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Get Out Now

Get Out Now

Parenting can be a tricky business. What is more tricky is reading the advice from alleged parenting experts. When my two children were young, I was actively engaged in parenting. I frequently read books about the proper way to handle situations such as discipline, advice about school, age appropriate exposure to movies, what to feed them and how to deal with their mother after we divorced. At the time of my divorce, my son was three and my daughter was six years-old.

Rearing children in two separate and distinct households was a challenge. For all of you reading this blog who have also weathered that storm, you can relate to the fact that relatively simple disturbances can really rock the boat emotionally and economically. The prevailing wisdom at the time of my divorce was this odd notion that parents needed to share children as if they were some sort of property. Even more odd was those same experts created a schedule that assigned brief periods of visitation to each parent. I happily cared for my children Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and every other Saturday night until they graduated from high school. I am a fortunate parent. In spite of their bizarre living arrangement, my children both have good hygiene, have so far remained out of jail, are both sober and both are productive hard working young adults. What else could a parent want for their children?

But not every parent has it so good. Often families are not healthy. Yes, that is the descriptive term I use to describe the positively functioning immediate social unit we refer to as family. What do I mean by a healthy family? One in which both parents recognize that they are parents. One in which the children recognize that they are children. One in which decisions are made by parents to enhance the likelihood that their children will grow to be successful, independent members of society when they reach young adulthood. And one that does not enable dysfunctional behaviors of their children.

My definition of a healthy independent young adult is simple: an adult who has good hygiene, stays out of jail, maintains some degree of sobriety, and has obtained a job in young adulthood. Any job that pays for their necessities of life will do, but it would be much better if they worked at a job that they loved. Healthy young adult children are independent of their parents at the very least after college. When I was a young adult, graduation from high school served as a rite of passage to young adulthood. Today I suspect it is more associated with the graduation from college or some form of post high school vocational training or education. Our society lacks significant rite to passage rituals that signifies the change from dependent obedient adolescence to independent responsible adult, much to the detriment of our children and parents both.

Recently a number of patients in their forties and fifties have sought my care for their fatigue, weight gain, lack of memory, loss of their libido, flaring of their autoimmune diseases and/or insomnia. What this group of patients have in common is that they have a child or two, maybe three of four, who remain home after finishing high school and sometimes college. Essentially, these patients are living with young adult children who are not independent responsible young adults. Some of these children have flunked out of college, or finished college and returned home because they could not find a job to support themselves.

Some of these parents believe that their young adult children just need a little more time to mature and then try to get a job again. Meanwhile, these young adults children have vastly different worldviews from their parents. Most of them have extreme entitlement issues. They believe they should live at a standard of living that they themselves cannot afford. They do not pay rent or contribute financially to the costs of utilities, food or maintenance of their parents' home. They demand that they have the newest technological devices, have total freedom to do what they want and when they want. Some of them have pseudo-adult relationships. Frequently these young adults are dating other young adults with the same motivation: find a mate who can financially support their life without regard to love, compassion or respect for their partner. The bottom line: these young adults are toxic to their parents and other family members. They are as toxic as inhaling mercury or ingesting small doses of arsenic each and every day.

Sometimes these young adults are drug addicts, thieves, abusive, angry, violent and destructive. Some of these parents are afraid of their young adult children, so they cater to their every wish. These young adult children run their parent's lives and create chaos for everyone else in the family, including their pets. I have heard every version of why a parent must sacrifice their life to protect and serve their dysfunctional young adult children. Mother's seem to believe they have a divinely created special bond with their young adult child since they gave birth to him or her and they see him or her so much more clearly than other persons in their young adult child's life.

It is my experience that these parents who house, feed, clothe and care for their young adult children have created a delusional world in which they somehow are saving society from their disturbed children or their children are somehow special and require a lot of grace. I am not speaking about those parents who have children afflicted with autism, Down's Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, congenital genetic diseases, cancers or any other disabling disease from childhood that greatly negatively impacted their children's ability to become independent and productive young adults.

I am speaking about those parents who have nailed themselves on a cross in the front of their yard signaling that they are a Sufferer; a parent who will endure the greatest hardships including failing health to make sure their young adult sycophants are tended to. I have this vision that a Neighborhood Martyr Parent Association makes frequent trips around the neighborhood, looking for those special parents hanging from their crosses in order to award one of them Cross of the Month if their actions demonstrates the most extreme sacrifice.

How can anyone heal themselves when there is constant unrelenting stress from living in a dysfunction family? It is impossible. There is never any time to plant flowers in a hurricane; there is only enough time to hang on. Many times, these young adult parasites have created so much disturbance that the parents end up divorced. Children are the most common reason married couples divorce in this country: it is not infidelity, financial stress or illness. Either one parent abandons their duties as a spouse to care for the child or the couple never really loved each other in the first place and they had children to experience unconditional love. The sad reality is that human love is purely conditional, regardless of anyone's religious or spiritual world view. Children figure out that love is conditional very early in life and they also discover which parent is more sympathetic to their selfish needs. That parent becomes their parent of choice, the other becomes much less important in the scheme of things. Children learn very early how to manipulate their parents especially if their parents believe that their children should like them. An insecure parent looking for acceptance from their child is poison to the Souls of both. An insecure parent is the seed that grows the dependent young adult children. It is the beginning of the end.

If you have young adult children who are independent, productive, healthy and sober, you should rejoice. Recognize that many parents have not fared so well in their parenting adventure. Those of you who have fallen to the chaos of dysfunctional young adult children living in the home, acknowledge that the problem exists and get distance from your young adult children in one way or another. At whatever age you let go of your young child's hand while walking across the street so they could go it alone, you essentially realized at that moment that they were on their own. Your job thereafter was to provide food, shelter, love, and wisdom. But your most important parental duty was to make sure that by the time your child was a young adult, they would be independent productive members of society and not living at home creating chaos. One inherent aspect of human behavior is that change is never an action of prevention. Young adult children who have everything provided for them have no incentive to change their behavior, regardless of a mother or father's insistence that the chaos must stop because one or both of them are having health issues as a result. The only way for the chaos to stop is for parents to enforce boundaries of acceptable behavior. If these do not work, evict your dysfunctional young adult children from your life. They will survive, they might even thrive once they are left to fend for themselves.

Remember what we were taught in swimming class: Never swim out to save a drowning victim unless you are highly skilled in water rescue procedures. If you do and you are not skilled, not only will the victim drown, you will too. What good is trying to save a drowning victim if the end result is that both the rescuer and victim die? There is nothing wrong with throwing them a rope to grab onto, or a life saver or something to float on.

But don't get into the water. Don't go. If you are already in the water, get out. Get out now! Your life may depend on it.

Doc
Posted by Amanda Sanders at 7:56 AM
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