Summary

I was witness to a banal argument between my 23-year-old daughter and her mum which has lead to a three month impasse, whereby my daughter has installed herself in my small apartment with the intent of ejecting me from it. She refuses to make peace with her mom in order to move back and is putting me in the difficult position of needing to evict her.

Background to Issue

Up until two months ago, my 23-year-old daughter had been living with her mum and her 11-year-old brother in a large 4 bedroom house without much quarreling. She is a "full-time" student (5 courses for a total of 15 hours in Cegep [between high-school and college]).

My daughter approached her mum two months ago for advice about whether she should take a part-time job (15h) offer with a bank. I told her that it might be good for her to realize what it is about, to eliminate a field of study. Her mother was equally not keen on the idea as it was a selling job and it would be stressful for my daughter, bringing this stress home to the family as she already did in the past. My ex-wife was concerned about her youngest son who has Autism. At this point my daughter unexpectedly, exploded in anger, shouting, slamming the door and breaking it.

The next few days consisted in her continuing the dispute coming out of her room to challenge her mum while I was a witness. After 4 days, her mom decided to put an end to this by saying that if she didn't want to talk about issues instead of shouting about them, she would have to go stay with me for a while, with which I was in agreement. She said she wouldn't leave but made no attempt to explain her outbursts which continued. Her mom then decided to give her a week to decide whether she wanted to stay under the condition that she talks, or to leave. She also gave her a professional therapy toll-free line in case my daughter needed to talk to someone. In addition, her mom also called a family therapist to ask advice on the impasse. The therapist advised that the daughter, since she was 23, should leave the house.

After one week of ignoring everyone, she called a friend to take her to my place, expecting to take over my bedroom. I was annoyed at this and refused to give her my room, having decided to put a lock on my bedroom door when I found out her plan through my 21-year-old son, who shares the apartment with me. She had ordered her older brother to dump my stuff on the balcony, in the snow, while I was out. I still don't understand how she thought it would be OK to evict her father from his appartement, and that I would comply. But when she saw the lock, she started to cry and left to stay 3 weeks with the friend. After 3 weeks, her friend said that was enough and that she had to go back and stay at my place with me and her brother.

Her mum reminded her by email, that all she had to do was talk to her or apologize and she could come back to the house. She told her mum that she is tired of apologizing for things and that it is the mother who has to apologize to her instead (for what, she won't tell her). I have never heard my ex-wife ask my daughter for an apology about anything. This was the first time. If anything my ex-wife is quite a tolerant person, in fact too tolerant one could say.

Presently she is camping out in the living room of my apartment under cramped conditions and is refusing to negotiate with either me or her mum. I cannot have her living there indefinitely and have repeatedly asked her to just talk to her mum or find her own place. She did end up taking the bank job and is able to afford a modest rent.

We are at a loss as to how to handle the situation with my daughter as she is not flexible. I don't really want to force her out but I have given her 4 months to find another accommodation or to address her issues with her mum or with me. For the moment she is refusing to budge or talk constructively to us and continues acting out. She pays no rent or utilities at the apartment except for her own food. On the other hand I think that it is maybe time for her to grow up and to become an adult and learn to be appreciative, and that a belated adolescent outburst went too far.

She still refuses to this day to communicate with her mum stating that her mum has first to apologize. I don't know what she is complaining about and don't think that her mum should apologize - for what? She gives no details, just this blanket demand. The long term issues that she is complaining about are not going to get resolved if she doesn't want to enter into a discussion and even seek a free therapeutic advice.

We did already try family therapy in the past but after a few sessions the therapist said that the two older kids were not invested in it or interested to solve issues with us.

How can I convince my daughter that it is in the interest of the whole family to communicate our issues without me resorting to drastic measures like forced eviction?

  • 1
    I’m not sure if this question wouldn’t be best suited in interpersonnal skills instead of parenting. Although she’s your daughter she’s also an adult so maybe the solution would be to talk to the "adult" she is and not the "daughter". As an adult she should be mature enough to handle day-to-day frustration, but would maybe be easier if you start the discussion without considering her a "kid"... – Laurent S. May 21 at 8:26
  • 1
    @LaurentS. - This question is appropriate to this site. My "kids" are past or pushing 30. Parenting doesn't stop at any particular age; it's a process, and different with different "kids". – anongoodnurse May 21 at 16:50
  • Does the younger brother take a lot of time and attention? Wondering if tons of past feelings of not being worth the families time or some other reasons that may not even be all that reasonable have made her feel like she isn't 'good enough'. How old was she when you divorced? Anyway, i think my point is clear - there may be old wounds causing this behavior today. At 41 now I can look back at my anger toward my parents even into my late 20's and how it was expressed in somewhat ugly ways. I blamed them for a lot. – Adam Heeg May 22 at 10:19
  • @AdamHeeg - I was also wondering, since the younger brother has Autism, if she might also be somewhere in what would be considered the more "normal" part of the spectrum, but, still, has some issues with interactions, emotions and communication. – PoloHoleSet May 22 at 20:40

It's not going to be an easy thing to do, but you might want to consider taking the therapist's advice. For some kids, leaving home is a difficult, even impossible process, and that means you are going to have to help her. I would advise that you talk to the therapist and ask what (s)he would recommend as the best way to assist your daughter in this very necessary separation. There is going to be pain on both sides, but the goal here is to make sure the doors are left open for her to return to having a good relationship with you after she is able to settle into her new role as an adult who must take responsibility for herself.

