Author Topic: Preparing a teen for life on their own  (Read 1896 times)

FiredUp321

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Preparing a teen for life on their own
« on: January 14, 2020, 08:27:59 AM »
We recently brought my sister-in-law to live with us since she was in a bad situation and headed nowhere fast. My MIL drinks and was sent to jail, so she was going to drop out.

She is 16 and in school at our house now and we are trying to figure out a long-term plan. I told my wife that we would only help her get on her feet and she's on her own.

We have 2 kids of our own so I don't want to be liable for medical costs etc. just because her mother can't be a responsible parent.

We give her an allowance of $200/mo to buy what she needs but she wants more. Airpods, iPhone, name brand clothes, first car, etc. I gave her my old GS7 and pay her phone bill each month. I was teaching her to drive but she said "for what, I'll just take Uber." She jokes around about staying with us for longer but I tell her after graduation she's on her own.

Any advice on how to go about getting through to her and making her more mature or getting her ready for life? Am I being too strict or harsh? She has 2 years and they'll come quick.

DadJokes

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2020, 08:44:27 AM »
If she wants "nice" things, then she should get a job to pay for them. She's 16.

I'm guessing that she wouldn't be open to reading something like the Millionaire Next Door?

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2020, 08:54:53 AM »
Probably not, I gave her a copy of the 7 habits of highly effective teens and she's barely read any of it after 6 months. She's more into fiction books. Yes she wants a job, but we'd be on the hook for taking and picking her up every day as she doesn't seem mature enough or seem to want to take public transport or one of our bikes.

trashtalk

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2020, 08:55:13 AM »
Knife skills. How to roast a chicken. How to make oatmeal. Sunday meal prep and meal planning.

If she's college-bound at all she should be working on SAT/ACT prep.

We use an app called goHenry (https://check.out.gohenry.com/oM65k) to disburse allowance, tooth fairy money, etc. The kids get a debit card. We can monitor all their spending and when my natural spender gets too aggressive on the in-app purchases I throttle back his daily spend limit until he builds up a bigger cushion in his account. We talk about emergency funds and cost of living constantly. Maybe it'll sink in eventually?

trashtalk

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2020, 08:56:08 AM »
Probably not, I gave her a copy of the 7 habits of highly effective teens and she's barely read any of it after 6 months. She's more into fiction books. Yes she wants a job, but we'd be on the hook for taking and picking her up every day as she doesn't seem mature enough or seem to want to take public transport or one of our bikes.

Could you get her her own cheap bike and helmet?

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2020, 09:06:51 AM »
Thanks for the app recommendation I downloaded it, look interesting! She is doing PSAT's at school but not sure if she wants to go to college or not. She said maybe military or police kind of bouncing around ideas still.

She has about $300 saved up with more coming soon, I think if she really wanted a cheap bike and helmet she would've bought one already. But she says she wants a new iphone and is saving for that. It's all about priorities I guess.

Lichen

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2020, 09:38:39 AM »
I'll say the hard thing -- You are being too harsh. If I misread, forgive me, since I obviously as a stranger on the internet don't know the whole deal.

This child (16 is still a child) just came from a very tough situation for anyone to handle, especially someone so young. I'm going to guess there has been very little stability in her life recently, and possibly for years. There is damage there, and the people that took her in seem to be making it clear that she will be booted out shortly. That is only going to lead to more long term emotional damage, although I am sure that is not your intent.

She needs to be in counseling and she needs to feel loved and as though she has a forever home/family. Stability is the most important thing, everything else comes second. Quit worrying about financial support. If your state is anything like mine, look into getting official guardianship. This typically comes with state healthcare for her, as well as some money to offset caretaking costs (child support from mom or government funds, depending on state/situation).

Once she is secure in that, then the planning for her future can begin. And yes, it might need to go beyond two years, but you should be able to get her mainly launched by 18.  There are family counselors that are able to deal with situations like these. The only way to ensure she is ready to be an adult in two years is to tend to the emotional and psychological trauma that is hiding in there ASAP.


RFAAOATB

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2020, 09:40:56 AM »
This is one of the rare cases where I suspect a military enlistment may be the best choice.  It will keep her busy and taken care of until she matures a bit more, and is ready to take care of herself.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2020, 10:18:53 AM »
I'll say the hard thing -- You are being too harsh. If I misread, forgive me, since I obviously as a stranger on the internet don't know the whole deal.

This child (16 is still a child) just came from a very tough situation for anyone to handle, especially someone so young. I'm going to guess there has been very little stability in her life recently, and possibly for years. There is damage there, and the people that took her in seem to be making it clear that she will be booted out shortly. That is only going to lead to more long term emotional damage, although I am sure that is not your intent.

She needs to be in counseling and she needs to feel loved and as though she has a forever home/family. Stability is the most important thing, everything else comes second. Quit worrying about financial support. If your state is anything like mine, look into getting official guardianship. This typically comes with state healthcare for her, as well as some money to offset caretaking costs (child support from mom or government funds, depending on state/situation).

Once she is secure in that, then the planning for her future can begin. And yes, it might need to go beyond two years, but you should be able to get her mainly launched by 18.  There are family counselors that are able to deal with situations like these. The only way to ensure she is ready to be an adult in two years is to tend to the emotional and psychological trauma that is hiding in there ASAP.

I agree.  From your post, it sounds like she is being treated as 'less than' your biological children even though she's a child and it sounds like she really needs unconditional love from stable parents after years of dysfunction.  You told your wife that you would only help her get on her feet and then she's on her own?  You don't want to be liable for her medical costs?  She's a child who has been through trauma and, as a child she literally can't be 'on her feet' as she can't take care of herself yet.  Are you so poor that you can't afford these things? Will your bio kids be on their own completely once they graduate high school or are you saving for their college?

