanted to stay, explaining I expected them to hold up to their responsibilities which they were not.

One child said he'd sleep in his van rather than submit to my blackmail. I said that that was OK with me. He could come in to eat, shower and answer the phone. Otherwise he was out in his van. After three days, he relented, and he never had to replace his deposit.

My daughter did have to replace her deposit once and once only. When they left, I gave them back their unused deposits. I did not want their money, just they keep their areas clean, period.

IF you are going to do this you need to be firm. If they want to live there, they have to respect the contract they signed.

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I'm needing help to find a support group or someone to talk to that is going thru the same thing that I am going thru at this time. I just lost my daughter (29) in April. She had just given birth a week earlier to a girl, and she left behind, 2 other girls ages 5 and 11 and a husband that is struggling.

I need someone to talk to/or write to that may be going thru something similar or who has gone thru it. I'm in desperate need.

Please anything that you can share with me would be deeply appreciated.

Thanks again readers.

By Teresa C. from VA


June 13, 20111 found this helpful
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Hi Teresa,
I found a few other grief organizations that are recommended by the New England Organ Bank:

Alive Alone:; an organization which benefits bereaved parents whose only child or all children are deceased.
Bereaved Parents of the USA:; an organization that offers support, compassion, and hope to bereaved parents, grandparents, and siblings.
One Bright Star:; offering resources and support for families who have experienced the death of a child.

For your grandchildren:
The Douggy Center for Grieving Children:; 866-775-5683
an organization which provides loving support in a safe place where children, teens, and young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences as they move through the healing process. They have a National Center for Grieving Children and Families, too.

"When a Parent Dies" advice from Hospice:

"Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss":

Mister Rogers See booklet, Grieving for Children, for ages 4-10.

My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope you know a lot of people are thinking about you all. :)

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What are some of the ways that you let your grown children feel loved, special and very much needed?

By Jaynee Morgan


May 12, 20090 found this helpful
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I give them hugs whenever I see them, walk with my arm around them & tell them how much I love them each time I send them an e-mail. I have 3 biologic children & a stepdaughter & each one has no doubt how strongly I feel about them. I think this is because I set the foundation when they were young!

I have a funny story: Long ago when my kids were much younger I asked each child in turn individually which child they thought I loved the most. My daughter (then 16) said "Cody, because he's the baby, the youngest" & Cody (then 8) said "Melissa because she's the only girl". I then asked my oldest, Michael (then 22) & he said "Me!" This just shows I didn't favor any one of them over another & I think that this is VERY important. In fact, I've learned from my mom. She is VERY careful that she ALWAYS gives my sister the same thing she gives me or something of similar value. She makes sure never to take sides & makes sure we know that she loves us both the same. It's so important to never favor one child or leave one child out!

I have a friend that has a mom who has always favored 2 of her 3 girls & this friend has always felt left out & unloved by her mother. She invited her mom to her newly purchased home & her mom couldn't make the time to come (but she will go to the other 2 girls houses) If her mom would just take her aside & tell her that she is special to her & loved this would heal her wounds. instead resentment has built up. This gal was our real estate agent when we sold our family house & she always remarked on how nice it was my mom didn't have favorites among her 2 children. But it's also my friends fault because she also should open communication & tell her mom how left out she feels. Communication is SO VERY IMPORTANT!

Also, stop by & see your kids whenever you can. Maybe take one at a time to lunch or take one child at a time garage-saleing son a Saturday. Call them once in a week or send them a quick e-mail that says "I'm thinking about you & I love you bunches!" You don't have to talk on the phone very long, just say "I was calling to say I love you!" Be supportive of their choices (even if you don't agree with them). You can say you'd do something differently, just let them fight their own battles & don't be nosey. Treat your grown children like you'd like to be treated!

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I have a very loving relationship with my adult son. However there are times when he distances himself from me for no apparent reason. He doesn't answer my calls or texts even after I've tried him several times. This makes my heart heavy. He lives in another state so the tendency to worry about him is always there. He is a responsible young man, but at the same time I find it irresponsible for him to not answer when I call. Can anyone help me to cut the apron strings even though it makes me sad.

By Kathy


May 15, 20141 found this helpful

Always remember that you will soon hear if there is anything wrong. No news is good news.

I rarely initiate contact with my adult daughters, waiting for them to call first, which they do when they have time and feel like chatting. Their work is more demanding than mine, because of our different stages in life.

Your son is likely to be very preoccupied with his work, rather than wanting to reject you.

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My adult daughter lives 3 hours away, is a single mom and lives with her father. Her father and I divorced 19 years ago. She is 33 years old. We do not have a good relationship even though we speak regularly on the phone. Three weeks ago we had a disagreement and there has been no conversation since that day. We are also friends on Facebook.

