Dear Stasia: I received a Facebook message yesterday from my cousin’s 19 year old daughter asking if she could live with us for six months until “her new life started”. My cousin adopted her and her two sisters ten years ago. This girl has always had problems with stealing, lying, and keeping friends. My cousin asked her to move out after her high school graduation. She moved in with my Aunt and her bed ridden husband. She said she can’t live there anymore. The five of us live in a small 3 bedroom house with one bathroom. I don’t have space and I can’t help but worry about my kids and what her shenanigans would bring to my household. How do I decline nicely and offer her somewhere else to turn and do I call my cousin? ~Concerned Cousin
Dear Concerned Cousin: Wanting to help is in your DNA. The trick is finding balance for giving what you can, versus giving out of guilt. Ask yourself these questions: If by helping, would it pull me away from focusing on the well-being of my family? Do I have the ways and means to support someone else? If I cannot give money or shelter, what can I give? Can I give my time, guidance, love, or mentorship?
In a perfect world we would all live in castles with unlimited house guests and rooms to spare. You are blessed to have a home filled with a loving husband and happy children, and that is something to nurture and protect. Look at the gifts your cousin and Aunt have given to these sisters, what a blessing they have been to them. Even though the nineteen year old isn’t seeing it just yet, she will in time.
You know in your heart you cannot realistically house your cousins daughter. Not now, nor in the future. This will greatly affect your own family dynamic. I would let her know you are unable to house her, without giving her reasons why, and that it would be best she stay where she is.
Concerned Cousin, it is not your job to figure out a place for her to live, but it is your job to inform your cousin of what is going on. She is her mother, and no matter how old her child is or how she came about loving her as her own, she is hers. Let your cousins daughter know that you would like to give her a different gift and that is the gift of a mentor.
Truly the best gift you could give her at her age is a positive adult female role model. This does not mean you bring her into your home. This does mean you bring her into your web of love and guidance. A life well guided is powerful in itself.
How do you mentor her without housing her?
Look at your schedule and see where you can fit in consistent mentoring in a format that works for you. Every young woman needs a strong positive adult female role model. My heart aches for these sisters, as I can only imagine what the three girls had been through prior to coming to live with your cousin. She had a rough patch growing up, but that does not mean it will be rough forever. And this is where you come into play. Let her see what an amazing wife and mother you are. What better gift can you give a nineteen year old woman, than leading and living by example.
Don’t lecture her when you start mentoring, there isn’t a nineteen year old I know that would respond favorably. Your goal is to let her observe how a loving, strong, positive, and stable woman conducts her life. This is the best gift you could ever give her. How you go about incorporating this is up to you, but by all means a roof over her head is not the foundation to a life of integrity, honesty, and character – it’s just a roof. Good luck!