How do you help someone that doesn't seem to help themself? - FamilyEducation
How do you help someone that doesn't seem to help themself?
09/11/2009 at 23:22 PM

Hello all,

I am the youngest child of 4. I have 1 sister (early 30's) and 2 brothers (late 30's). For one reason or another everyone has financial problems. In some way or another I have helped each one of my siblings financially during my adult life however, my sister has been the person I have helped the most. My sis had her 1st child when she was 18, fresh out of high school. She now has 3 kids and has always depended on my mother to help her financially (dead, dead, dead beat dads and laziness on my sis's part to seek legal help). Prior to turning 18, my mom pretty much worked to support me, my ADULT sister and her 3 kids. Due to the ongoing support of my mom, my sist never really had a REASON to work b/c she new mom would find a way for her & her kids to have what they needed. She relied on my mom's support and public assistance. After graduating college in 2004, I moved out w/ a roommate & eventually got married & moved out-of-state. During my last year of college, my sis also started to take classes.During this time, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. As her illness progressed, my sis continued to go to school, but could never get into clinicals & had taken all of her core classes, so there was nothing else she could take without wasting money. My mom then required constant help & it became difficult for my sis to take classes. My mom passed in March 2007. My sister was basically left to support herself & kids. She got an office job a few months after my mom passed, but was only making a dollar or so more than min. wage...not enough for 4 people to live off of, even with publec assistance. She was fired (another chapter)but got another job as a cashier a few months later. I have helped her financially with bills, food, and gas money when she needed it. I also would send money for birthdays and to reward the kids for good grades. I often ask her why she won't look for a better job. She says that she doesn't have the time (b/c normally she works most of the business day) and when she is off, she doesn't have extra gas money to go different places to apply. He home was burglurized last yr around Christmas, and her computer was taken, so she doesn't have immediate access to apply online. Although tedious, I have offered to help her by having her MAIL me her paper resume to post online, so that I can do the job searching for her. She has yet to mail me the resume. Prior to our recent move to a new state (and becoming unemployed), My husband and I have asked if we can help by having 1 or 2 of her kids come live with us for a yr (not all 3 b/c one of them has been very disrespectful towards us). She has said NO b/c she doesn't want to feel like a "failure as a parent". So, today, she TEXTED to ask me for money to make her car payment. I told her that I don't work and don't contribute anything to our bank account and that she should ask my husband (they are close), because he is the sole provider. Thank GOD for a savings account! So, to make this part short, we help and she never CALLS to say "Thanks". Yea, she says thanks at the end of the text message where she asked for help initially...but it's not the same, especially considering the amount of $$ involved. I help because I don't want to see the kids do without and because she has no other family support where she is. After my mom passed, our family structure changed. We do have cousins in the area, but communication just came to a hault. It's sad b/c we all used to be such a close family, but it changed immediately after my mom's funeral. I have made so many suggestions to her and I know she wants to change, but I can't make her change and more importantly, I don't have the income to keep helping with large bills. DANG, I'm not working now, so it's ALL on my husband. The worst part is, even when I want to say "NO", I am so scared that the kids will go without transportation, food, lights, water, etc. I need advice...anything will help.

That is such a hard situation to be in, let me just say that I am sorry you have been put in that situation and also that everyone should be so lucky to have such a caring and loving sister and aunt. I really don't know what to tell you because it is so hard to cut someone off when you are worried about the children. Is she a good mother otherwise? Do you think that she would change and help herself more if you stopped helping or do you think she would just fail? Can you have a serious talk with her about the fact that you are not going to be financially able to help anymore because you don't have the money anymore but that you will help her anyway you can to get herself in a better situation? Please keep us posted on how it goes. Marti

I know it seems like it would be a good idea for you to have the children in your home but it is not. Only if the children are in danger should they be separated from each other and their mom. Find out the government employment agency, help your sister connect with one of their workers. As far as finances, is your husband happy about supporting two families? I think it is a big burden.

you have to stop!! yours & your hubbys responsibility is to support your own children. SURE, you can help at times, but she is not going to make moves to better herself for her family when you are there to bail her out! Have a serious chat with her, just explain you are not in a financial position to help out that much anymore. You dont have to be yuk bout it. Look after yourself first. No offence but I think you are only contributing to her problems by being the cashcow. Show her a different way, she'll step up, if she HAS to. good luk darling!!