What is bothering me is that she posted a photo of herself, her son, and her father with the caption, "What I am grateful for..." I saw that and felt hurt that she did not even mention me. I know that I am three hours away, but I am also in very bad health and cannot travel. I am still upset over seeing her post and I wondered why she could not have written a comment such as, " I am grateful for you too mom..." but she did not.

I feel like blocking her on FB. She never likes or comments on my posts anyway. I would like to know the best way to handle this. Please advise.
Thank you!


November 28, 20161 found this helpful
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As a mom of adult children, I think it is up to the parent to make sure that the relationship with adult children stays congenial. If you want to make things worse, by all means, continue to feel hurt over her post, perhaps make a hurtful comment, and block her. If you wish to make up over the disagreement, give her a call and talk. Don't expect an apology for anything. Get over your hurt feelings and talk with your daughter. Refuse to be on the outs with her. Just forget about whatever it was that caused the disagreement. Phone with good news and happy comments. Avoid issues that led to the disagreement in the first place. Focus on what you have rather than what you don't have. Make no comment whatsoever about the FB post.

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November 29, 20160 found this helpful
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What wonderful advice from Louise!
I wish more people could read this as I feel sure there are many who could benefit from her suggestions on how to handle a situation like this.

Many years ago I had a similar "problem" and it certainly can make you "hurt" all over. I kept all the horrible emails for a while and then one day I decide to print them all and just hand them to her the next time we saw each other. I really thought this was a "good" idea and just wanted to see how she reacted as she would usually just act like everything was okay when we met.

Thank goodness I came to my senses and did not do this - I destroyed the letters and just worked on forgetting all the hurtful things that had been said or done. It was not easy but my health improved and our relationship improved - but - it took years before we became "friends" and now we are able to spend enjoyable times together.

It takes work and forgiveness but you will feel better and who knows - you may have a good relationship or maybe not but you will feel better for trying.

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March 24, 2011

I need advice. I have raised my niece since she was 5 years old. She is the daughter of my heart. She is 32 years old, has two college degrees, and always has a job. She is in many ways a charming and delightful young woman, but she is in a very toxic relationship.

He is 30, but a very lazy man who has not worked in the 12 years they have been together. He doesn't help around the house, either. He is extremely controlling, and very mean. But she is very manipulative and an extreme drama queen. She will spend hours on the phone with me telling me how terrible he has been lately. She will reject any suggestion or advice, yet will demand suggestions, advice, and help. The next day she might tell me about something nice he did, and how good things have been lately.

If it wasn't for the fact that he is verbally abusive and treats her terribly right in front of me and others, I would doubt her word. She has lost friends who either decided that she was lying, or who got tired of it, or who said "I told you so" or "you must like it because you refuse to leave" and made her mad.

Well, after all these years, I have given her money, done many things to help, listened to her complain and cry for literally thousands of hours, and I find I am past my limit. I don't want to hear it anymore. She calls and instant messages me everyday, and he is the main topic. Some days it is hard for me to get anything done because she is monopolizing my time. If I tell her the truth, I am afraid of losing her. What do I do?

By Kiro from CA


March 24, 20110 found this helpful
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I think I would try asking her to lunch, and telling her how much you love her and value the time you spend together, BUT that she is wearing you out. Tell her you have every faith in her ability to handle her relationship herself. Remind her that you have offered advice, which she chose not to follow, and that you just don't have any more (advice) to offer. Tell her you cannot spend all day on the telephone, and that you will only be available for calls from 5 to 5:30 pm (or whatever time you decide), unless it is a true emergency. Tell her you would like to meet for lunch (or coffee, or whatever) each week--or whatever time interval works for you.

She might be angry for a short while, but stand your ground. Remind her that you are not cutting her off, just limiting how much you have to listen to. Tell her it hurts you when she is hurting, (appeal to her selfish side) and you can't bear to hear it all the time.

THEN, you have to follow-through. Use caller ID or your answering machine to screen calls, and only answer her calls during your specified time. Be sure to tell her it is OK to leave a message, and you can call her back. (Again, unless it is an emergency, only call her during the designated time.)

Ignore texts, and if you are using other forms of instant messaging, set the default sign on to make it look like you are not on. (For example, on AIM, you become "invisible"; on FB, you can just turn the chat feature off.)

Keep reaching out to her; but set those limits and stick to them. She is an adult, employed, and intelligent; now it's time for her to put on her big girl panties and deal with her life.

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March 11, 2009

I am under a lot of stress at my house right now. I have a son-in-law, his girlfriend and their 7 month old baby living here. They refuse to take any of my suggestions to heart in caring for the baby. It is driving me nuts and I am at my wits end. Any ideas on how to de-stress my life while they are here?