Even the title of this thread is harsh - she needs to prepare now, at 16, for life "on her own" even though she has family? 

« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 10:21:01 AM by Hula Hoop »

Sibley

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2020, 10:29:34 AM »
I'll say the hard thing -- You are being too harsh. If I misread, forgive me, since I obviously as a stranger on the internet don't know the whole deal.

This child (16 is still a child) just came from a very tough situation for anyone to handle, especially someone so young. I'm going to guess there has been very little stability in her life recently, and possibly for years. There is damage there, and the people that took her in seem to be making it clear that she will be booted out shortly. That is only going to lead to more long term emotional damage, although I am sure that is not your intent.

She needs to be in counseling and she needs to feel loved and as though she has a forever home/family. Stability is the most important thing, everything else comes second. Quit worrying about financial support. If your state is anything like mine, look into getting official guardianship. This typically comes with state healthcare for her, as well as some money to offset caretaking costs (child support from mom or government funds, depending on state/situation).

Once she is secure in that, then the planning for her future can begin. And yes, it might need to go beyond two years, but you should be able to get her mainly launched by 18.  There are family counselors that are able to deal with situations like these. The only way to ensure she is ready to be an adult in two years is to tend to the emotional and psychological trauma that is hiding in there ASAP.

I agree.  From your post, it sounds like she is being treated as 'less than' your biological children even though she's a child and it sounds like she really needs unconditional love from stable parents after years of dysfunction.  You told your wife that you would only help her get on her feet and then she's on her own?  You don't want to be liable for her medical costs?  She's a child who has been through trauma and, as a child she literally can't be 'on her feet' as she can't take care of herself yet.  Are you so poor that you can't afford these things? Will your bio kids be on their own completely once they graduate high school or are you saving for their college?

Even the title of this thread is harsh - she needs to prepare now, at 16, for life "on her own" even though she has family?

+1

OP - reread your post, but instead of your sister-in-law's name, replace it with your kid's name. Replace the parent's name with yours. And replace your name with pretty much anyone else.

robartsd

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2020, 11:11:49 AM »
I agree with OP that $200 allowance (plus free room, board, and phone) is plenty (possibly too much). It sounds like she might have an entitlement issue which you certainly would not be doing anyone favors by enabling. However I also agree with others that she should feel like she has more support than just getting through high school graduation before she is 100% on her own. I think you should encourage her to propose a plan for getting on her own feet including an outline of any support that she would like to ask you to provide after she graduates. You should provide feedback about the plan she presents if necessary: point out unreasonable optimism, lack of long term focus, or lack of sufficient personal responsibility. If she can come up with and follow a plan that you both feel is reasonable then you can extend the support to enable the plan. You should make it clear that she will be responsible for herself and that your help is limited to what you agree to ahead of time. If she feels this is too restrictive, point out options (such as military service) that would allow her a reasonable path independent of your support.

DadJokes

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2020, 11:19:38 AM »
I'll say the hard thing -- You are being too harsh. If I misread, forgive me, since I obviously as a stranger on the internet don't know the whole deal.

This child (16 is still a child) just came from a very tough situation for anyone to handle, especially someone so young. I'm going to guess there has been very little stability in her life recently, and possibly for years. There is damage there, and the people that took her in seem to be making it clear that she will be booted out shortly. That is only going to lead to more long term emotional damage, although I am sure that is not your intent.

She needs to be in counseling and she needs to feel loved and as though she has a forever home/family. Stability is the most important thing, everything else comes second. Quit worrying about financial support. If your state is anything like mine, look into getting official guardianship. This typically comes with state healthcare for her, as well as some money to offset caretaking costs (child support from mom or government funds, depending on state/situation).

Once she is secure in that, then the planning for her future can begin. And yes, it might need to go beyond two years, but you should be able to get her mainly launched by 18.  There are family counselors that are able to deal with situations like these. The only way to ensure she is ready to be an adult in two years is to tend to the emotional and psychological trauma that is hiding in there ASAP.

I agree.  From your post, it sounds like she is being treated as 'less than' your biological children even though she's a child and it sounds like she really needs unconditional love from stable parents after years of dysfunction.  You told your wife that you would only help her get on her feet and then she's on her own?  You don't want to be liable for her medical costs?  She's a child who has been through trauma and, as a child she literally can't be 'on her feet' as she can't take care of herself yet.  Are you so poor that you can't afford these things? Will your bio kids be on their own completely once they graduate high school or are you saving for their college?

Even the title of this thread is harsh - she needs to prepare now, at 16, for life "on her own" even though she has family?

I'll disagree. From the day my kid was born, my primary job has been to prepare him for a life on his own. Now, I have a little longer to do so, but that's still the ultimate goal.

Expecting a child to be on their own at 18 can sound a little harsh, but I moved out of my parents' house a month after my 18th birthday due to family problems, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about life as I had to hold down a full-time job while finishing high school. Granted, perhaps not everyone is ready for that feet-to-the-fire experience.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2020, 12:12:35 PM »

Expecting a child to be on their own at 18 can sound a little harsh, but I moved out of my parents' house a month after my 18th birthday due to family problems, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about life as I had to hold down a full-time job while finishing high school. Granted, perhaps not everyone is ready for that feet-to-the-fire experience.