Marti, First off, thanks for the compliments about being a caring & loving sister and aunt. :) Regarding my sister as a mother, I honestly believe that she is a good mother to her kids...BUT because she has never really been the sole provider prior to my mom's passing, she has struggled with being the higher authority in her home. Sometimes she comes off as more of a friend or big sister than a mother. The kids have been very disrespectful at times, and I don't think she has effective ways of disciplining them....because she doesn't know how. Wehn we were growing up, my mom was HORRIBLE about using foul language when she was angry...I mean really, really harsh stuff. When I hear my sis talk to the kids, I can see the same trend and I hate it. Even sometimes when I am angry those things come out, but I have changed a lot since being with my husband b/c noone deserves that. When I try to point out to my sis that she should try a different way, she sometimes snaps back at me or indirectly tells me that she is going to raise her kids the way she wants to. I mention that she sounds like mom and whe doesn't like it, but I do point it out. I have suggested family counseling for them b/c I feel like a professional will be able to hear each and every one of them out and help find an effective way to get things going better. She has agreed that it will probably help however, whether she has taken steps to get that accomplished is beyond me. Would she help herself more if I stopped helping financially? Honestly, I don't know. I don't help her every week or every month. There have been a few times when she has needed help and didn't ask nor did I offer. She got it done one way or another. Though, I often wonder if the need wasn't as great in those times. At this point I don't want to help any more b/c I want to SEE what she will do on her own but at the same time, I am her only means of familial support and I don't want cutting her off to be the one thing that takes her over to a darker side (she and the kids already have a rough time dealing with life as it is). I don't want to get that call that she is drinking heavy or on drugs or has been arrested. I would really flip out, especially if I couldn't take all of the kids in and they ended up getting split up. We had somewhat of a rough life growing up and seeing my mom struggle to make ends meet and going from one relationship to another. It's been rough enough for her for many reasons and I guess I'm the person that is trying to prevent things from getting worse. Plus, if I try to have a serious conversation with her, she takes it offensively, then she doesn't call or answer when I call for a couple of weeks...or if she does, she is very cold with me, and I guess I don't want to go through that...I go through enough emotional things as it is. As far as trying to help her get into a better situation, I have tried. I am in a totally different state and I often job search for her and tell her about the jobs, but I can't do much else. She hasn't mailed me that resume to review and post online and ya know, I just can't make her apply. I have asked old friends if they know of anyone that's hiring and my husband and I often sit and brainstorm. Her biggest road blocks are: not having anyone help with the kids as far as getting the youngest back and forth to school (the 2 oldest ride the bus) and struggling with her kids being home alone majority of the evening, if she finds something else and the hours are different. Also, she works part-time with a few extra hours here and there, but the pay is horrible. I see her want to succeed, the problem is, how does she better herself without the right resources? I want to thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it, and apologize for such a long response, LOL (this is a complex issue for me). God Bless you!

Acitez, Thank you for your response. Regarding separating the kids, I know that it isn't a good idea, but my aim with suggesting that to her was to try and help financially. At the time that my husband and I made the offer, we were more financially stable than we are now and thought that it would be easier to help provide for the 2 younger boys PLUS there was an incident with my 14 yr old niece that concluded with her saying some really disrespectful things to me. I don't feel that my sister handled that situation well and b/c of that my niece does not like me (b/c I tried to discipline her and she didn't like it) and I don't care for her much. Nevertheless, that offer is no longer on the table and I don't push for it. As for the government employment agency...what do u mean "help her connect with one of their workers"? Can you lend more advice on that issue? Regarding my husband and supporting two families, I'm quite sure it's nothing that he loves doing, and I don't run to him with a demand that he helps. We talk things out and if we have extra money then we help. It's not a monthly thing...we don't put money aside for her and the kids on a regular basis. He wants to help but he only does it if I am comfortable with it. We work together b/c I don't want this issue to ruin my marriage and if he should ever say "That's Enough", then that's enough. Take Care and God Bless You!

