Psudo Parents need advice (long)

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-01-2003
Psudo Parents need advice (long)
Thu, 05-01-2003 - 8:39am
Hi! I'm new to this board so I hope I have this in the correct place.

My 19 year old cousin came to live with us at the end of January. He was attending a Job Corps about 8 hours from his home but 2 hours away from us so he would come visit us on some week-ends. After getting frustrated because he wasn't learning anything new, he said that he wanted to go to college. He kept telling us how he loved the area we lived in and would like to move here sometime and go to school and get a good job as an electirician. My husband and I discussed it with eachother and decided to invite him to come live with us as long as he has a job and went to school.

My cousin has had a shaky background and gets angry very easily (I believe his father is fully to blame). He likes being with us because we don't fight or yell. However, I think my husband and I are getting to our breaking point.

My cousin is not dumb or stupid. I guess the best way to put it is he doesn't have much common sense. He asks the same questions over and over again and doesn't remember asking them before. One of us will say something like "I'm going to get a haircut" (he'll be right there) and he'll immediatley say "Oh, are you going to get a haircut?". He used to fall asleep on the couch and stay there all night but I think we've got that one nipped. He leaves lights on and the balcony door open when he goes to bed. He's on the internet and the phone CONSTANTLY. Leaves his clothes in the dryer, doesn't put dishes in the dishwasher and countless other things I can't think of right now.

Because of his family history, he has done many drugs before, mostly marijuana (again, with the aid of his father). I keep telling myself that it's the reason he acts the way he does but I realize that's just an excuse. I know others who were the same as him and are more responsible now with their lives. He's going to be 20 in 5 months. I have seen 13 year olds who were more responsible.

My husband and I haven't even been married 2 years yet but we both agreed to this. Now we're wondering if it was a mistake. We try very hard to help my cousin out and guide him on the right path. We're constantly reminding him to put stuff away, close the door, etc. We don't know what else to do. I am very cautious of what I say to him because I don't want him to get P.O.'d and leave and I don't want to send him home because I know in his head, he'll think we don't like him and he'll end up hating us (the latter has happened with him and our Aunt & Uncle).

Does anyone have any advice? I feel this is starting to put stress on us and my husband has enough stress as it is with his job and a side job at night.

Thank-you in advance and sorry this is so long!


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 05-01-2003 - 4:24pm
First of all you need to stop blaming your cousin's father (your uncle?) for your cousin's bad behavior. Your cousin is CHOOSING to behave the way he does, no one is forcing him. Having said that, it sounds like your cousin has a substance problem, past or present. He's exhibiting some pretty classic user signs; forgetfulness, lack of concentration, etc. Either he's still using or has brain damage from past use.

You shouldn't have to tiptoe around him in your own house or be afraid of him not liking you. Whether he likes you or not is his decision and you can't control that. Explain the rules (maybe make a list and post them in his room) and that you expect him to abide by them. If he won't he needs to leave. Your first allegiance should be to your husband, not him. If the situation is causing stress for the two of you then your cousin needs to find another living situation. I know you want to help him, but this is not worth the potential problems it could cause in your marriage.

Good luck,


Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 05-01-2003 - 4:32pm
Hi jcarvin. The behavior you describe sounds pretty typical of many teens, even those that are legally adults. My 19 yo ds does lots of that stuff when he is home from college. And you should hear the stories about his roommates who are worse than he is!

I don't know how much older you are than your cousin, but you are not his parents and you don't have to put up with as much as parents typically will. I think that you can view him as an adult roommate and ask that he follow certain house rules. I don't mean if he makes his bed or comes in at a certain time, but things like turning out lights or locking doors at night (safety and economy), being considerate of others who want to use the phone or internet or dryer, doing his share of cleaning of the common areas, etc. A lot of the problems do sound like basic lack of consideration for others, and many young adults are still fairly self-absorbed unfortunately.

I would sit down with him and discuss this, same as if you were having problems with an unrelated roommate. Try to agree on a set of rules that everyone can abide by. (remember that everyone messes up sometimes). I think it is reasonable to set a period in which to see improvement and that he will have to move out if he doesn't change. I lived in group situations when I was in my 20's and sometimes roommates just couldn't get along because we had such differences in standards. The person who held the lease stayed and the other one left, sometimes we felt bad but some people are just not compatible.

I think it is very nice of you to offer him the opportunity to live in your home to improve his life. I don't think it should come at the expense of your own quality of life or stress on your marriage. If your cousin decides to "hate" you because you won't let him take advantage of you and the situation, then that is *his* problem.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Thu, 05-01-2003 - 9:37pm
Elc is right--kids up to their middle 20's can still act like this. In addition, considering the severity of his forgetfulness, inattention, irritability, & other issues, I suspect he's ADD. A LOT of ADD'ers self-medicate with cigs, alcohol & drugs when they haven't received proper treatment, and their emotional age generally runs about 4 years BEHIND their chronological age. The problem here is that this is NOT your child. You have not borne him, or raised him. You can't suddenly develop empathy, or a parent's love & desire for their child to succeed. You didn't expect a child with untreated emotional disabilities--you expected a responsible young adult who just needed a friend & a nice place to stay. The issue is whether YOU want to take on the responsibility of parenting a disabled child. If you do not, send him back to his parents. If you DO, be prepared for a long road to hoe. Here's a link with some suggestions on how to parent a teen like this...