My best friend in high school had a similar experience.  Her (single) mother moved away and when she was 17 and in her last year of high school.  She worked not quite full time while finishing high school but got worse grades than she deserved due to the stress and ended up not being able to go to college until much later.  I don't think she would say that this was a good experience but she came out unscathed.  The difference is that she still had a mother who loved her - although she'd moved away and didn't provide financial support.  She's now in her 40s and her mother had moved back into her life and they have a good, supportive relationship now. 

It sounds like this poor girl has no one except the OP and his wife as her mother is in prison and an alcoholic.  Even if she doesn't receive material support after 18 she should still have someone in the world who loves her and 'has her back'.

gatortator

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2020, 12:22:36 PM »
I'll say the hard thing -- You are being too harsh. If I misread, forgive me, since I obviously as a stranger on the internet don't know the whole deal.

This child (16 is still a child) just came from a very tough situation for anyone to handle, especially someone so young. I'm going to guess there has been very little stability in her life recently, and possibly for years. There is damage there, and the people that took her in seem to be making it clear that she will be booted out shortly. That is only going to lead to more long term emotional damage, although I am sure that is not your intent.

She needs to be in counseling and she needs to feel loved and as though she has a forever home/family. Stability is the most important thing, everything else comes second. Quit worrying about financial support. If your state is anything like mine, look into getting official guardianship. This typically comes with state healthcare for her, as well as some money to offset caretaking costs (child support from mom or government funds, depending on state/situation).

Once she is secure in that, then the planning for her future can begin. And yes, it might need to go beyond two years, but you should be able to get her mainly launched by 18.  There are family counselors that are able to deal with situations like these. The only way to ensure she is ready to be an adult in two years is to tend to the emotional and psychological trauma that is hiding in there ASAP.

I agree.  From your post, it sounds like she is being treated as 'less than' your biological children even though she's a child and it sounds like she really needs unconditional love from stable parents after years of dysfunction.  You told your wife that you would only help her get on her feet and then she's on her own?  You don't want to be liable for her medical costs?  She's a child who has been through trauma and, as a child she literally can't be 'on her feet' as she can't take care of herself yet.  Are you so poor that you can't afford these things? Will your bio kids be on their own completely once they graduate high school or are you saving for their college?

Even the title of this thread is harsh - she needs to prepare now, at 16, for life "on her own" even though she has family?

+1

OP - reread your post, but instead of your sister-in-law's name, replace it with your kid's name. Replace the parent's name with yours. And replace your name with pretty much anyone else.

x100

OP,  there is a no mention of a father or other male figure.  Are you the only male role model in this girl's life?  It may not be a responsibility that you asked for,  but you are now playing a critical role in how this teen girl views men. 

Be kind, be empathetic, be compassionate.  This child has already faced enough trauma in her short life.


FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2020, 01:23:14 PM »
The thing is my wife has 2 other siblings in the same boat one is 15 the other 9. They live with their aunt in Mexico but the situation is worse for them. Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children? I think I am being generous and giving her more opportunities than her siblings have. She is almost 17 at that age I had enlisted in the Army already. She has a father that stopped answering calls after we told him the situation. He clearly wants nothing to do with his children.

ontheway2

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2020, 01:56:47 PM »
Personally, I think your allowance for her is a little high. I would reduce it but also reduce the feeling that she is a burden you want to get rid of as soon as you can.
As far as preparing her, teach her life skills. How to cook, how to do laundry, etc. I don't see you giving in to her demands, but don't. I get the feeling she might be testing you all.

SailingOnASmallSailboat

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2020, 02:20:59 PM »

She is 16 and in school at our house now and we are trying to figure out a long-term plan. I told my wife that we would only help her get on her feet and she's on her own.

We have 2 kids of our own so I don't want to be liable for medical costs etc. just because her mother can't be a responsible parent.

We give her an allowance of $200/mo to buy what she needs but she wants more. Airpods, iPhone, name brand clothes, first car, etc. I gave her my old GS7 and pay her phone bill each month. I was teaching her to drive but she said "for what, I'll just take Uber." She jokes around about staying with us for longer but I tell her after graduation she's on her own.

Any advice on how to go about getting through to her and making her more mature or getting her ready for life? Am I being too strict or harsh? She has 2 years and they'll come quick.

This makes me sad. You've taken in your sister-in-law but don't want to parent, though at 16 a parent is what she needs. She needs compassion and help. You're showing your kids a lot by your actions; on one hand, generous by not having your SIL be homeless. On the other? Wanting to shove her out the door fast. I'd be worried about that underlying message, honestly.

What's happening with her siblings is not really the issue, unless you want to take on that burden, though I'm not quite sure what you mean by "they're worse off".

How do you get through to her and make her more mature (can't do it, sorry; people mature at their own rates) or get her ready for life? A suggestion for a resource is to see if any foster places have ideas for you. In essence, you're fostering, though I can't really tell if you truly want to do this or just feel like you should. Her joke about wanting to stay longer is IMO a cry for help. She wants to know that she's wanted. She hasn't been. Might you look into therapy for her? She likely has a lot of pent up worry and concern that is coming out in ways that make no sense.

How does your wife feel about all of this?

A favorite response I've heard (and it works wonders really) when having a conversation with someone is to keep saying "and what else." You learn a shit ton about what isn't being said. "Why learn to drive? I'll just take Uber!" And what else? "I'll just stay here after graduation" And what else?

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2020, 02:48:25 PM »
They are worse off because they don't have a car and walk over a mile to school everyday no matter the weather. Some days it's so cold they don't even go. If and when they do graduate they will probably work very low wage jobs <$100 per week. They eat rice and beans mostly and can't afford basics let alone have an allowance.

