- Wedding: October 2019 - Chateau Lake Louise
This is so tough.
I appreciate that you want to help. It seems like a situation where trying to make sure this girl has the right kind of support has been something of a challenge. I understand the instinct to want to jump in and offer a solution, but let me caution you; that can open a huge can of worms that someone about to have their first child might not want to contend with.
I think the first step would be to try and identify what’s going on at school. If you are empowered to talk to her teachers, or the school counselor, you might get some insight into what’s going on. Is she skipping classes? Not turning in homework? Is she withdrawn because she’s being bullied?
It could be an emotional issue, or a social one. It could be that she has a learning disability, or that she needs glasses. There is an almost limitless range of possibilities, and narrowing the field could go a long way toward identifying a potential fix.
Moreover, if you are only seeing her a couple times a month, the prospect of moving in with you – and your soon-to-be-newborn – might not appeal to a 12 year old. Would that require her to change schools? Would she still be in the same neighborhood as her friends? Would you ask her to help out with the baby? How well does she know/like your husband? If she does have regular contact with the other side of her family, are you willing to take on the conflict that comes with that, now as you prepare to bring home an infant?
Now, it sounds like her grandmother has been her primary caregiver for a long time. That she is aging, and beginning to need help isn’t necessarily sufficient cause to think that isn’t a good place for her. In reality, it may benefit both of them to stay together. She’s getting old enough to help care for her Grandmother, and that can be a grounding experience for an adolescent who is struggling.
I think the first thing to do is to talk to your niece about what’s going on at school. She may be able to articulate what she’s struggling with so that the family can determine what the best way to support her is. Contact the school for additional clarity and ask them to develop an IEP to help bring up her grades.
Second, sit down as a family and discuss what the future is going to look like for niece. If she’s in middle school, the transition to High School might be a more natural time to discuss relocating her. That will give everyone time to see how things are working out now that the issue has been identified. And after the adults have talked, ask her what she wants to do. She’s approaching a time in her life where she has to start taking responsibility for her own choices. Giving her the opportunity to practice that, when the stakes are still relatively low, is a good way to help her know how to do that as she becomes an adult.
I’d take and beat and explore the situation a little futher before deciding anything, and reach out to her to tell her you care and want to help if you can. Ultimately, she’s young enough that she can still develop habits to support her getting the most out of her education. She doesn’t necessarily need to live under your roof to learn them.
ETA: Punishment is not the answer. There should be natural consequences for her actions; if she’s too busy playing video games to do her homework, take away her games. If she’s not spending enough time studying, mandate an amount of time at the kitchen table where she must review her school books. Telling her she’s not getting anything for Christmas is cruel and counterproductive. That’s punishment unrelated to her crime and unlikely to improve either her attitude or her grades.