I am 74 years old and my granddaughter and her two toddlers have become homeless. Her mother and stepfather are wealthy but refuse to help her. Her father, who is my son, is financially unable to help and where he lives does not allow children.
She is not married to the father of her children. He rents a room in a private home and cannot have the children with him. He provides healthcare for the kids through his job but does not give her financial support. Also, for her to qualify for help here in South Florida she has to work a minimum of 20 hrs per week. It is a double-edged sword because she will not make enough to pay for childcare for two children.
My granddaughter has been diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD. She gets easily overwhelmed and has a lot of anger in her. I have taken her and the children in, but I am finding it increasingly more difficult every day as I live on a fixed income and have health issues. It is becoming very hard to pay for the increase in groceries, electricity etc.
I still have a mortgage on my house and I am afraid of not having enough money to meet my financial obligations. I have spoken about this with her but she becomes withdrawn and at times very angry.
I have thought of selling the house and moving far away closer to a cousin in central Florida. If I do this, I will basically be running from this situation. What has stopped me from doing this is the fear of my two beautiful great-grandchildren ending up in a shelter or living on the streets, and God knows what will happen to them then—this fear has me paralyzed. I pray every day for guidance as to what is the right thing to do. I am crying as I write this. I am so desperate and in need of some guidance as how to proceed.
You Need To Take Care of Yourself and Respect Your Own Limitations
Jamie Schenk DeWitt, MA, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, based in Los Angeles, California.
I am so sorry that your family is in this situation. Your desire to move far away is understandable considering you are experiencing a lot of stress. The paralysis and the instinct to flee are your nervous system’s natural responses to anxiety. When people experience fear, their brains typically go into one or more of three modes: flight, fight, or freeze. The fact that you also feel like you want to stay and help your family is so significant. It means that you want to be there for them and fight for positive change.
Reader, there are many resources available for families in crisis. There are health and family service agencies in your area that can provide case management care, as well as low-fee counseling and assessment. Reach out to the social service agencies in your area for guidance. You and your family members may qualify for help that you don’t know about. I understand that finances are a factor, which is why a social service agency can guide you in the direction of low-cost services that should be at a nominal fee.
One of the first issues that I feel that needs to be addressed is setting up a medication evaluation for your granddaughter, given that she has been diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD. Proper treatment and therapy will improve your granddaughter’s ability to stay focused, have better impulse control, and feel less overwhelmed. It would also potentially assist in reducing her PTSD, which could decrease her tendency to easily get overwhelmed and so angry.
Once this is accomplished, the next step would be for a social worker to help your granddaughter to find job training, employment, and transportation. In addition, you both need emotional and practical guidance with these very serious personal and economic issues, which low-fee counseling can provide. It can be extremely beneficial for you to have a trained professional to speak with that can help you find productive ways to manage your anxiety and stress through talk therapy, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Reader, you are in a very complicated situation. You need to take care of yourself and recognize and respect your limitations. Seek help from the agencies and counseling services that I have mentioned, as well as support groups and maybe any of the religious organizations that you may be affiliated with.
Get Help From The State Or Charities To Protect Your Finances And Your Grandchildren
Dr Siobhan McCarthy is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist specializing in family and couples therapy.
It is totally understandable that you want to help your granddaughter and great-grandchildren. You do not mention how she became homeless or why her family thinks she contributed to it, but she is clearly vulnerable with ADHD and PTSD, two young kids, and no partner, so it may not be surprising that she struggles to make healthy choices or to be resilient.
Equally, you are naturally worried about the impact on your own finances and emotional resources. I do not think, as you put it, “running away from the situation” is necessarily in your best interests, plus it will not make you feel better for doing so.
I would firstly recommend that you and your granddaughter seek out as much information about how the state or charities might be able to help with childcare costs, living expenses, or training for your granddaughter.
Your help in housing your granddaughter does not have to be indefinite. If you could offer a timeframe of help this may help calm her, because when you talk to her about your worries, she probably hears she is not wanted or a problem. If she sees a planned timeframe this may help motivate her, rather than her fearing you withdrawing your help.
Having a window of support may allow her to try and build a more secure future. She could then use this time for training or studying online in the evening. It will be hard but worth it.
Your granddaughter sounds chaotic and traumatized, so she may not be able to focus on studying right now. She may need psychological support before she is able to build a better life for her family. Is there a way she can obtain therapy to overcome her PTSD and focus on her self-esteem?
Finally, try to ask her to help you, for example, can she help you to think up ways to cut the bills? Could she help you think up nutritious, simple meals or about ways to cut spending. Make her an active partner in solving the problems you are all facing.
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