Liz from FL


March 12, 20090 found this helpful
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I agree with everyone else, you need to keep your comments about the baby to yourself. I know it's hard because you care so much. So, every time you see something you don't agree with and you are tempted to tell them what to do, turn it into a game in your head and try to think of something kind to say. It can be about anything; a butterfly you saw outside the window or how much you appreciate the way they help you in the kitchen, etc.

The other alternative is to leave the room. Go to your room and read or get some fresh air outside or take up a new hobby so you'll have a project to work on. You need to DO something every time you are tempted to correct them. I hope this helps. I ache for you. Your frustration is normal, and as Dr. Laura says, "I can't fix normal!" Good luck and God bless you! -Lee in FL

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Is it a parent's responsibility to tell their married sons or daughters about their finances or an insurance policy (will be paid out at the end of the year) that has paid out? Any suggestions or advice?

By Dorothy from SA


July 16, 20100 found this helpful
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I don't think there is any "should" to this question. I know about my sons' finances because I do their taxes. I tell them some of the details about mine, mainly to illustrate what they might want to do, or to suggest saving strategies. However, my sons are still in their twenties and just beginning to set up RRSPs, get into home ownership, and so on. I don't think you have to tell them about this policy if you don't want to. If you are worried that they might hit you up for a loan or something, don't tell them.

On the other hand, my 81 year old mother gambles a lot, and I would like to know more about her finances than I do, just to be sure she is not making herself destitute. I am an only child, and she is a widow.

Every situation is different.

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How can I show my daughter I support her? She just graduated from high school and I have been offering suggestions and giving her advice about her career because she is undecided what she wants to do at this point, go to college or work.

I am only trying to help, but she says I am too negative and not supportive. I am not trying to be negative just trying to give her a little advice about the pros and cons of her choices. Can you experienced mothers help with suggestions as I do not want to be a hindrance to her, I just want to help her. Any advice would be appreciated.

By Onesummer


August 3, 20100 found this helpful
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Onesummer I have been there and I advice you to do what I did. Just give up and let her decide. That's all you can do and really it will make her a better person. That way if she makes a mistake it was her chosen and she can't blame anyone but herself and if she picks right then she will be very happy. If she wants to talk just be there for her and listen. If she ask for your opinion give it, if not then just listen. I know it is hard but we have to let them learn on their own.

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My daughter drinks heavily, says she's bipolar, and is in a second marriage that's going sour. She left her first husband and kids for another man 12 years older who treats her like a child. Every couple of months she leaves him to come to my house putting her job in jeopardy.

Last time that happened she quit the job right before Christmas. She asked my son for money to pay her child support. When things don't go her way she has a temper fit, calls me a bitch, and throws things. Last time this happened she overheard a conversation in which I confided to a close friend. I had some very harsh words describing my daughter.

I know she's bipolar, but she's spoiled. Since this happened and I've cut off the money and gifts she says she wants nothing more to do with me. I haven't talked to her in 3 months, but she texted me last week saying "I've left him, and am sleeping outside from now on, don't call or text because I don't need your abuse." She said she had no one and no place to go.

In the conversation I had with the friend, I called her lazy and said that she expects a man to take care of her. I don't think she'll forgive me especially since I've made it clear she can't keep leaving her husband and coming to me. Plus I'll no longer bail her out with money.

The relationship she has with her father, my former husband and her brother are no better and she says that's my fault. This makes me sad, as I love her, but I'm too old to deal with her problems. She sees a psychologist and takes meds, but nothing seems to help and she just blames me for the mess she's made of her life. Do I take her at her word and not call her? How could I apologize for something I said about her to a friend when I believe everything I feel and said is true.


March 20, 20181 found this helpful
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First thing I would say is her little passive aggressive text ("I've left him, and am sleeping outside from now on, don't call or text because I don't need your abuse." ) is a clear emotional manipulation tactic. She clearly needs your help and is too proud because of the other thing that happened or she's afraid you were serious about your conditions for helping her in the future, so she is trying to pull on your maternal heartstrings to get you to do what she wants and still avoid all responsibility for her life.

The thing to do is call her bluff and just ignore her (as she seems to say she wants) or offer to help put her in a shelter and commit to the message of "you can only come back if you're more willing to be better"

Whether bipolar or not, she sounds to me more like someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, which in a nutshell is someone with deep developmental and interpersonal disabilities. They are always living in terror of being abandoned while at the same time always being really incapable of connecting with others. They idealize and then devalue people. THey act incredibly selfishly, impulsively, and immaturely, are often threatening or causing self-harm, and their emotions are practically impossible to regulate. And alcoholism and drug addiction are basically co morbid with BPD.

