Hoopmann1 wants her Loved One and partner to start contributing more around the house and eventually with rent. A counselor recommended giving them an ultimatum. But her Loved One is still in early recovery… they want to continue supporting this hard work as much as they can.
My daughter has been sober for 6 months now. I’m wondering about next steps (setting boundaries regarding rent, chores and responsibilities around the house). We have been pretty lenient about these things as my daughter works on her sobriety, learns how to be a mother and works a part time job. My husband and I have expressed to her that we want her (and her boyfriend) to start paying rent starting in May. We’ve asked that they both step up in doing more chores in the house. My husband and I take care of our grandchild quite a bit and feel that they should give back by helping out more. We’ve been hesitant to enforce this strongly for fear of a relapse. I have been told by a counselor to give them an ultimatum to participate or move out. Things are going generally well and I’m not ready to do that. I don’t feel it’s right since so much progress has been made. We want to take it slow and support her sobriety. Are we enabling them to not grow up?
Thanks so much for your valuable question Hoopmann1, which most certainly is on the minds of many families dealing with addiction. This is especially relevant since the Covid19 pandemic has changed our routines, even our entire world in ways that could not have imagined.
It’s totally understandable that, having been so supportive for at least six months, you are now thinking about your daughter and her boyfriend contributing on a higher level. It is so important to take care of yourself, in addition to providing what you can to your daughter and grandchild. You have been doing a tremendous job. I’d give yourself ample credit for creating the space that you have for your family and for your daughter’s recovery.
While your counselor’s guidance is an option, I’d encourage you to also consider an alternative approach. I’d suggest that you explore collaborative problem-solving with your daughter, thereby helping her learn about responsibility. What she learns in this context has the potential to be more long-lasting. With this method, you’re essentially leading her to get behind plans for progress on her own volition rather than using directives and power-plays with varying degrees of success.
Rather than thinking in terms of ultimatums, what about the idea of having conversations – with open expression of emotions – regarding your current circumstances? You could present your continuing desire to help and your pride in how much progress she’s made, along with your belief that it would be healthy for them to step up and contribute more around the house. Invite her to share her thoughts and feelings about this. By putting value on sharing (and owning) your feelings, in a candid and respectful manner, you can help clear some space for constructively looking at and talking through solutions in a level-headed way. CRAFT supports a model of working in partnership with our Loved Ones. Working together to develop a plan that she buys into is more likely to become successful. Giving ultimatums may be more likely to end up with your daughter digging her heels in. This results in a power struggle that ultimately helps nobody. And we all know how draining and ineffective that can be.
Bear in mind that early recovery requires a person to learn about maturity, and to grow in ways that have not been possible during active addiction. There is so much being rebuilt, from emotional and relational skills to actual neural pathways that can support new, fundamentally more healthy choices. It’s a complex process that requires so much time, patience, and grace for everyone involved. What a blessing that you’ve been providing such a space for her to begin this work after all she’s been through. Given the CRAFT model of rewarding non-use, even if she’s not where you’d like her to be in terms of contributing around the house, she also deserves real encouragement and credit for what she’s been able to accomplish over these past few months. And for how she has stepped into her role as a new mother. Amazing.
After you've talked this over with your husband and you feel ready, perhaps you find a nice calm moment to start the conversation with something like this: "Your dad and I are so proud of your successes (spell them out). I think we’re at the point where we can sit down and talk about shared responsibility for our home… here’s a list of chores, can we talk about who could do what?"
Don’t be surprised if the collaborative problem-solving approach requires several difficult conversations over a good stretch of time. You will be teaching and modeling a healthy and adult way of resolving differences, which will benefit your daughter tremendously in the long run.
If you decide to embrace the collaborative approach I’ve described, you’ll need to stay flexible, present, and patient. (Read: keep taking excellent care of yourself in whatever ways you find meaningful and effective!) It’s good to have a goal in mind, but equally important to be invested in the process of engaging in partnership with your daughter. This may mean working towards the goal in baby steps. If you scale back some of the ideal expectations and accept smaller gestures in the meantime, she may have a better chance at integrating some of these vital lessons of maturity and responsibility. As CRAFT maintains, small shifts over time can pave the way to major transformations.
Thank you for writing in to share your situation and to pose this excellent question. Please let us know what approach you decide to implement, and how it goes for you. We are always here for you, and eager to hear of your progress.
Patrick Doyle, LICSW is a Family Addiction Coach with over 3 decades of experience during which he has assisted over 10,000 families desperately seeking help in the arena of addiction. His phone-based coaching guidance helps families positively influence Loved Ones with addiction while helping the family gain recovery themselves from the impact of addiction. He uses an individualized approach based on the needs of each family, and his coaching services are 100% independent, truly client-centered, compassionate, goal oriented, and non-judgmental. He draws on principles of Harm Reduction, Motivational Interviewing, and CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training). In comparison to traditional psychotherapy, Life Coaching has more flexibility which allows Patrick to be most responsive especially in a time of crisis. Patrick is a licensed clinical social worker and follows the NASW Code of Ethics.