Teens do best with rules in which they have in­put

Toronto Star - - LIFE - El­lie

My daugh­ter, 18, and son, 13, have lived in my part­ner’s home with us for two years (third re­la­tion­ship for both).

We all mostly get along. His chil­dren, ages 23 and 21, live with their mother. My chil­dren show re­spect to my part­ner and vice versa. Their fa­ther is ac­tive in their lives, so there’s no need for a se­cond “Dad.”

He’s says it’s “our” home — not overly warm and fuzzy, but he tries.

About house rules: We’re both in our 50s, and own our own cater­ing busi­ness, so con­stantly cleaning, cook­ing, etc. When we get home, we want a clean house.

My daugh­ter con­stantly leaves her shoes at the front door (in­stead of down­stairs), leaves her dishes on the counter and her cam­era all over.

She says our rules are dumb, that we some­times leave things out when we come home after an 18-hour day, so she can do it, too.

I say these are our rules and you fol­low them re­gard­less of what we do. Am I do­ing the right thing by telling her that? Am I do­ing the wrong thing by some­times leav­ing things out? Which Rules Are Right?

You’ve brought your chil­dren through sev­eral dra­matic changes. Two years is still early for ma­jor tran­si­tions like shar­ing a new home with your part­ner.

Teenagers do best with rules in which they have some in­put.

Shoes clut­ter­ing the front en­trance are an an­noy­ance but there are some (not to­tal) so­lu­tions. Of­fer sug­ges­tions (e.g. a shoe rack) and ask what she thinks can work.

Dis­cuss the plates: Can she put her cleared dishes in the sink leav­ing the counter clean, and wash them later? Can you set the ex­am­ple by not leav­ing things out?

End the stand­off of “my rules, or . . .” Or what? Are you try­ing to push her out? (That may be the mes­sage she’s get­ting or fears.) Re­cently, on the one-year an­niver­sary of my mother-in-law’s death, my fa­ther-in-law trav­elled with a lady while all the fam­ily paid their re­spects at the mau­soleum.

He’s since moved into a shared home with this woman.

We re­cently re­ceived a text invit­ing his grown chil­dren to their new home, and say­ing her grown chil­dren would be present.

We po­litely de­clined. My hus­band told his fa­ther that he’d pre­fer vis­it­ing him and his new girl­friend with­out her grown chil­dren around.

My hus­band later said he’d visit, if his other sib­lings joined.

How­ever, his older brother is dis­tanced from their fa­ther, for hav­ing missed the grand­son’s two birthdays and not vis­ited the new baby. My late mother-in-law had kept him in touch with ev­ery­one.

My fa­ther-in-law only moved in with this lady be­cause he won’t cook, clean or pay bills on his own. He would have found some­one even­tu­ally, but the way he’s han­dled this sit­u­a­tion is ap­palling. My hus­band says he wouldn’t care if his fa­ther “just went away.”

I feel badly that he could miss out on a re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther, but he’s not mak­ing it easy. What’s My Role?

Learn from your late mother-in­law: Don’t per­form your hus­band’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for him.

It’s his fa­ther and he needs to de­cide what he can and can­not han­dle in this new sit­u­a­tion.

You can still be a com­pas­sion­ate part­ner. Talk­ing things out to­gether can help him clear his mind.

Has he ever had a mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther? What does he want his own role model to be re­gard­ing fa­ther-child re­la­tion­ships?

Lis­ten. Don’t solve.

For kids, two years is still early for ma­jor tran­si­tions like shar­ing a new home with your part­ner

Tip of the day When the fam­ily sit­u­a­tion changes dra­mat­i­cally, make sure “house rules” are work­able, and not threats. Read El­lie Mon­day to Satur­day. Email el­lie@thes­tar.ca or visit her web­site, el­liead­vice.com. Fol­low @el­liead­vice.

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