You are a wonderful sister and aunt. Your sister counts on and takes advantage of your good and caring nature. Let her stand on her own two feet and if she falls, then she will have done it on her own. Tough love, but necessary for her to become self-sufficient. Your mother allowed your sister to stay a child. It is time for you to allow her to grow up. Find ways to be there for the children other than only financially. They will appreciate and grow from your emotional help and support.

I get what everyone is saying...I really, really do. It feels like everyone is focusing on the money aspect when that's not really what I need the most help with. Don't get me wrong, money is a big deal with almost anyone, especially when you don't have a lot of it, but my main issue is dealing with not being able to help someone that you love so much. We don't have parents any more and we lost them within a short span of a few years. Regardless of what transpired prior to my mother's death, she is still my sister and we are the only two people who can REALLY understand what it feels like to lose both parents way too early. I have had a tough time dealing with my mother's death more so than my father's (because my father was never the father that he should have been) and I don't think my sister's healing has been any more expedient than mine. So besides the money aspect, which has become serious, how do I limit "MYSELF" to her when I know she is need? I know how to say no, but if it was your sis or bro with kids living less fortunate than you, how do you say no and feel good or "at ease" with that?

Many, many people with children live in many unfortunate circumstances. 24 years ago, I was left with my two young children to care for and support. All 6 of my siblings made great money and had the means to "help" me, financially and often did help emotionally. I chose not to ask for financial help and did it almost all on my own. Sometimes it meant me not eating or my children doing without some things. They survived and thrived and we had some great times. We learned to be creative and sometimes frugal and to find all kinds of fun free activities to do. At times my siblings would offer but unless the need was dire, such as my son needing a very expensive calculator for his advanced math classes, or something like when my daughter grew out of all her shoes at once, I thanked them and refused their help. My now adult children (31 and 25) look back at that time as a wonderful time in their lives. We are very close, best friends, and they both tell me how much they admire me and how we all held together as a family. We did not have cable TV, video game systems or a fancy car. Sometimes we wore 2 layers of clothing and played games by candle light. My daughter says at the time she never realized it was because we were trying to keep the electric bill down. I got heat assistance a few times, shopped at thrift stores and once emergency food stamps. But here is the important thing about all this: I did it on my own! I scrimped and did without out of love for my children and pride in myself. You need to help your sister gain that important opportunity. Certainly, be there for her and the children emotionally. Possibly a grief support group would help you both. Make this about your sister and her family, not about you. You do not need to feel good or at ease. This is about your sister being able to be proud of herself for making it on her own. Just my perspective, having been through the tough times and gaining the trust and respect of my children in the process.

Great perspective!

I wasn't trying to be selfish in asking for help regarding limiting myself to my family. I was asking for help to help her and the kids because I know that nothing will be solved financially. I guess I just need to distance myself because I have suggested the same things to her that you are suggesting to me. It's really hard to see someone you love struggle, kids or not. And it's even harder when you know that they want to do better, but don't have the right resources to do it. Thanks for the advice.

Your sister is an adult and can find the resources. Millions of people do every day. You have pointed her in the right direction, now it is up to her.

The reason she comes to you for money is because she has always had somebody else to rely on. Now Mom is gone, it's time to get tough. When times get tough, the tough get going. If she truly loves her children and is a good mother, she will do what is right to protect them. It is time for all of you to let her grow up. Let it happen now before the children get too old to learn from her. You are only being as week as she is by providing for her. STOP you are making it worse and it could snowball. That is what the children will learn as well. As far as taking 2 children and not all 3. Absolutely not, never split up a family. That could do alot of mental damage! There is a reason why (the disrespectful one) she behaves the way she does. Understand why....and you will be able to help her. Understanding is key. You will be surprised once you build up trust with her, what you might learn.