#ADULTING: We’ve got a growing up problem in America

I know hundreds of parents who have let their grown-adult child use heroin in their house. It’s not like they are sitting there encouraging them to get high, but they know it’s happening. They picked him up off the street, they answered the phone the first time he called. They are doing everything they can to rescue him, rather than letting him fend for himself and take responsibility for his actions. After all, he is only 25-years-old, he is not ready to face the real world yet!

At the core of our addiction problem in America is one major question that no one can seem to agree on: At what age do we become adults? When are grown-adults responsible for their actions? The number seems to be arbitrary in our society these days. But I can tell you, when I was growing up, it was 18. But nowadays it’s 23, 25… 32?

Parents these days want to be friends with their kids. And I just don’t get that. I love my kids unconditionally, but I don’t want to be their best friend. I loved my dad and respected him, but he was not my best friend. The problem is parents do a poor job of raising their kids, and they try to make up for it in adulthood. There is a large percentage of parents who failed to actually parent their children so when they become grown-adult-drug-addicts at 23, they all of sudden want to get involved. Whatever the motivator – guilt, fear, approval of others – it is just not ok and will never work.

And parents who are “involved” in their young kids’ lives are more often than not passing the blame of their child’s actions off on the school, friends, teachers, anything but their perfect child. They think, it’s not my kid’s fault that she said something unkind or he punched a girl, it’s the school’s fault.

Fast forward 20 years to when your kid is in rehab for drug addiction. Parents are calling and complaining their child got kicked out of rehab because the mean therapist didn’t like him. It’s not my child’s fault he got kicked out of rehab. It’s never the drug addict’s fault.

The idea that schools, teachers, rehabs, or therapists can fix your poor parenting is bullshit. Just accept the fact that your 25-year-old child is unemployable, addicted to drugs, antisocial, defiant, depressed, and threatens suicide as a weapon. You can’t just offer a quick fix now. You spent years contributing to the creation of this person so it will likely take years to untangle the mess.

Another thing we need to think about is how divorce contributes to the destruction of childhood. You’re believing a lie if you think divorce doesn’t actually play a role in your child’s life. Too many therapists tell parents considering divorce that it is more important that a child just know they are loved, than for their parents to remain together – that is a lie. You have to look at how poor functioning some of our young people are and think about what is contributing to that.

Growing up in the 70s, divorce wasn’t very common. If it happened, it was a difficult process. Nowadays, everyone gets divorced, then remarried, then divorced again. I am guilty of it. I know. But I have never once thought that it was harmless to my children. Divorce is destructive to children. Remarriage is too. It’s painful and harmful. Yet as a society, we have all decided it is totally okay.

I think we are blind to the reality that our actions as parents have a direct effect on our children’s lives, psyches and future. Are we really that broken at accepting hard truths and facts?

I think we are blind to the reality that our actions as parents have a direct effect on our children’s lives, psyches and future. Are we really that broken at accepting hard truths and facts? Click To Tweet

We’ve got 23-year-olds calling mommy in the middle of the night to get them off the street. We’ve got 31-year-old college graduates living at home with their parents. We’ve got a growing-up problem in America.

Both sides are guilty. Liberals want to rescue as many as they can, and conservatives blame the government. We have gone from a generation of determined, hard-working baby boomers to millennials unable to make a decision and stuck in a state of expecting to be rescued.

I think it’s time we called a convention for everyone to come together to decide at what age adults are actually adults and responsible for their own actions. It’s time this generation of young adults realize that you get what you get and you don’t get upset. And Mommy and Daddy need to take a step back and stop rescuing their children every time they fall.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Bob, had to respond to this. I’m an addictions counselor in NJ and also have a teenage daughter. I agree with what you are saying and also agree with much of what you discuss with Dr Drew. I am horrified at the behavior of teens today and the behavior of the millennials. There is a complete disregard for personal responsibility and a lack of ethics and morals. I blame parents. The idea that their child is perfect and should be at the top of the heap is frightening, I believe that this fosters a sick type of personal privilege which was once only seen in the ultra wealthy. Today everyone feels that they are the king and queen bee. I find that parents orchestrate all of the kids activities down to who they are friends with. I work with people of all ages and find it sad when 40 year old men are living at home and not working, believing that mowing the lawn for their parents is living. I encourage twelve step programs which offer incentive and comraderie and teach the art of growing up, unfortunately the twelve step concept is shrugged off as having too many rules. Thank you for your contribution to recovery and all that I have learned from you. I continue on my journey to help.
    Ps, I have been in recovery for 28 years and I owe it to AA/NA.
    Dina Kelly

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