I pray that each of you are growing in the kingdom and learning to love each other as Christ has loved us. You know, I can’t think of a better place to learn how to really love than in a step family. It’s a daily choice to choose to love others as God has loved us. It’s a growing process but that process begins with wanting to please God by loving the one’s He has sent us. And that always begins with our family whether it’s blended or not. You and I both chose to marry our spouses and we knew they had kids. So with God’s grace and help, we need to choose to learn to love those kids even when they are unlovable. You would do no less for your own child, right? I am not talking about enabling any of the kids; I’m talking about doing for your stepchild as you would for your own child in the same situation.
A couple came to me this week with the following scenario:
First, a little background. Ted and Susie have a great marriage. They enjoy many of the same things and have learned to accept each others child. Susie has a grown son and Ted has a grown daughter. Both are wonderful kids, but like all of us, have some areas they need to grow in. Ted and Susie help their kids out when they can and when it seems appropriate. Since they were married, they have combined their money unlike some blended couples that keep their money separate.
They are working through a situation right now that they need some wisdom on. And this is where I would like you to come in. What would you do in this situation?
Ted and Susie are saving for their retirement, which hopefully will be in the near future. They have some great plans once they do not have to be at a job on a daily basis. They say they will never stop working; but I quote them “we will retire and refire with something new to do”. In the meantime, they are being frugal and trying to save where they can.
Ted’s daughter is a lovely woman but has never been a saver and always seems to buy the latest and greatest whether she needs it or not. And that would be fine if she could afford it. Over the past few years, she has gotten herself into debt and sees no way out. She continually makes excuses for why she can’t further her education even though she has a grant to help her do so. Every semester she says she will be going back to school the next semester and this has been going on for quite some time now.
She has a fixed income but has not stayed within her budget. There is no reason why she can’t go out and make extra money but she has not chosen to do so. Both Ted and Susie say she has some self-discipline issues; she does not choose to take care of the things she does have. Her apartment is a mess, her car the same and she admits she overshops.
Susie says their daughter is a very sweet and thoughtful woman but this problem of hers is something she needs to decide to do something about. Susie feels that only their daughter can stop spending and start saving her money. Only she can better herself with higher education and only she can decide to discipline herself enough to take care of the things she already has and only she can choose to stop buying more stuff that she really doesn’t need.
Ted feels they should give her some money to help get her out of the debt she has dug herself into but Susie feels they would be enabling her to continue on the same path. Ted points out that they helped Susie’s son when he needed help financially and now they should do the same for his daughter. Susie wants to help but she is not sure that giving Ted’s daughter money is really the kind of help she needs. Ted and Susie both want to do what’s best for their daughter. They both would like to help her but want to give her the kind of help that will last and truly benefit her.
What do you think? What would you do? And maybe you have a story of your own that you would like to share.
Proverbs 24:6 says “for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in the abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Not surprisingly, people have differing opinions on this subject. Some parents believe that once their child is out on their own, they need to make it on their own. And those parents who have or do help their children financially do so because they are “legitimately concerned” about their child’s financial well-being, while other parents stated they did not want their children to struggle financially like they once did
If you give money to your adult children, you have lots of company:
The National Endowment for Financial Education completed a study that showed more than half the parents surveyed (59%) financially helped out their adult children who were not in college.
When your adult child comes to you asking for money, where do you begin? My advice is don’t start by pulling out your checkbook. Instead, look at the situation more closely.
First, think about whether you can really afford to help your child. Are you financially able to give them the money? And what if you make it a loan but they never pay it back? Are you able to forgive the loan without it hurting your relationship? By the way, this happens more times than we’d like to think. So if you do make a loan with your child, you have to be able to part with the money without it hurting the relationship with your child. The relationship should be more important than the money, that’s why it should be of an amount, that if you don’t get it back, it wouldn’t hurt you financially. If they don’t pay back the loan, obviously, you probably will not want to loan them any more money. Teaching them to be people of their word is just as valuable as teaching them to be responsible.
It’s interesting to learn why parents are giving money to their adult children. It’s usually for living costs, transportation, and even spending money.
But you must examine whether you can really afford to help your child.
Often, parents will either borrow money to supplement their child’s income, or divert money earmarked for their own emergencies or retirement to help their child out. Neither scenario is good for the parents because they can’t really afford to be generous without putting their own financial security at risk.
Is this healthy and would your adult child really want you to put yourself at risk this way?
Biblically, we are to help one another out and to share what we have been given with others. But does the Bible counsel us to enable another to be dependent upon us when they are quite capable of working themselves?
If we are quick to give our adult children money every time they overspend or get themselves into a jam: how will they learn to be self-sufficient or learn to live within a budget? And how is it really helping them if the parents become financially unstable or indebted just to support their adult children. One of the goals of parenting is to raise responsible citizens who make a contribution to society. If the child remains dependent on the parent, they are not acting responsibly.
Now of course, there are situation’s that could arise and we, as parents, need and should help our child. But when lifestyle choices and habits and living outside of their means is what got them into this mess, then we should not enable them to continue.
Recently, a couple told me of their child who just couldn’t find any work for quite awhile. And times are hard, good jobs are not as available as they once were. But amazingly, when all options for staying at home had ceased, this person was able to find work. It wasn’t the position she had hoped for, but it paid her bills. Sometimes our kids (like us) need to take a lesser position.
Before you hand over the money, examine the reason why your child needs the money.
Is this really a short-term crisis or more of a chronic condition? If your child can’t manage money, overspends on “wants” or has other issues that lead to money problems (possibly mental health issues or substance abuse), the situation may need different solutions. If you simply hand over the money, you can count on more requests for cash that will further drain your finances.
To help your child act responsibly and to accept accountability for their finances ask some tough questions.
What sacrifices is your child making to gain financial stability?
How did this financial crisis come about?
What is your child giving up in order to meet this financial crisis?
How will your child prepare to avert the next financial crisis?
What else can they do to help themselves?
If you can help your child see how they got into this situation and then help them to make a plan to get out of it that includes a plan to avoid future problems, you will have done them a great service.
We love our kids don’t we? That’s why we help them on their journey to taking full ownership of their responsibilities.
I know many of you are in blended families~how do you handle situations like this? Are you good at communicating with your spouse? Can you come up with viable solutions that you are both happy with? Can you compromise? A common problem in stepfamilies is that the birth parent is more willing to help their grown child financially than the stepparent is; particularly when the stepparent views the problem as continual. So it’s imperative that you seek the Lord for His will and not your own.
If you are struggling, as your blended family coach, I will help you to decipher God’s perfect will for you and your family and help you to move in that direction.
1 Thess 5:14, 15 says: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else”.