Life Family

Monday 16 September 2019

Dear David Coleman: My 18-year-old grandson is rude, disrespectful and abusive to me

Grandson's disrespect is wearing his grandmother down
Grandson's disrespect is wearing his grandmother down
David Coleman

David Coleman

Q I have cared for my grandson as my own son since birth, as his mother (my daughter) couldn't care for him because of addiction issues. He is now 18.

His school performance and his extra-curricular life have crumbled since my husband died four years ago. He has become rude, inconsiderate, demanding and abusive to me. I'm 70 now and have my own health issues. I know I should ask him to move out, but he is just not ready for the real world. At the same time, though, his disrespect and rudeness to me are wearing me down. What should I do?

A: His behaviour does sound wearing. It is almost impossible to live with constant disrespect. That could be having an influence on your own health too.

It sounds like he used to have a good and close relationship with you and your husband (since his granddad's death seemed to have such a big impact on him). Indeed, I wonder if he has been grieving his granddad's death over the last four years, but has become stuck somewhere in that process?

Ultimately, if he cannot treat you with basic respect and consideration of your needs, alongside his own, I do think you may have to ask him to leave. However, in advance of that, I wonder if you can give him the option of attending (and using) therapy to help him to make sense of what may be very complicated feelings or grief, rejection (by his mum) and disappointment that his life may have stalled a little. He may have an awareness that he may have limited his future opportunities by the collapse of his school and extracurricular life.

Perhaps he has already had counselling in his younger teenage years, with varying amounts of success. However, he is older now, and so may be more ready and more able to take advantage of some support and direction from someone other than you. Counselling for him may help to shift the dynamic between you.

Alongside therapy for him, you might like to consider attending therapy for yourself. This may give you insights into your own behaviour and your parenting/grandparenting style, since his behaviour towards you must also reflect your relationship with him.

Your own grief about your husband's death may have been a big influence on how you were able to respond to your grandson when he was struggling. I would be hopeful that with some outside perspective, the two of you might be able to find a healthier way of interacting that allows him to spread his wings in a managed way. However, if he doesn't even accept that he has a problem, then you may need to give him a push out of the nest.

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