Question for Betty.
For years now my parents have been borrowing money from me and rarely pay it back.  Now I'm 19, in my second year of college and have expenses of my own.  So for the summer I worked at a fish canary during the Herring season and didn't stay for salmon because my grandpa was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  I made $4,000 is 3.5 weeks moving heavy fish racks full of fish, to be able to pay for some of my expenses and now they have borrowed all of it and I know they will not be able to pay it back.  I can never say no to lending cause it's always for something important like food, water, electricity, or gas money.  I'm furious cause now I can't pay for books or health insurance, etc., and neither can they.  I told them this when they asked for money, and they said, "we'll pay you back before you go to school," but they haven't.  I don't know what to do anymore, I've been thinking of breaking off contact and not coming to visit ever again, but it will break their hearts.  But when I make more money they will use it all again, I'm sure or it.  I don't know what to do.  Please help.
Betty's Answer.
Thanks for your question.  It sounds like you have really tried to plan for your successful future and are seeking financial stability.  It can be very hard to refuse helping people with important things like food, water, electricity, and transportation.  Do they spend their own money on these necessities too?  Or does their paycheck go to non necessities that might leave you feeling you have to cover the necessities?
Before breaking off contact, you might want to explore other ways to set boundaries with you family.  For example, you could start a bank account that they do not have access to and only share the details that are relevant to them.  You could develop a budget and determine how much money you have left over each month to offer to your family.  Maybe this way you could offer the money with no expectation of return allowing both you and your family to appreciate this assistance you are willing to provide.  Maybe you could help them in non monetary ways by accompanying them to the food bank, or if they live out of the area, finding the information for them for food caches and utility assistance.

If they do not pay you back, as they have promised, maybe you could have a conversation with them prior to the next request.  You could say something like "You promised to pay the money back, and you didn't.  I understand things are really difficult for you financially, and I wish I could help.  I am working really hard to secure a future for myself through education.  I love you too much to have our relationship ruined because of money.  I really want a relationship with you and I am not willing to lend you any more money until this debt has been repaid.  I will continue to call, visit, share with you what I have learned about budgeting, and seek out resources for you."

There are a multitude of cultural factors that may impact how you want to handle your situation.  I admire your willingness to keep your attention on your goals and also your compassion for your family's situation.  This predicament can be a barrier to students staying enrolled in school, so you are wise to attempt  to resolve this problem now.  I would encourage you to schedule an appointment with a counselor to explore what you could say to your parents that might feel authentic for you and consistent with your values.  Call the Student Health and Counseling Center to schedule an appointment with a counselor at 907-786-4040.