I've Reached Breaking Point With My Teen Grandaughters—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I am a 75-year-old grandmother, living with my daughter and her two teenage daughters, and I think I have reached breaking point.

The other day, my 15-year-old granddaughter asked me to pick her up at a friend's house after school. Personally, I would not have approved of her visiting friends on a school night.

She had originally called her mother, who was out of town, and said that she needed to be picked up from Walmart. Her mom told her that she needed to come straight home.

Comp Image, Grandmother and Granddaughter
Stock image of a pensive looking grandmother and inset of a moody teenager. A grandmother who lives with her daughter and teenage granddaughters has had enough of their frustrating behavior. iStock / Getty Images

Hours later, I get a call from my granddaughter asking me to pick her up from a friend's house, not from Walmart. I had to remind her that I cannot drive at night, as I have cataracts in both eyes and it would put me and others at risk.

She hung up on me. I called her back and gave her a piece of my mind and called her a taxi. She is a sweet kid, but she turns into a brat when she does not get her way. I will not be offering any more lifts and her mother can call her taxis in the future.

I am seriously thinking of moving out as I do not think, at my age, I need to be dealing with moody teenagers and it's really getting me down. Does anyone blame me?

F. Hunter, Unknown

Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

Do Not Blame Your Family If You Choose To Move

Ruth Freeman is a psychotherapist and founder of parenting support organization Peace At Home Parenting Solutions.

Grandparents can be wonderful resources for both parents and their kids, and yes, teens have big emotions and are hard to manage. I would say, however tempting, "giving teens a piece of your mind" isn't usually helpful. The pieces of our minds that teens really need is our calm presence and grandparents can be great at that.

I believe that all members of the family could benefit here if you could master some of the basic discipline skills, which can be hard to implement when tensions are high. You could start with firm yet kind boundaries. In this situation you could have said, "I wish I could help but I'm afraid I'm not willing to take the safety risk or driving at night with my cataracts. I hope you can figure out another way." It's possible your legitimate reasons for not wanting to drive at night were masked by annoyance.

I would recommend having an honest and frank conversation with your daughter and granddaughter about how to do things differently next time.

If you do decide to move out I hope you do it for your own reasons and not blame your family for the decision. Teens are in a tricky developmental phase of identity formation, and I'm sure the granddaughters would feel terrible if they thought they were responsible for you leaving.

One thing you could try is asking for a weekly or monthly meeting, maybe over dinner, where everyone checks in with each other about how things are going.

Feeling Like A Primary Caretaker For Your Grandchildren Can Be Hard To Deal With

Peter Lobl is a clinical psychologist specializing in relationship issues with adults and couples, with a private practice in New York City

Teenagers can be very hard to deal with: they want what they want when they want it, but they're not yet mature enough to fully appreciate how their behavior impacts others, even when—or maybe especially when—the "others" are family members.

You mentioned in the letter that the teenagers' mother, i.e., your daughter, was out of town when you got the request to pick them up. If there is no other adult in the household, then it sounds like you may sometimes function as the primary caretaker for your granddaughters. That is a lot to deal with as a 75-year-old grandmother. Sometimes it perhaps feels like too much to deal with and that you just need to move out.

Moving out would however also be a big decision and a big transition for you, your daughter, and granddaughters. Whether you moved in with them, or they moved in with you the arrangement must have made sense at the time, but it may make less sense when you are dealing with aggravation from your granddaughters.

Before you take steps to move out, what about speaking with your daughter about your granddaughters' behavior (e.g., hanging up on you disrespectfully)? Could you perhaps also speak with her about the scope of your caretaking responsibilities?

Maybe those responsibilities need to be revised and clarified; your daughter may also need to seek additional support for the household, if possible—maybe a neighbor or a friend could step in at times? After all, it is in no one's interest for you to be on duty to pick up two teenagers at night and drive them back home if you have cataracts.