I guess I don't really see it as kicking her out so much as giving her an opportunity for a better life, then returning her to her mother(once she is out) with more opportunities available to her.

I do think it is sad that her own parents both of which are alive, do not want her or at least not enough.

mm1970

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2020, 05:27:08 PM »
I agree with basically everyone here in some way or form.
1.  The OP has a right to set limits on what he is able to do, and not able to do.
2.  It is very sad what this girl is going through AND she needs a family and to know people care.  (BUT it could turn out very badly and there are parents here who have been through that.)  Should he take in absolutely the whole family?

I have a friend who was the youngest of 3 girls and her mom told her when she was 18 "okay, you are an adult, GET OUT", but she was still a senior in HS.  "Can I at least graduate??"  Nope.  So she had to move in with her sister.

She graduated, got a job, went to school part time, eventually got a degree in engineering (took the long route).  So she ended up fine, except for being a Republican who probably voted for Trump.

SailingOnASmallSailboat

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2020, 05:57:44 PM »
I've been thinking about this a lot (former teacher of teens, parent of 2 both in college, bleeding heart mom). I'm wondering how much you've helped yourself in this. Taking in a teenager (well, taking in anyone) is hard and disruptive on a family situation in any case. I hope you've gotten counseling or therapy as a family (your kids might be too young; I think they're pretty little)/individual/couple to help unpack all of this.

Definitely outside the scope of your initial question. I do think though that setting examples of the "do as I do" variety can be incredible lessons, regardless of what anyone (ahem your SIL or even your own kids) says at the time. I'm always astounded when my kids bring up actions we've taken that we both thought they never noticed.

Don't leave yourself out of the equation.

cchrissyy

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2020, 06:02:27 PM »
yes you are being too harsh and unrealistic

the things you ask about are premature. you can't skip ahead to how to get her out if you haven't first given proper time and support for how to bring her in and stabilize the situation.

BlueHouse

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2020, 06:16:55 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #22 on: January 14, 2020, 08:42:39 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.

I would have to disagree. Maybe some of you are in different positions financially but I'm 28y/o with enough on my plate to take on 3 more children. I took her because she is the oldest and would only be with us for a few years, she agreed to it coming in.

"As much as you can" I think is relative. Most people probably wouldn't want to give up all their FI money to adopt children that aren't theirs. Some might, but most probably wouldn't. There is a level of risk I am taking, if some medical issue comes up I am fully responsible.

Bottom line she is in a better position than she would be otherwise. She has been in the foster care system, as well as in Mexico for the past 2 years and knows that. 

Chris Pascale

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #23 on: January 14, 2020, 09:46:21 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.

I would have to disagree. Maybe some of you are in different positions financially but I'm 28y/o with enough on my plate to take on 3 more children. I took her because she is the oldest and would only be with us for a few years, she agreed to it coming in.

"As much as you can" I think is relative. Most people probably wouldn't want to give up all their FI money to adopt children that aren't theirs. Some might, but most probably wouldn't. There is a level of risk I am taking, if some medical issue comes up I am fully responsible.

Bottom line she is in a better position than she would be otherwise. She has been in the foster care system, as well as in Mexico for the past 2 years and knows that.

What does your wife think?

Dicey

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #24 on: January 14, 2020, 10:43:09 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.

I would have to disagree. Maybe some of you are in different positions financially but I'm 28y/o with enough on my plate to take on 3 more children. I took her because she is the oldest and would only be with us for a few years, she agreed to it coming in.

"As much as you can" I think is relative. Most people probably wouldn't want to give up all their FI money to adopt children that aren't theirs. Some might, but most probably wouldn't. There is a level of risk I am taking, if some medical issue comes up I am fully responsible.

Bottom line she is in a better position than she would be otherwise. She has been in the foster care system, as well as in Mexico for the past 2 years and knows that.
Sorry, this just popped into my head, so I'm going to stay uncensored and blurt it out: Or is she the one best suited to help take care of your kids? Feel free to ignore this if it has no bearing.

IMO, you're expecting her to have more structure and discipline in her life. Given what you've shared of her backstory,  I'd wager she has no clue where to begin. Teach her, and be gentle about it. Two years is but a wisp of air. Also, stressing that she's out in two years is also telling her she's just a visitor, not a valued part of your family.

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #25 on: January 14, 2020, 11:35:40 PM »
She doesn't take care of my children at all. Well maybe the occasion run to the grocery store but they are 8 and 5 and don't really make a fuss. Besides they are in school M-F and they all get home until 5pm. We don't go out alone on weekends either although now that the kids are a bit older we've thought of a date night once a month.

My wife thinks we should give her 3-6 months after graduation to figure out what she's doing.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #26 on: January 15, 2020, 02:20:56 AM »
"As much as you can" I think is relative. Most people probably wouldn't want to give up all their FI money to adopt children that aren't theirs. Some might, but most probably wouldn't. There is a level of risk I am taking, if some medical issue comes up I am fully responsible.


I guess maybe others don't value family as highly as I do but I'd take them in in a heart beat if I was not in dire poverty and all it meant was postponing FI.  There are things you just do for family - especially children.  And there are many things in life that are more important than financial independence.

Could you at least send some regular money to the children's aunt in Mexico to pull them out of poverty and make sure that they are able to eat properly and finish school?  IMO that's the least you could do.  Are the kids US citizens so that they could come back to the US and get better paying jobs once they are adults so long as they finish school and are not malnourished?

