Helping vs Hindering: What are your options?

I am writing this post at the suggestion of a friend of mine. She is in a tough situation right now.  I have been a good listener for a while, but I suggested some options for her.  She was so relieved to know that there are resources out there she said that I should share them on my blog.

I share this because I have been on both sides of this coin.  When I was in my late 20’s I was helping to raise my step-son, who was 12/13 at the time.  Compared to how his mother’s family lived he thought we were rich.  We lived in southern California and living off $24,000 a year. I was working full-time, bartering for rent, selling platelets every two weeks and donating my eggs to families who couldn’t have children to make ends meet. It was all I could do to keep all three of us fed.  One day my son’s older brother was dropped off at our door.  My son explained that he thought his brother could come and live with us.  After a minor panic attack in my room, I came out and laid-out the conditions that had to be met for his stay.  He had to find a job, do chores and contribute financially to the household.  He didn’t know how to do any of that.  I helped him select clothes to wear, and suggested a few places to go and pick up applications.  Then I taught him how to complete an application and how to interview.  After a day or two of trying to find a job, he found a ride back to northern California to live with his mother.  The lesson is you can give them the tools, but they choose whether or not they will pick them up.

Fast forward 11 years and I am in the middle of my divorce, had moved to New Orleans for what was supposed to be the best job ever, which ended up being the job from hell. I had reached my limit and left that job without another lined up.   After one temp job and then a few months of unemployment I took what little I had left and packed up my car and moved back to Dallas.  I had two friends who put me up  for 3 months in total, while I tried to change careers and then went back to Accounting and found a place to live.  I had to face that even though I had a place to sleep, I was homeless, and terrified.  This isn’t supposed to happen to people with degrees and almost 40.  I didn’t want that to ever happen again.   I didn’t know about the resources out there to help people through these types of transition.

Now that you know about my history in this area I am going to share my opinion on a trend I have seen over the past 10 years. I know many people who have their kids in their late 20’s and in their 30’s move back home and then do nothing.  They don’t help around the house, half halfheartedly look for work, while their parents or some form of family are supporting them.  Their parents or siblings are now raising any children who are part of the package.  I listen to the parents or siblings complain or vent about the situation.  There always seems to be one spouse who “just wants to help them” and the other who see’s the writing on the wall.

The question is where do you draw the line?  What are your options?  Are you helping or are you hindering?

In my experience there is a progression.  I do think people deserve a chance to help themselves.  I also know that doing everything for them or not setting boundaries and holding to them leads to anger and resentment on all sides, eventually.

  1.  Set a deadline:  Let them know how long they can stay with you and stick to it.  When that time is up, it’s up. Period.
  2. Have a plan:  If they need help figuring out what they need to do and how to do it, then help them with that, but don’t do it for them.  Teach them how to help themselves.
  3. Give them ways to help you while they are staying with you.  It is important that if they don’t have the financial ability to contribute, they are expected to contribute to the household in other ways.
  4. Touch base: Touch base with them weekly to make sure they are on track.  If they are not doing the work, remind them that the clock is ticking.
  5. Show them how to find the resources that are out there to help them through.  United Way has so many great organizations that can help in just about any area of your life.  I will go into these in a minute.
  6. When the time is up, especially if they are not doing the work, it is time for them to go.  You would be surprised how motivating it is when they  don’t have someone supporting them.

In my friends case, her boyfriends son, daughter-in -law and grandson were suddenly staying with them.  Her boyfriend had only just moved in a year earlier.  His son and family have been kicked out of both their mothers homes, and his sisters home.  The son has found a job, but is not contributing to the home and not saving to move out.  She has been hired and quit 2 jobs in 2 months time.  They don’t take care of their child in the very basic ways (bathing, feeding and spending time with him).  My friend is at the end of her rope.

Over the past year I have been involved in my companies Community Service Team and learned so much about the organizations that are a part of United Way and the services offered in our area.  So I told my friend that there are organizations in our area that will give them a place to stay, teach them how to manage finances, finding jobs, caring for a family, offers child care while they do these things.  She was so relieved that there was an option other than putting them on the street and a way they can get the help they need without destroying her relationship.

Depending on the situation and what you need here are a few links to organizations in my area, through  United Way:

Directions Home – Defeating Chonic Homlessness

Women’s Center Tarrant County


I hope this helps someone out there who may need help or know someone who needs help.