Parenting Stepchildren/Stepson becoming adult


Hello.Thank you for taking the time to read my questions.
First, a little background. My wife and I have been married for 14 years. We have two daughters of our own, ages 8 and 11. When my wife and I got married, she had two sons who were ages 3 and 5. She had joint custody with her ex-husband who lives nearby. No issues with that. Today, in 2014, my youngest stepson is 17, turning 18 in May. His relationship with his stepmother isnt the greatest and its been discussed that when he turns 18 that he will no longer go between homes, but will be living here with us (full-time rather than 50% of the time.)
Currently, he has one job which he works at night. His plans for post-graduation (May 2014) are to get a second job and he has decided that rather than go to college fulltime, he will only be taking one class at the local community college.
We have a 3 bedroom home. My wife and I have a room, the girls share a room, and he has a room to himself as his brother has moved out. The room is empty while he is at his fathers.
I had been under the impression until lately that he had intentions of enrolling in the community college fulltime while working parttime. The original plan was that he would live with us at a very reduced rate, meaning we would charge him a very nominal amount while he attended school and worked. This, again, has somehow changed recently to the "work fulltime, take one class" idea. I dont agree with this.
My wife works fulltime. I work part-time. Our daughters are homeschooled and for all intents and purposes, I am a stay-at-home father. I own a business that allows me to work from home. I make approximately 1/3 of what my wife makes. I pay the mortgage, with a little (very little) left over for myself. My wife pays the remaining bills. Our bills (aside from foodcosts) are about equal to our mortgage. We currently are considered a low-income family due to the income and our number of dependents. When my stepson turns 18, he will no longer be considered a dependent and his income will count toward our household. We will lose any benefits we currently get (which is about $300 a month for foodcosts.)
The problem that is arising for me is that I did not agree to the new arrangement. I dont agree that he should be only taking one class and working fulltime. I agreed that he would take multiple classes and work parttime.
I dont have any personal issues with my stepson. He and I have had a good relationship since we met when he was 3. Our relationship, thankfully, is not at issue.
What is at issue, for me, is that I dont think it is fair that he will be living here, working fulltime, and paying us a reduced cost for rent. He will be 18. If he is choosing to merely take one class (which is very uncommittal in my opinion) and work fulltime, I feel like he is able to provide for himself. I dont think he is entitled to a reduced cost of living expense if he isnt committed to going to school.
I think its terribly unfair that the girls continue to share a room (that they are outgrowing) in order to allow him to have his own room and a large portion of his expenses taken care of by us so that he can work full-time and bank his money (or spend it on luxuries.)
If he is working full-time and only taking one class, I feel like he should provide for himself.
He cannot be considered a dependent, his income counts toward our household income, however, we will not be seeing much of that income.
I dont want to "throw" him out..I dont want my wife to resent me or become defensive. Lots of people seem to resent their stepchildren for relational issues. In my case, its more regarding the money issue. If he is 18 and working full-time, electing not to 'really' pursue an education, why are we obligated to provide him housing and utilities at a reduced rate?
I dont expect you to tell me exactly what to do. I am hopeful for suggestions that will encourage him to either a)increase his courseload for school or b)accept that he is an adult working full-time and should be subject to the responsibilities that come with adulthood.
We do not have a huge home. We have 5 people living in a 1200 sq ft ranch. We have 3 bedrooms, 2 of which are double occupied. I'd really like to help him move along if he isnt going to be enrolled full-time at school. I dont want to discourage him and I dont want to damage any relationships in our home, but I just dont feel like the upcoming arrangement is going to do any of us any good.
Taking one class at a time at the community college could take 15 years or more to obtain a degree. At some point, this will go from "helping our son get his degree" to "we have a free-loader."
Hopefully you have run across this scenario before and can provide some insight into what has worked well for others.
Thank you in advance.

Hi Scott - I'm very familiar with your situation. You have a marital problem, not a stepson problem. Specifically, your wife must choose who's needs are more important to her: hers, her son's, or yours, This is a "values" (priority) conflict most stepfamily adults encounter sooner or later. See these:  and

A second problem you co-parents may have is how to problem-solve disagreements effectively:

If you mates have stress around money issues, see this:

Finally for your daughters' and you adults' sakes, I encourage you two to study and discuss online "lesson 7" about co-managing a normal stepfamily.

If you have questions about these resources, please ask! I admire that you asked for help, Scott - Pete

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.


I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Hundreds of Web articles on ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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