Bipolar disorder is actually preferable because it can be moderated with a pill, not so BPD. Even most therapists are leery of treating these folks, in no small part because they seldom think they need help changing and are so good at manipulating therapists. Still, there are some things like Dialectical Behavioural Therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that greatly helps these ppl when they feel they need help - or when someone like you gives them an ultimatum of 'get help or else'. With someone like her even if she was not diagnosed BPD I would encourage her seek one of those types of therapies over traditional therapy.

If I were you I would try to find out as much as possible re bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and as I recommend, BPD and that way you can understand why she does the things she does

Lastly, please try to not feel bad that you got caught out talking about her. 99.9% of people on earth talk about others, it's not something egregious or new to you (and certainly she's given you cause) and, if nothing else, just think of all the really actually distorted unfair unwarranted bad stuff she's said about you to everyone willing to listen (I guarantee you it's lots) if nothing else.

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My daughter called to tell me she has left her husband of 19 years. She did not mention divorce, but tells me she will not go back. They have a 16 year old son who has mental problems and has been in and out of hospitals for several years. The toll it's taken on the both of them has broken up the marriage and I'm heartbroken.

In the 19 years they have been married, I can probably count on one hand how many times they have been alone to work on their relationship. I haven't been able to help much because I live 400 miles away. They have not been able to go anywhere as a family because of their son. They also have a 10 year old son and can't leave the two boys together, so my daughter and her husband can spend time alone. The 16 year old is verbally and physically abuse to his parents and to my 10 year grandson. Now my daughter tells me that she and her husband have grown apart and never spend anytime together.

Both of my kids were verbally abused by their father and my daughter is is no condition mentally or financially to take the 10 year old with her and I'm worried sick for him. To make matters worse, I'm close to my son-in-law and I'm worried about him too because it's been hard on him too.

The 16 year old threatens my daughter more so than his father. My daughter says she can no longer live this way. For years, the father worked long hours and my daughter has taken more than she can handle. The father seems to be able to handle the 16 year old without having a mental breakdown, but my daughter can't. I'm worried about her taking her own life because she feels so guilty about leaving her kids. She says she won't, but now she in in a hotel room alone and I'm worried sick. Any of my frugal friends that can comfort me I will sure be glad to hear from you. I don't have a friend that truly understands.

By Betty from Lubbock, TX


April 7, 20120 found this helpful
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Please don't "own" this. Your daughter and husband are adults. If they ask for your help-offer what you can but don't blame yourself. I assume the older mentally ill child is receiving some sort of therapy, special ed or out-patient care-your daughter should seek some resources from these sources.

If the younger child or your daughter is at risk of injury from the ill boy, they need to get out. A 16 year old is essentially an adult and can cause serious physical, not to mention emotional damage.

As for the marriage, a couple who ants to save their marriage will take steps to do so. Not all marriages are salvageable, especially one that has been dysfunctional for a very long time, but if your family wanted to try, they would/could have done so. "No time" is an excuse.

Please don't be co-dependent in this situation. Offer support if you can and care to, but don't let it destroy you.

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February 23, 2016

My step-daughter is 32. She does not live with me and my wife and does not have a job or partner. She calls my wife 10-15 times a day and always ends the conversation by saying 'I love you' to my wife. Is this normal?

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April 2, 2015

My adult daughter has been going in a downhill spiral for a long time now. She has been in a loveless marriage for at least ten years. She has been in and out of alcohol treatment for at least that long. She has had several jobs and has been let go from the last three due to her alcoholism. I am so disappointed in how her life has turned out.

She has three children ages 15, 13, and 10. She is not really concerned about them. She recently filed for divorce and lost her job. She is not financially able to take care of herself so I don't know what she is going to do. She has had numerous affairs during her marriage and her husband has remained married to her. The last time I talked to her, I told her how disappointed I was with her lack of caring about her children and the life she is living.

She hasn't talked to me in three weeks. I don't think I should call her and apologize, but I feel so bad because she is my daughter and I love her. She was married in 1995 so she would have been married 20 years in June. She went to counseling several times and of course, they said we were toxic to her. She has told people that we were abusive, but we raised two other children and they turned out just fine.

She is our oldest and when she was at home, we walked on eggshells because it seemed she was always angry or upset about something. My other two kids were easy going and happy go lucky, but she was always different. My husband and I have always had a good marriage and showed that openly to our children. She is just not a very loving person and I don't know why. I love her and miss her, but don't know what to do. Please help.

By Jackie K

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October 25, 2018

We were giving an adult daughter a nice rider lawn mower as we moved and have no need of it. It had sat at our house for 3 weeks. Well, as would happen it wasn't available to be ridden to her house when she wanted to. Then she proceeded to talk very nastily to my granddaughter about where the rider had been and texting me as to how much I had disregarded her. Would an apology be too much to ask before giving her the rider. As for me I would not give it to her for behaving in such a manner, she is 50.

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