Hula Hoop

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #27 on: January 15, 2020, 02:22:32 AM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.

Yes - you are being the wicked stepfather in this scenario. 

Trifele

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #28 on: January 15, 2020, 05:00:13 AM »
Maybe I missed it above if someone already mentioned this, but there was an earlier thread about good life skills for teens, check it out:  https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mini-money-mustaches/teaching-teenagers-how-to-adult/

IMO 18 is not too early for someone to be on their own (although of course it's also good to have family for advice, emotional support, etc.).  It sounds like it may be a steep climb for this girl to get the necessary skills together, given what she's been through.  But if others can do it, she can do it.  It's good that she's thinking about some possible goals (police, military, college).  I think that's often the hardest part for teens -- visualizing the future and coming up with a goal.  Once she can do that, it sounds like you and your wife can help her plan how to get there.  Good luck with everything. 

reeshau

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #29 on: January 15, 2020, 05:26:54 AM »
The thing is my wife has 2 other siblings in the same boat one is 15 the other 9. They live with their aunt in Mexico but the situation is worse for them. Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children? I think I am being generous and giving her more opportunities than her siblings have. She is almost 17 at that age I had enlisted in the Army already. She has a father that stopped answering calls after we told him the situation. He clearly wants nothing to do with his children.

I know it's easy to get defensive from these responses, but you are asking.  I'll agree with @Chris Pascale and go one further:  what does your wife and your kids think?  You are all also being impacted by these decisions.  None of these internet strangers can know how close you feel to your extended family.  If you ask me, I would also bring them all in, in a heartbeat--you have an opportunity to positively impact the next generation of your family.  That is something that sounds worth a few more years' work to me.

But the real direction is for you and your family to work it out, and for everyone to have their voice heard.  Whether you do more or not, don't let it become a division in your own family.

Laura33

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #30 on: January 15, 2020, 07:06:38 AM »
I think you need to differentiate between financial support and emotional support.  You are focusing on the former.  But that focus is denying her the latter.

You say:  fine, I'll take her in, but two years, max.  I don't want to be responsible for her medical bills.  I don't want to deprive my own kids of "stuff." 

She hears:  no one wants me.  I am tolerated, but only as long as I don't create too much of a burden.  And they can't wait to get rid of me.

What she needs to hear:  we love you.  We support you 100% (emotionally) and want what's best for you, and we are willing to put in the work to help you figure out what that is and what you need to do to get there.  We don't have unlimited money, so I can't promise you a lot of "stuff" or college tuition.  But you have a secure place in our hearts, and we will do whatever we can within our means to keep you safe and give you a home.

Look, you are clearly royally pissed off at your sister.  And you have every right to be.  But that's not your niece's fault.  She didn't choose an irresponsible mom; in fact, if she had had any say in the matter, I'm pretty sure she'd have chosen a mom who was there for her.  So please don't punish her for her mom's shortcomings.

You can absolutely impose financial limits ($200/mo?  My own DD never got more than $150, and we are already FI).  But it needs to be coming from a place of overt love and concern for her, so she can accept that as reasonable financial limits based on what you can afford and think is best.  If you give whatever you give grudgingly, it will never be enough, because every limit you set is just more evidence that you don't want her around.

You will also need to be patient with her behavior.  The way kids learn diligence and responsibility and follow-through and planning and delayed gratification is by having a stable home life with parents who reinforce those skills time after time after time after time after time, from infancy onward.  She didn't have that.  So you can't expect her to drop into a normal family situation at 16 and be at the level your kids will be at that age.  It's like if she never learned to read because no one taught her -- would you hand her "The Red Badge of Courage" or "Moby Dick" and expect her to be able to read it and discuss it over the dinner table?  You should expect her to have some frustrating, immature habits, because that's exactly what she is:  immature, emotionally and behaviorally.  Because no one put in the effort to help her grow up.  So if you really want to set her up for success -- to be able to be on her own in two years -- that is going to require lots and lots of patience on your part as you help her learn what you consider to be basic things that no one bothered to teach her years ago. 

Please, please go see a therapist, and get her some therapy, too.  You have been handed a huge, unexpected burden, and you are a good person to take it on.  You need someone to help you work through your anger and frustration at your sister and the situation, so you don't take it out on your niece.  And you need an expert to help you understand the kinds of issues kids like her have, productive and effective methods to deal with those problems, and the resources that are available to help you.  And she will need therapy to help her with the pain, fear, and massive insecurity that her mom has created by her irresponsible behavior.  You are both victims of that irresponsibility, and you both deserve help managing the situation.

Finally:  stop throwing around strawmen about your wife's family and where does it all end.  It doesn't matter whether you can save everyone.  But you can save this one.  And you're the only one who can. 

SailingOnASmallSailboat

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #31 on: January 15, 2020, 07:44:26 AM »
I think you need to differentiate between financial support and emotional support.  You are focusing on the former.  But that focus is denying her the latter.

You say:  fine, I'll take her in, but two years, max.  I don't want to be responsible for her medical bills.  I don't want to deprive my own kids of "stuff." 

She hears:  no one wants me.  I am tolerated, but only as long as I don't create too much of a burden.  And they can't wait to get rid of me.

What she needs to hear:  we love you.  We support you 100% (emotionally) and want what's best for you, and we are willing to put in the work to help you figure out what that is and what you need to do to get there.  We don't have unlimited money, so I can't promise you a lot of "stuff" or college tuition.  But you have a secure place in our hearts, and we will do whatever we can within our means to keep you safe and give you a home.

