Dear Thelma: I am worried about my grandson’s education

  • Living
  • Sunday, 10 Sep 2023

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Dear Thelma,

I am a 75-year-old retiree with some savings.

I have two daughters – one who lives near me, and a daughter who passed away a few years ago.

My late daughter had two daughters and a son. My grandson is living with me now and is doing his diploma course. His father is paying off my late daughter’s debts and has remarried.

My two older granddaughters are married and have children, and seem uninterested or incapable of helping to fund their brother’s further education.

My daughter has been giving my grandson pocket money and paid for his expenses. I am distressed about this but I also feel like I can’t intervene.

My grandson is not a particularly smart or diligent student, so I also don’t feel compelled to pay for his further education.


Thank you for writing in. I’m so sorry that your daughter passed away. What an awful thing to happen.

You don’t ask a question, so I’m not sure what you are looking for. Are you asking my opinion of your resolve not to pay for your grandson’s further education? If so, the short answer is: Your money, your choice.

Here’s a longer thought. Parents have a duty to bring up their kids as independent adults. This includes sending them to school and making sure they’re equipped to make their way in the world.

It doesn’t mean buying a university education. There are plenty of kids who leave school and get a job. Other kids take out loans and pay for their own college. A new trend is to get a starter diploma, to work a few years, and then to go straight into a Masters.

Your grandson has lots of options.

Do families help? Yes, if they can. But how much they help depends on their own circumstances. Rich families pay up because it’s as much of a bite as a new car or handbag.

That’s not your son-in-law. As you say, he is still paying off your daughter’s debts.

Your granddaughters have no obligation to pay for their brother. Nor do you. Money is so tight these days that we’re all afraid of what may happen. Being careful is sensible.

But as a loving family, you can support the young man in other ways.

First, you are already helping by giving him a home. As he has a secure base, all he must do now is to look for work. Once he has income, he can build up his fortunes from there.

Second, although your grandson is technically an adult, he is very young. He also lost his mum at a delicate age.

You judge him as not smart and not diligent. It’s uncharitable. I think it’s useful to ask here, whether this way of thinking is standard for you. If it is not, then it may be that you have longstanding grief that affects your mood. A mental health professional can help you with this.

Either way, change your mindset. We all have our burdens and we don’t always show them, not even to our close family.

Also, life for young people today is quite different than it was for us. They have more pressures, and much less fun than we had. Economics are also wildly different.

So, as you have opened your home to your grandson, move beyond this and embrace him and your granddaughters with a loving heart. Be kind and encourage them.

Be there for your grandson as he goes for interviews. And when he lands his first job, cheer him on. Life is hard and he needs his grandma to have his back.

I hope this is what you were looking for.

Again, I’m sorry for the loss of your girl. My heart goes out to you.

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