Disclaimer: I'm assuming you are American, please forgive me if I am assuming incorrectly. Other cultures have different mores regarding familial separation.

The first thought that struck me is that it might have partly to do with her brother. I have two friends with younger siblings who are handicapped, and one thing both of them have in common is a resentment towards their sibling, and their parents. They feel they are ignored and slighted, and loved less than their siblings. Even now, when they are both adults and have been so for decades, the resentment is still there and they don't want to talk about it. Please note that I am not saying that you are doing anything wrong, just that it is something you may want to be aware of and bring up with your therapist.

Consider it for a moment from her point of view. She's being told not to get a job, because it would disturb her brother (who she may be resenting already). Then her 21 year old brother (also an adult) gets a room in Dad's house but she gets the couch. From the point of view of a child (she may not be a child any more but it sounds like she is thinking like one in this) "it's not fair!"

Pushing her out into adulthood will help her make that transition from thinking like a child (I should be taken care of and given what I want/need" to a more mature way of thinking ("I am responsible for taking care of my own needs").

In any case, let your therapist help you come up with a plan, and then implement it. Don't expect it to be anything other than painful, but put on your emotional armor and "take one for the team". Follow through, and don't let yourself be sucked into a guilt trip or into anger, but make sure she sees that this is not a rejection of her, it's a loving assistance. It's probably inevitable that she will leave in anger and say a lot of things she'll regret later, but as long as you can keep your cool, the door will stay open.

You know that you love her, and once she grows up, she will realize it too.

Additional suggestion: It has been my observation that when a person has a strong opinion and absolutely refuses to discuss it, that often means that they either cannot articulate their reasoning or know they cannot defend it. It might be that your daughter is angry about the fact that it seems to her that her brothers are getting more than she is. Try to put your own feelings aside, and help her articulate hers. This will help her to understand them, and also will reassure her that you will be fair and sympathetic to her.

Here are some possible suggestions (bear in mind that the opening of this discussion is not to "teach" her that her way of thinking is wrong, only to help her get her point of view out so it can be discussed). Here's a lead-in, "I've been thinking, and I've realized that we haven't been fair to you..." that will get her attention, and should help turn her attitude positive toward the discussion. Then continue on that theme.

  1. You are the oldest child, which means we push more responsibilities on to you. It's difficult to watch younger siblings be given more help. Maybe sometimes we think of you as an adult who doesn't need our help any more, and that isn't fair.

  2. You are 23 years old, and you want to be able to function like an adult. You are working hard toward that, getting a job is a major part of being an adult, so being told that you can't do that is frustrating, and it isn't fair.

  3. It is difficult having a sibling who has special needs. They require more attention, and sometimes it must seem like we are giving your brother more care and attention than we give you (Note: at this point, do not follow this up with a defense "..but we have to because...). It is our responsibility to take care of your brother, not yours, and it isn't fair that this responsibility should be pushed onto you.

  4. Your most important job right now is being a student, getting good grades and preparing to enter the working world. When you live at home you keep getting pulled back into the life of a child. You have to follow your parents' rules, and there's a lot of conflict that interferes with your ability to study and prevents you from doing what's best for you, and that's not fair.

Riff on this, and try to imagine other things that might not be completely "fair" to her. Remember, your daughter does have some legitimate "gripes", the problem is that she is seeking the wrong solutions.

Once you have acknowledged her frustrations, this might open the door to discuss the possible solutions. Present her with more than one option, but very gently steer her toward the conclusion that moving out is her best option. Help her to understand that the best solution for her is one which cannot be implemented at either home, because it would come into conflict with what you and her mother need to do.

Is living in a college dorm an option? It's a good transition situation; you are responsible for yourself (no parents to tell you what to do, no family responsibilities) but there's someone to cook your food and clean your bathroom, and plenty of peers to interact with. A good college experience can provide two important services. The academics are only one part of it, and for some, not even the most important one. Having that space to become your own separate person, to find out who you are and what you believe, is so very important. It's certainly a time I will always treasure.

  • "Cegep" is Canadian, although if it weren't for that one detail I would have guessed UK from the use of the word "mum", which I don't hear quite often from Americans. – Ron Beyer May 21 at 17:19
  • Ah...didn't catch that. Both fairly similar cultures in their expectations of adult separation, I believe :) – Francine DeGrood Taylor May 21 at 19:28
  • As one who grew up in Canada and lives in US, I can say the expectations are much the same. DD23 has incredibly tolerant parents, and would most likely be out on the street if her parents were anyone else. – pojo-guy May 21 at 20:36
  • Yes, we are living in Canada. A psychiatrist suggested, when my daughter was a toddler, that she might be in the narcissistic spectrum (NPD). At that time we thought she was to young to be diagnosed. No. she is not yet in college, and yes, dorm would be a great option. Thank you Francine for taking the time to give such a detail answer and useful advise. – user32223 May 24 at 4:06

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