Look, you are clearly royally pissed off at your sister.  And you have every right to be.  But that's not your niece's fault.  She didn't choose an irresponsible mom; in fact, if she had had any say in the matter, I'm pretty sure she'd have chosen a mom who was there for her.  So please don't punish her for her mom's shortcomings.

You can absolutely impose financial limits ($200/mo?  My own DD never got more than $150, and we are already FI).  But it needs to be coming from a place of overt love and concern for her, so she can accept that as reasonable financial limits based on what you can afford and think is best.  If you give whatever you give grudgingly, it will never be enough, because every limit you set is just more evidence that you don't want her around.

You will also need to be patient with her behavior.  The way kids learn diligence and responsibility and follow-through and planning and delayed gratification is by having a stable home life with parents who reinforce those skills time after time after time after time after time, from infancy onward.  She didn't have that.  So you can't expect her to drop into a normal family situation at 16 and be at the level your kids will be at that age.  It's like if she never learned to read because no one taught her -- would you hand her "The Red Badge of Courage" or "Moby Dick" and expect her to be able to read it and discuss it over the dinner table?  You should expect her to have some frustrating, immature habits, because that's exactly what she is:  immature, emotionally and behaviorally.  Because no one put in the effort to help her grow up.  So if you really want to set her up for success -- to be able to be on her own in two years -- that is going to require lots and lots of patience on your part as you help her learn what you consider to be basic things that no one bothered to teach her years ago. 

Please, please go see a therapist, and get her some therapy, too.  You have been handed a huge, unexpected burden, and you are a good person to take it on.  You need someone to help you work through your anger and frustration at your sister and the situation, so you don't take it out on your niece.  And you need an expert to help you understand the kinds of issues kids like her have, productive and effective methods to deal with those problems, and the resources that are available to help you.  And she will need therapy to help her with the pain, fear, and massive insecurity that her mom has created by her irresponsible behavior.  You are both victims of that irresponsibility, and you both deserve help managing the situation.

Finally:  stop throwing around strawmen about your wife's family and where does it all end.  It doesn't matter whether you can save everyone.  But you can save this one.  And you're the only one who can.

This. 100% this.

FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #32 on: January 15, 2020, 07:57:50 AM »
I think you need to differentiate between financial support and emotional support.  You are focusing on the former.  But that focus is denying her the latter.

You say:  fine, I'll take her in, but two years, max.  I don't want to be responsible for her medical bills.  I don't want to deprive my own kids of "stuff." 

She hears:  no one wants me.  I am tolerated, but only as long as I don't create too much of a burden.  And they can't wait to get rid of me.

What she needs to hear:  we love you.  We support you 100% (emotionally) and want what's best for you, and we are willing to put in the work to help you figure out what that is and what you need to do to get there.  We don't have unlimited money, so I can't promise you a lot of "stuff" or college tuition.  But you have a secure place in our hearts, and we will do whatever we can within our means to keep you safe and give you a home.

Look, you are clearly royally pissed off at your sister.  And you have every right to be.  But that's not your niece's fault.  She didn't choose an irresponsible mom; in fact, if she had had any say in the matter, I'm pretty sure she'd have chosen a mom who was there for her.  So please don't punish her for her mom's shortcomings.

You can absolutely impose financial limits ($200/mo?  My own DD never got more than $150, and we are already FI).  But it needs to be coming from a place of overt love and concern for her, so she can accept that as reasonable financial limits based on what you can afford and think is best.  If you give whatever you give grudgingly, it will never be enough, because every limit you set is just more evidence that you don't want her around.

You will also need to be patient with her behavior.  The way kids learn diligence and responsibility and follow-through and planning and delayed gratification is by having a stable home life with parents who reinforce those skills time after time after time after time after time, from infancy onward.  She didn't have that.  So you can't expect her to drop into a normal family situation at 16 and be at the level your kids will be at that age.  It's like if she never learned to read because no one taught her -- would you hand her "The Red Badge of Courage" or "Moby Dick" and expect her to be able to read it and discuss it over the dinner table?  You should expect her to have some frustrating, immature habits, because that's exactly what she is:  immature, emotionally and behaviorally.  Because no one put in the effort to help her grow up.  So if you really want to set her up for success -- to be able to be on her own in two years -- that is going to require lots and lots of patience on your part as you help her learn what you consider to be basic things that no one bothered to teach her years ago. 

Please, please go see a therapist, and get her some therapy, too.  You have been handed a huge, unexpected burden, and you are a good person to take it on.  You need someone to help you work through your anger and frustration at your sister and the situation, so you don't take it out on your niece.  And you need an expert to help you understand the kinds of issues kids like her have, productive and effective methods to deal with those problems, and the resources that are available to help you.  And she will need therapy to help her with the pain, fear, and massive insecurity that her mom has created by her irresponsible behavior.  You are both victims of that irresponsibility, and you both deserve help managing the situation.

Finally:  stop throwing around strawmen about your wife's family and where does it all end.  It doesn't matter whether you can save everyone.  But you can save this one.  And you're the only one who can.

Thank you very much for this well-articulated comment! I think you hit the nail on the head so to speak. I understand how I can be coming off as wanting her out as soon as possible. The truth is I see her as immature, but she has not been properly taught the things you stated- diligence, responsibility, planning, and delayed gratification and now I'm frustrated because I see it as a race to teach her years of knowledge in just a few short years. Truth be told, I am open to her staying longer-just not with her current attitude and disrespect. Having a teenager challenge your every decision is the real test of patience. I guess I thought It'd be easier. I'll get her into therapy for sure and even join in myself and have my wife if she wants as well. I've already suggested her going to her school counselor, but she doesn't want to, maybe if I join in she will be more willing.

