Would It Be Wrong to Force My Daughter to Repay Us for Her Senior Year if She Doesn’t Graduate?

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QUESTION: Is It Wrong of Me to Ask My Daughter to Pay Us Back the Expenses of Her Senior Year if She Doesn’t Graduate?

I’m a mother of 17-year-old twin girls. When I was married to my ex-husband (not their father), he was abusive in every way possible, wouldn’t hold a job. It took me a long time to get away from him. During the time with him, we moved a lot, the kids changed schools etc, because I was the only one contributing to the household income, and I couldn’t do it all on just my income.

During this time, my girls were strong; they helped me a lot, were honor students, all of that. This was their middle school years, 6th-8th grade. They started high school, we moved once more, out of district. Their school allowed them to stay, since they only had 2 years of school left, and gave them special permission. The youngest of the twins was showing signs of depression. I sought therapy for her. She sees a psychiatrist, has medication, and sees a therapist.

When the pandemic started and the kids went virtual, both of the girl’s grades started to drop. The oldest of the twins has since gotten herself together. She dropped AP classes and is focusing on her grade level graduation requirement. The youngest of the twins just doesn’t seem to care. They’re in talks of revoking her special permission, with 5 months left until graduation.

No matter what I do or say, she just doesn’t seem to care. We have had meetings with the school, counselors, teachers. The school even tried an intervention for her where they sat me, her, the principal, and all of her teachers down together. She has been told a dozen times by a dozen people that graduation is in jeopardy. She has a support system. Her grandparents on my side, her dad’s side, and both step-parents are involved. As are her aunts and uncles, both parents and step-parents.

So, am I an a****le mom for telling her that if she doesn’t graduate, she has to pay her parents back for the money that we have shelled out for senior year? At this point, we have spent (for both girls) $800 for senior pictures, $200 on yearbooks, $120 on caps & gowns, and $250 on class rings. Her step-dad and I spent $2000 on the rental for senior week.

I want my kids to experience and enjoy everything possible during their very unusual senior year and keep it as normal as we possibly can for them. She was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, OCD, and ADHD, but we are actively treating those issues. And she has no issue getting up and going to work, no issue doing what SHE wants to do.

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Would It Be Wrong to Force My Daughter to Repay Us for Her Senior Year if She Doesn't Graduate?

Community Answers

The following top answers have been selected by a moderator from hundreds of responses to the original question.

“How often do you bring up the money you will be out? I’m really just confused by this whole post.. her mental health seems like it should more important at this moment than the diploma and the party! I had a daughter who I worked very hard to keep in school her senior year. She mentioned suicide just once and truthfully the “cost” of her senior “stuff” seemed to be the least of my worries about cost…

… We worked together to keep her going. If she had decided to get her GED I would have been fine with that. It’s hard when a child has mental health issues: hard on mom and even harder on the child. Too often parents make it about themselves rather than the child! I think you really need to evaluate what it is you are more concerned about: money for events that everyone sees? Your pride? Or your child’s mental health?…

We are in the middle of a pandemic. There is no normalcy! Reading through your post, your kids seem to have weathered a heck of a lot of trauma. You advised they were strong? WTH it’s not the kids’ job to be strong. It’s the adults’!!!! Read up on ACEs scores. You put them through a lot. I imagine that the other twin is feeling very pressured also. I’ll be praying to soften your heart and for your kids to be happy and succeed no matter how they do it.”

“Coming from someone with pretty much all of those diagnoses, yes it’s hella wrong of you to ask her to pay it back. She’s struggling with depression and so many other things and you think getting up and going to work is something she wants to do? Do you not realize it’s a constant battle every single day for someone who struggles with those?…

… Oh she’s on meds, sees a counselor, has a support system? That’s cool, but sometimes that’s not enough to bring someone out of a deep depression. It’s hard to pick and choose battles. I dropped out my senior year and never looked back because of depression. The extra mental stress it takes to do homework, read and think is really hard sometimes, so work may just be the easier of two evils.”

“Those are gifts you purchased with the hope of her graduating, it wasn’t a contractual agreement. It was a parent being a cheerleader and supporter of their child’s education. That being said your child is in desperate need of love and support. If you punish her for being depressed and falling behind/not graduating then the failure would be on you, not her. She is an adolescent and needs guidance and not punishment for the financial choices you made.”

“Your MINOR CHILD does NOT owe you anything, nor should have to pay you back any money. For doing YOUR job. You didn’t have to pay all that EXTRA money on that stuff, but you did.”

“I would be more worried about her mental health than any money.”

“You chose to spend that money. Maybe she feels overshadowed. Regardless your children do not owe you for providing for them, nor do they owe you for things you decide to spend money on whether they finish it or not.”

“So basically her mental health has suffered due to your poor choices and now you expect her to just snap out of it? Take some accountability. Making her pay you back isn’t going to magically change things. Maybe you should try therapy yourself and with her.”

“Right now you should be more concerned about her mental health and stability rather than the money you spent for senior year. Please stop stressing her out more than she already is and TALK to her, try to find out the root cause of her depression and actually help her instead of just medicating her and dropping her off with a therapist.”

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