My 19 yr old niece has come from overseas to study, and lives with us. I have two small sons, and my niece one minute loves them the next minute shuts them out.

She has come from a not so loving family where she even now believes my husband is just like her father and won't talk to us much. Her other aunt and uncle who live a state away constantly tell her that if she were there with them she would be pampered. Today my niece has come to study and get a better life but after getting a job and going to a good college she doesn't want to try to be independent or learn to be an adult, as her other aunt and uncle keep promising dreams to her.

My husband and I feel like we should send her to them. They constantly brag that they know how to deal with mood swings, her tantrums, her isolating herself and that she doesn't behave like that with them when she visits for a holiday. We feel like we're losing our minds trying to cope with her behavior and its effects on our sons. We feel absolutely lost and don't know what to do.

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    Hi, and welcome. There are some details that might help: what is your obligation to your niece (did you make a promise to her parents?) and why is letting her go to her other aunt/uncle pair an undesirable option in your opinion (considering not only your niece, but her parents - if promises were made - and your own family?) How old are your sons? Will they be very upset if she leaves? It's worth knowing why you're reluctant to go this route in order to give you a more helpful answer. Thanks, and again, welcome. Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 1:52
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    I'm German, and your niece would be a legal adult here. Why can't she decide whether to live with you or them? In case she had decided to live with you, it would be a conscious decision which allows you to demand her to try better to fit in. Re the mood swings: How about you're not her enemy in this, but the one she can come to for help when she's overwhelmed by it?
    – sbi
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


At 19, she is old enough to understand requirements (conditions?) for living in your household and to decide if whatever rules you put in place are acceptable for her or not (hence stay with you or not).

I'm not saying 19 is an easy age... I remember all too well how unsettled I was at that age.

Based on the limited information you have posted, I would suggest sitting down with her and your spouse and having an adult discussion about what you require in your household and what she wants to do.

Having clear and reasonable expectations that she has a chance of living up to should help her function in a way that works for all of you.

Ultimately, your first responsibility is to your children and the situation needs to not be a negative for them. The kids having another loving relative in the house would be a cool thing but having a moody/unpredictable teen that makes their life harder doesn't sound so cool.

Good luck and I hope it works out well for you.

  • I had to do this with my own child. When it came down to it, our rules were not how he wanted to live. He was given 2 weeks to find another place to live. Sounds harsh, but as RLH states, he was old enough to understand and old enough to fend for himself. Our responsibility, was to his younger siblings. Good news though - they eventually get it!!! Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 20:35

It seems one particularly upsetting problem for you is the competition between you and the other aunt/uncle couple about who would handle the niece better.

You probably can't see it, but it's obvious to any outsider that you are comparing what you are actually doing with what the other couple is promising. I can tell you that it is thousand times easier to be an excellent parent if you don't actually have to be one. It's very easy for them to make all kinds of claims; if they actually had the niece living with them permanently that would be another matter.

I don't actually think you should send your niece to them, because it will be a huge disappointment for her. However, the next time they brag about their parenting skills you just ask them when they want the niece to move in with them. You can be sure they will come up with all kinds of reasons why this isn't possible. Because parenting would be much more difficult for them when it is their job. If they had any real parenting skills, they would do anything they can to make your job easier.

If the niece says about how the other couple would act better if she lived with them, for example if she said "they would know how to deal with my mood swings", you answer "so would we if you lived with them and not with us. It's very easy to handle your mood swings when you are X miles away as they are. It's more difficult when we live in the same home. Think if you really believe them or if they are just bragging. If you believe them, and you want to move in with them, we will of course support your decision and not try to stop you. But otherwise, you stay here. What you get here is reality, not fantasy".

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