Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My stepson recently turned 21. Because he has friends who are minors, his mother warned him about the responsibilities involving the use of liquor. Despite this, he directly defied her and invited “friends” over the first night we were away from home. There was plenty of drinking involved and some of his “friends” took it upon themselves to ransack our house, stealing money, jewelry and family heirlooms. My wife and I lost more than $20,000 in merchandise, including a coin collection that I had cherished since I was a child. Our stepson was arrested for providing liquor to minors but none of the other participants were ever prosecuted for the thefts. We were very fortunate that our house was not damaged and most importantly no one was injured. Our insurance company also covered half of the losses. However, my stance has been that my stepson should reimburse his mother and me for our losses, even if it takes years. My wife maintains that his arrest and court punishment is enough. (He completed 40 hours of community service). Reaching out to the parents of his “friends” has proved fruitless. His decision to party has caused a storm within our family and tension between my wife and me. We have agreed to adhere to your opinion of how this situation should be handled. I feel helpless, because he is not legally my son.

Upset Stepdad

DEAR UPSET: Your stepson made a terrible mistake somewhat typical of his age-group and maturity level. He was caught, prosecuted and punished — and in my view, this legal consequence is completely appropriate.

You should see a lawyer to explore the possibility of suing these other families for the items stolen from your home — or take them to small claims court.

You don’t say, but I assume that your stepson is remorseful. At this point, you should choose an additional consequence that might be more symbolic than practical — so that you can close the door on this tough episode.

Instead of repaying you $10,000 for your damaged and lost material goods, you and this young man should undertake a project together that would provide a positive incentive to both of you, as well as help to repair your own relationship.

I value the work of Habitat for Humanity. Check their website (habitat.org) to find a building project in your community. You and he should spend your Saturdays renovating or building a house together. Doing this will emphasize the value of hearth and home, reminding him of his own advantages. Your job is to forgive him.

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DEAR AMY: I have a wonderful husband. He does most of the grocery shopping, the cooking, and brings me warm towels from the dryer after my showers. We have been married for 16 years and I love him. Last year he started a project at our closest friends’ home. He still has not completed it. I tried to tell our friends not to hire him because of all of the projects he has started in our home and never finished. (I am not talking about small, unnoticeable projects, but big projects like bathrooms that have been torn up for 10 years.) This is affecting our friendship. I am constantly being put in the middle, even though I tell them it’s not my project. I say they need to confront my husband, not me. When they confront me because he said he was going to finish, and he doesn’t call them or show up, I feel angry with both of them. What should I do?

Frustrated Wife

DEAR WIFE: It is challenging and confusing when someone as thoughtful and kind as your husband is toward you shows so little regard for the impact of his actions. Your friendship might not be salvageable, unfortunately.

This is about boundaries. Whenever your friends contact you, you should connect them directly with him. Don’t apologize for your husband, but do acknowledge the awkwardness.

You haven’t asked, but my amateur instinct is that your husband might have ADHD. A diagnosis, education, coaching and strategies might be a game-changer for him.

DEAR AMY: The question from “Frustrated” made my blood boil. Poor Frustrated was a 27-year-old recent graduate living at home and looking for the perfect job, while his mom was bugging him every day about employment. What a spoiled brat! He is living in his parents’ house! I can’t believe you let him off the hook.

Also Frustrated

DEAR ALSO: I suggested that Frustrated needed to get a job, which is the most efficient way of getting someone to stop bugging you about employment.