Nonetheless, thank you for all the responses Mustachians! This is a truly wise group and I was glad to hear all the responses, even the critical ones.

Moonwaves

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #33 on: January 15, 2020, 08:01:27 AM »
Just wanted to clarify that the 16-year-old living with the OP is his wife's sister, not his. Or at least that was my understanding. So the wife, the 16-year-old, the 15-year-old and the 9-year-old are all the same family. Is that right, OP?

It doesn't really change the relevance of anyone's advice but I was getting confused.



FiredUp321

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #34 on: January 15, 2020, 08:08:04 AM »
Just wanted to clarify that the 16-year-old living with the OP is his wife's sister, not his. Or at least that was my understanding. So the wife, the 16-year-old, the 15-year-old and the 9-year-old are all the same family. Is that right, OP?

It doesn't really change the relevance of anyone's advice but I was getting confused.

Yes that is correct. I am looking at my options for helping the others, since they are U.S. citizens and are forgetting English already.

Sibley

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #35 on: January 15, 2020, 08:45:04 AM »
The thing is my wife has 2 other siblings in the same boat one is 15 the other 9. They live with their aunt in Mexico but the situation is worse for them. Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children? I think I am being generous and giving her more opportunities than her siblings have. She is almost 17 at that age I had enlisted in the Army already. She has a father that stopped answering calls after we told him the situation. He clearly wants nothing to do with his children.

I'm not criticizing the allowance. I'm criticizing the callousness. Children need primarily love. Love is an infinite resource. The more you give, the more you have to give. And children also see and absorb everything around them. Your children will see how you treat this girl, and it will have an impact on them. So unless you'd like to set yourself up for a poor relationship with your children in the future, you will figure out how to treat this girl with love and compassion. Money has nothing to do with it.

BlueHouse

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #36 on: January 15, 2020, 09:14:15 AM »
As usual, @Laura33 is spot on!  This girl needs love and hugs and inclusion!


Children need primarily love. Love is an infinite resource. The more you give, the more you have to give. And children also see and absorb everything around them. Your children will see how you treat this girl, and it will have an impact on them.

Please hug her.   Repeat these words to yourself:  "When she's being the most unbearable, that's when she needs us the most". 

Laura33

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #37 on: January 15, 2020, 09:26:28 AM »
Just wanted to clarify that the 16-year-old living with the OP is his wife's sister, not his. Or at least that was my understanding. So the wife, the 16-year-old, the 15-year-old and the 9-year-old are all the same family. Is that right, OP?

It doesn't really change the relevance of anyone's advice but I was getting confused.

Oops, thanks -- apologies for the mistaken references in my post.

OP:  FWIW, I hear you.  I had a teenage daughter (better yet, one with ADHD), and from the weekend before she turned 12, I spent the next @5 years wondering if she'd make it to her next birthday, or if I'd take her out before then.  ;-)  Those are hard years, because they still need you, and yet they are compelled to establish their independence.  I'd imagine that would be even worse here, where she is extra-needy, but also terrified of being booted out again and so probably putting up a big "I don't need you, I can handle myself" shell to protect herself.  This is all the more reason to see a counselor who can help bridge the gap.

Also FWIW, my relationship with my teenager improved dramatically when I changed my mindset to overtly trusting her to make her own decisions (except where there was safety involved), and by explicitly tying additional freedom to her successfully demonstrating that I could trust her with the freedom she already had.  That required a huge amount of tongue-biting on my part, but she was just the kid who had to figure things out for herself.  And the totally unexpected result was that the more I backed off on trying to tell her what to do, the more my response became "ok, I trust you to handle that" or "ok, let me know if you need any help," the more she was able to put her guard down and actually start coming to me for advice.

Again, YMMV -- my experience is with a fundamentally normal kid with impulse control issues, who had the benefit of growing up in my household her whole life and who knew unquestioningly that she was loved.  But I will say that my DH is far, far more authoritarian in nature than I am, and she continues to have a much more rocky relationship with him, because he can just radiate disapproval when she's not doing exactly what he wants -- and believe me, kids totally pick up on those vibes, even when you don't say anything out loud.

Maybe one place to start is a soft conversation that says, look, I know things have been rocky for you -- you deserve better than what happened with your mom, and then you landed into a new family with different rules and different expectations and people you didn't know very well.  So I just want to make sure you know that we want you here.  I am happy you are in my life, and we want this to be your home and to be a safe place for you.  I know I don't always say that.  But when I set rules and say no to things, it's not because I don't care about you.  It's because I do care about you, very very much, and so I'm trying to set boundaries and teach you the things that I think you need to know, just like I do for my own kids.  And I don't like it when we get into arguments over those things.  And I will listen to reason; if there are specific rules or decisions you'd like to discuss, I am always willing to hear a good argument why that shouldn't apply.  But I want you to know that I'm not going to stop making rules and setting boundaries, even when you get upset about it, because I love you, and it's my job to protect you from taking on more than you can handle, and to help you learn the habits and skills you will need when you're ready to leave the nest.

mm1970

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #38 on: January 15, 2020, 11:07:06 AM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.
No.  No no no no no.
He does not want to do this.
He will resent this.  They will feel his resentment.
You cannot save everyone.  Should he take in 10 people?  20?
No.

