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Dear Richard Madeley: 'My daughter has fostered two obnoxious teens: must I have them to stay?'

Richard Madeley
Dear Richard Madeley: 'My daughter has fostered two obnoxious teens: must I have them to stay?' Credit: Rii Schroer/Getty Images

Dear Richard

My husband and I are both about 70, and have two daughters; one, aged 43, lives about an hour away and has two boys aged eight and 10; the other is 41 but lives much farther away with her husband and children aged eight, seven and three.

We see a lot of the former family, but the latter generally come for a week at Easter, a week in the summer and every other Christmas.

Our elder daughter has recently fostered two teenagers, a girl of 16 and a boy who is 14. They are quite obnoxious: they do not speak to us or make any effort to be sociable. My problem is that we're having the whole family to stay in the summer. Feeding everyone is a chore at the best of times, but in the past I have embraced it and felt it was worth it to have everyone together. Now, though, I'm dreading it Even worse, I know that if they were nice children I would go all out to accommodate them.

I do not know if I could even broach the subject with my daughter - I can't say I do not want the foster children to come, can I? They are just the same at her house, but I don't think she realises the impact they have on everyone else.

Any words of wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

Diana, Yorks

'Step back from the situation. Try to look at it from your daughter's perspective. She's done an extraordinarily generous thing', says Richard Credit: Rii Schroer

Dear Diana

Well, no, you absolutely can't say you don't want the foster children to come. That would light a short fuse on an almighty row with your daughter and her husband, and in all honesty I wouldn't blame them for being upset and angry with you.

I'm sure they simply wouldn't come to you this summer, nor possibly for several summers to come. Meanwhile, if even the slightest hint of the argument reached the foster children themselves, they would feel pushed out and marginalised by their new grandma. It's lose-lose all round.

So what should you do? The first thing is to step back from the situation. Try to look at it from your daughter's perspective. She's done an extraordinarily generous thing, hasn't she?

With two sons of her own to bring up, she's opened her family home to two troubled teenagers. Whatever their background, you can be sure it's been no picnic for either of them. That's why they're in foster care.

You say they are obnoxious and unsociable. But that's the default setting for a lot of adolescents anyway, even from the happiest of homes. Given this pair's fractured past it's unsurprising they have behavioural problems - and it's to your daughter and son-in-law's huge credit that they're prepared to embrace and try to heal them.

Which brings us back to you. If your daughter has the generosity of spirit to welcome two troubled souls into her family, surely you can manage to tolerate them for a couple of weeks?

I'm not saying it will be easy and I'm not saying I don't sympathise. But you could be part of something rather wonderful, if you think about it - the opportunity to help two unhappy young people get their lives back on track. You could be the loving grandmother they never had, Diana.

You say that your elder daughter lives an hour or so away. I suggest that you meet her halfway for lunch one day soon - and ask exactly how you can help her make a success of this.

Of course there's no guarantee that things will turn out well; it may all end in tears.

But your daughter will be forever grateful for your support.

Try to see this not as a threat to your family's annual summer idyll, but an opportunity to help your daughter and the two youngsters she's taken in.

Good luck.