Sunday, January 29, 2012

Question: Do You Lend Money to Your Child's Birth Family?

If you were faced with the following hypothetical situation, what would you do?

    It is early in the morning.  Your telephone rings, rousing you from a deep sleep.  It is a member of your child's birth family calling.  This person has made a mistake, a really stupid error in judgment, largely due to extremely poor planning.  They are now faced with the possibility of a very unpleasant and negative consequence.  The person is frantic, hysterical, and in tears.  You are begged for what is a relatively small, but not insignificant, amount of money to make the problem go away.

What do you do?  Do you get dressed, get in your car, and buy your child's family member out of trouble?

Would it make a difference if you had loaned this person a small amount money in the past and they failed to pay you back?

Would your answer be any different if you knew that the dollar amount involved now was at least six times higher than it would have been if they had called you at the beginning of the trouble, instead of waiting until the very end of the crisis?


  1. Don't start with it, it will just repeat over and over, there will be no gratitude for the first time(s) and even more anger once you are compelled to say no.

  2. PS: As far as I can see, it gives both sides a great relief to help the first time. The givers have a good feeling about being the "helping angel", the takers are glad to be out of trouble.

    In my experience, the sum will be higher the next time, and situation just as insolvable without your help. If you give again, amounts will go up (you will start enabling their behaviour).

    If you start saying no, there will be no gratitude left for everything you did up to that moment, but just anger at your "no" of that moment.

    So it is better to have the anger and unsolvable problem right from the start, not to be the saving angel, and not get drawn into this spiral.

    That's just my two cents, it might be that the people you are dealing with are completely different.

  3. I am sorry for this person who made bad decisions, but I can see nothing good coming from your providing money. I also feel that it is likely that there will be other occasions, and the ante will continue to be upped, if you bail them out now.

  4. Gotta say I agree with everyone else. Honestly though, it wouldn't matter if it was biofamily, a good friend, or my child. I learned the hard way a long time ago that bailing someone out with money a second time, especially if it didn't "work" the first time, inevitably ends with that person's dependence on you and continued dependence and entitlement and seeing themselves as a victim. It took me a long time to realize that "rescuing" people wasn't doing either of us any good (I was giving more than I should - not just money). I have much stronger boundaries now.

  5. This is a slippery slope. This person will never learn to make the right choices and you will end up as their personal ATM. Do Not Do It. Try to help in otherways, find them a job, get them social services, or free rent. DO NOT GIVE MONEY.

  6. I kind of agree, in that setting up this dynamic is not good with anyone. I think it's good to develop a general boundary about this with most people in our lives and also a good model for kids on how to set appropriate boundaries with family and loved ones bio or otherwise. I think it might help show care/concern by maybe pointing them to resources in the community that may be able to help depending on what the issue is. I also think keeping a neutral, non-judgmental, non-punishing stance will go a long way for your child not to feel like you feel her bio family is less than or bad- thus internalizing the message about herself.

  7. Ditto here. I think we are all caregivers by nature - or else we wouldn't even be in this position. The problem is that line between helping and enabling. If you feel you can afford to "give" the money with no strings attached and never expect repayment in any way (as in - we will never speak of this again) then go for it. I don't think it will be easy to say no, especially if you've helped out in the past, but firm boundaries are absolutely necessary for your family's sake. I have "helped out" many times in the past with family members (NOT my kids bio parents tho) and it always ended poorly. No one seems to remember how good it felt to get that help from you when the next crisis comes along, all they hear is the "no" you're eventually forced to give -and they'll make you pay in some way for doing it. Heck, they'll make you pay either way if they're takers.


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