Relationship Connection: How much should I support my divorced daughter?

Question

Our daughter is going through a divorce, which has been brought about by the choices both she and her husband made.

Before the divorce, we strived to help her to understand the importance of choices she could make that would help her marriage, but she didn’t take our advice until it was too late. Now she is trying to pick up the broken pieces of her life and move forward and we are very proud of the determination she has to improve her life and to live by some of the principles we had suggested to her earlier.

My question is, how much support do we give her? She tends to have a personality that leans toward not being self-reliant, and yet she will often refuse the suggestions given that we believe would help her the most.

She has a child and we want to be there to help her and our grandchild, but we don’t want her to turn us into her missing “husband.” We’re afraid if we give too much that she won’t feel the need for fulfillment enough to actively seek out a new husband, and to be self-reliant. And yet, I often feel guilty, as her mother, that I’m not doing enough to help her out.

Do you have a suggestion as to how best to draw boundaries in this situation?

Answer

There is nothing straightforward about situations like this. It’s one thing to set boundaries with an adult daughter who needs to learn responsibility, but it’s another when there is an innocent grandchild involved. It tugs at your heart strings differently and makes it difficult to follow through with tough love to help your daughter learn responsibility.

However, unless you want to raise your grandchild (and your daughter, for that matter), it’s critical that you allow her to learn what it takes to be a responsible mother, single or married. You know what works for you as a mother. You are familiar with the conditions you’ve created in your home and understandably want those for your grandchild. I have no doubt that your guidance is well informed and would make a positive difference for your daughter.

Visit with your husband to decide where the line is that you would begin to feel that you’re enabling your daughter. Perhaps you have a certain dollar amount you feel you can give her. You might feel more comfortable loaning it to her rather than giving it to her. You may have a limit on how long she can stay in your home. You might only be available certain days or hours to help babysit your grandchild.

You obviously can’t direct her to a stable marriage, job, or living situation. You can provide conditions that offer support and send a clear message that you are confident she can rebuild her life and care for her child. It might be hard for you to see her utilizing resources you never would have used in your own life, but she gets to build her life.

The line between helping and enabling is different for each situation, but the one thing you can trust is that you see a pattern of dependency and entitlement that keeps her stuck in the same situation, then you’re likely doing too much.

Your willingness to help her in certain ways while she improves her situation could be life-changing for her. If she takes advantage of your support and builds a better life, then you won’t hold any resentment or fear that you enabled her.

If you feel any resentment, it’s a good indicator that lines are being crossed. It becomes important to immediately address those signals and make any needed changes without becoming dramatic, critical, or punishing. Simply make the adjustments so you can preserve your relationship with her.

 

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • ladybugavenger June 8, 2016 at 10:26 am

    First of all, don’t do anything out of guilt.

  • .... June 9, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Stay out of it…that’s her problem not yours

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