What can I do to help ensure my stepdaughter does something with her life?

"My stepdaughter is in a school now for high risk children and will be coming home in a few months. Her goal in life is to be a tattoo artist. And says she will go to college to get an art degree, and live with us while attending school .. I am so afraid she will do what she normally does "nothing" and will soon be an adult that I will be supporting. My wife is a kind and is a good woman, but raised this girl alone and lets her take advantage of her..What can I do? Thank you."

Asked by "windwalker" in commenting on the article, "When I Grow Up...":
In Topics: Parenting / Our Family, Teen issues, Blended families
> 60 days ago



Jun 11, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

t3eachRLADY has good things to say re  the possibility that you may be put off by your stepdaughter's potential career choice.  Here is another perspective for you to consider.

You say your stepdaughter is coming home from a school for high risk children.
You do not say how old she is, but from the intent to go to college, and your reference to your wife having "raised her alone," I am guessing that she is somewhere in older adolescence.  The fact that she has been in this type of placement indicates the likelihood of emotional/ psychological/ or possibly behavioral issues.

My strong suggestion is to work with the school your stepchild is coming from to identify and help you put in place supports for both your daughter and the family once she is residing at home.

If she is going into the public school system before going to college, your stepdaughter may qualify for special education supports in school, as she may possibly be considered as having an emotional disability. (This would have to be determined by psychological testing, which may already have been done if she is in a high risk school.)

If she is actually going to be living with you while she goes to school, as you say she intends to,you might also want to consider some outside behavioral counseling to help your stepdaughter adjust to life back in your home, and to help the family adjust as well.

Whatever the situation, if she is in your home, you have a right to set ground rules and house rules, and expect her to follow them.  Be firm, fair and follow through with consequences, if your requirements are not met. Structure is very important for all children, young or old, including those who are chronologically, but not yet emotionally young adults. Limit setting is an anecdote to being taken advantage of. All kids, even older ones, need predictable limits.

You and your wife will be best off to agree on what the limits and consequences are. If you cannot agree, try some private counseling with a social worker or family therapist who can help you negotiate this very important matter. Sometimes a trained social worker can help the entire family to navigate the difficult situation of an older child living with parents.

I wish you luck. Let us know how it goes.

Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
Clinical Social Worker
JustAsk Expert

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Additional Answers (2)

t3achRLADY writes:
Hi Windwalker,
As a 9th and 10th grade teacher, I understand your concern that your step-daughter will end up doing "nothing" with her life.  However, is this your concern simply because of her non-traditional career path?  If this is what your step-daughter is truly interested in, then you and your wife should be supportive of her choice.  Encourage her to apply to colleges that have programs that appeal to her, but also encourage her to take some business classes.  If she majors in business as well as art, she will have great prospects for opening her own tattoo studio as well as the knowledge she needs to manage it.  I used to be under the impression that to be "successful" a student needed to attend college and get a "white collar" job, but this is simply not true.  The workforce needs people from all walks of life.  A tattoo artist can make a reasonable living, especially if she is good at what she does.  It is a popular industry and depending on where she works she could make enough to live on.  IF she had the business know-how to start her own studio, she would be even better off.  Encourage her to follow her dreams.  Let her know you will stand beside her, but don't support her financially any more than is neccessary to help her obtain her degree.  Once she's finished college, she needs to learn how to be an adult and manage her own finances and living situation.  Endless help from parents turns out to be more detrimental in the end, but support does not have to always come from the wallet!  Good luck!

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Edwards5 , Caregiver, Parent writes:
Hear what she wants to do and don't judge her for her past. She went away to get help so look for the change in her and know she needs you to trust she has changed. Your kid needs you to have changed to lay down the things you want from her give her the tools she needs to give you what you ask of her. If you are not willing to work with her don't think she is going to be willing to work to have anything at all. Kids need great leaders not wimps you know the people that see a challenge and hit it head on. You already know it is going to take some hard work but let this girl know no matter what you are always going to want the world for her and build her up make sure she knows you know she can do what ever she put her mind to. The best thing you can do is be the one to build he up because if you do nothing in the world can tear her down. She has things in her past that did just that and that is why she was in the school she was in. Now it is time for you to be her wall and keep all things bad away from her at the same time keeping her on the right track so she will become the women you know she can be. I see you love her it is ok to let her know this. When she does mess up and you have to let her know what she did or you stop it from happening in the 1st place let her know you did that out of love. Tell her all the time when she does something right that you are proud of her. She is looking for something you just have to become what she needs till she finds some one that is just like you or better to take your place give her something to strive for out of friends they have to at least be as good as her parents, they have to be doing something good with there lives. If not they are not good enough for her. You and your wife are the only ones that can set those standers. You rule her world just do it well and she will be fine. GOOD LUCK
> 60 days ago

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