He and his family are the only ones to make this decision.  He can probably handle the one.  Maybe, if he reframes his thoughts.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 11:10:22 AM by mm1970 »

bogart

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #39 on: January 15, 2020, 11:34:33 AM »
...  now I'm frustrated because I see it as a race to teach her years of knowledge in just a few short years. Truth be told, I am open to her staying longer-just not with her current attitude and disrespect. Having a teenager challenge your every decision is the real test of patience. I guess I thought It'd be easier.

Add me to those (the OP included) who think Laura33 has it just right. 

As to the OP's quote above -- I have worked training horses, and people have commented that "If you act like teaching a horse  something or getting a horse to dosomething should take [only] 15 minutes, it will take all day.  If you act like you have all day, you can do it in 15 minutes."  This is a horse-person saying about the negative impacts of urgency and pressure, but I find it as true with kids (and people) as with horses.  Stretching that a bit, I think that it may be that expecting your SIL to get herself "together" promptly when she is clearly coming from a string of bad experiences and has just landed in a new home on insecure (to her) terms, is probably counter-productive. 

And while I do agree 100% with advice others have given and do think you are wise to accept the recommendation of seeking counseling for yourself and your SIL, I also think that even if you aren't doing it quite "right" (as far as we on the internet can judge) you are trying to do a very good and generous thing and deserve commendation for that.  Bringing a teenager (or any dependent) into your home is hard.  It is not surprising that you (and she) are finding it hard.  Thank you for what you are doing, and I hope you can connect with resources and find ways to navigate it that will make it easier, and help you and your SIL reach some sensible goals (like helping her become an independent adult).

(Also I have a very privileged middle schooler, who hangs out with other very privileged middle schoolers, and I've come to realize that for them, things like earbuds are important ways of marking social status and fitting in.  The "trinkets" aren't things that I, personally, endorse or support (and I can and do explain why), but I do try to express empathy with the underlying emotions, i.e., "I know you want to have the kinds of nice things other kids at school have and that it's hard to see them with stuff you want but don't have, and can feel awkward to be one of the kids without."  Obviously that's a quick paraphrase of the concepts, but just a quick thought about a relatively minor part of your post that I'm sure is frustrating to have to deal with but really, both your and your SIL's perspectives are understandable and, in their own ways, reasonable.

BlueHouse

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #40 on: January 15, 2020, 12:22:50 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.
No.  No no no no no.
He does not want to do this.
He will resent this.  They will feel his resentment.
You cannot save everyone.  Should he take in 10 people?  20?
No.

He and his family are the only ones to make this decision.  He can probably handle the one.  Maybe, if he reframes his thoughts.

once the decision has been made to bring one in, then you treat her equally.   Not everyone has the resources (emotionally, financially, physically) to do what the OP is doing.  But you don't bring a kid into your home and then treat her as if she's a burden unless you want to further fuck her up for life.  If the OP can't handle that, then he should have said no up front. Or he can make other arrangements now and just say "I thought I was equipped to handle this and I'm not.  I'm sorry".   
As for resentment, sounds like they're already there.

kenner

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #41 on: January 18, 2020, 09:35:23 PM »
Should I bring them all in and treat them as my own, while sacrificing things for my own children?

Yes.  You do what you can and you give every child as much love as the next.  This sounds an awful lot like cinderella and the wicked stepsisters.  Think about what your own children will learn if you treat their new "sister" as "less than".  When you take a child into your home, be prepared to give as much love, support, and money to this one as to the originals.
No.  No no no no no.
He does not want to do this.
He will resent this.  They will feel his resentment.
You cannot save everyone.  Should he take in 10 people?  20?
No.

He and his family are the only ones to make this decision.  He can probably handle the one.  Maybe, if he reframes his thoughts.

once the decision has been made to bring one in, then you treat her equally.   Not everyone has the resources (emotionally, financially, physically) to do what the OP is doing.  But you don't bring a kid into your home and then treat her as if she's a burden unless you want to further fuck her up for life.  If the OP can't handle that, then he should have said no up front. Or he can make other arrangements now and just say "I thought I was equipped to handle this and I'm not.  I'm sorry".   
As for resentment, sounds like they're already there.

Amen.  I volunteer with kids aging out of the foster care system, more than one of whom spent time in a formalized version of what you described--some kind of non-parent relative raising younger relatives--and the whole 'less than'/'they were just waiting to get rid of me' thing is a great way to make a bad situation worse.  And yeah, it's a bad situation for more than just you.  You don't find a lot of kids, even those that were genuinely horribly abused, who were happy to be taken away from the only life they knew and thrown into a whole new, frequently alien, situation where they were suddenly expected to conform to new rules and expectations with no say in the matter (and bonus points if someone then told them how grateful they should be for having their lives ripped apart...I don't get the impression you're doing that, so thank you). 

If she hasn't been in therapy since she came to live with you, I'd suggest making priority #1 finding someone she can talk to rather than complaining about $200 a month.  No argument that it's a lot, and maybe some light guidance on spending/saving/etc. might not be a horrible idea, especially if you're giving it to her all at once, but that doesn't really sound like the major issue. I know confidentiality rules vary from place to place, but a therapist should at least be able to help with whether the attitude you're complaining about is something along the lines of a 'typical' teenager (as much as there is such a thing) or if there might be other causes/triggers and what things you can do to improve the situation while you're getting your own feelings sorted out.

Cassie

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Re: Preparing a teen for life on their own
« Reply #42 on: January 20, 2020, 12:45:15 PM »
We would have taken all 3. They need family. We had 3 teenage boys and took in a friend of there’s when his parents threw him out for no reason. He stayed a year to finish high school.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2020, 02:07:54 PM by Cassie »