When divorce drives teens into rehab

There is an increasing number of teenagers in rehab these days. Many of these teens are the product of divorce parents. Is there a correlation?

Are parents responsible for their teens’ drug and alcohol problems? Or is it the culture and times in which we are living? Or could it be a little bit of both?

Hollywood hottie Lindsay Lohan has arguably become the poster child for what happens when parents’ toxic marriage infect their children. Admittedly, the starlet is no longer a teenager, but she is not far from it, and her troubles with drugs and alcohol abuse seem to stem all the way back to her teens….I can scarcely remember a time that Ms. Lohan wasn’t reported to be under the influence of something. It’s gotten to the point that her alcohol ankle bracelets have become a sort of fashion statement and her recent stint in jail, a right of passage.

I’ve often wondered what is at the root of Lindsay’s unrest. Lately, there have been rumors in the press that her behavior has something to do with her parents Dina and Michael Lohan’s divorce. Really? I’ve always been loathe to blame parents when their children fall from grace. I believe from the age of seven onwards, human beings have something called “free choice.” They can choose to be and do what they are and what they do, notwithstanding the environment in which they were raised. Case in point, there are many teens and young people whose parents divorced who turn out quite okay. Look at Ivanka Trump for example? Last I heard she was going to be a face for the UN. Madonna’s daughter Lourdes also comes to mind as a teen who seems to be handling her parent’s divorce quite fine. Mel Gibson has a bunch of kids, some in their teens who, to my knowledge, are not in rehab in spite of their parents divorce and their father’s subsequent meltdown.

These, of course are all celebrities. I use them only because I do not know of any non-celebrities whom I can reference that would make the point to the reader.  Having said that, I could not genuinely posit that a parent’s divorce has absolutely nothing to do with a teen’s breakdown. There is too much anecdotal evidence to the contrary. And while I believe in people taking responsibility for their actions, including teenagers whose parents are divorced or are divorcing, it would be insensitive of me to say that at least some of the behavior with some of these young people, could not relate back to their parents’ divorce.

Divorce does mess up children, including teens. For children of parents who are affluent, the incidence of rehab is definitely on the rise. For those teens whose parents are not affluent, the numbers are rising as well, however, they may receive less assistance in dealing with this issue due to the lack of finances to afford extended stays in posh rehabilitation centers. That’s a whole other problem.

Addiction is a very real and very tough problem. Because what is the solution for young people dealing with addictions that were triggered by their parents’ divorce? It’s not as if their parents will get back together for their benefit. And even so, by that time the youngster is already addicted and in need of a lot of help that the parents alone cannot provide.

But it does not have to be a zero sum game. If a marriage is not working, surely there is a way that parents can end the marriage without losing their kids to drugs and alcohol. How? One way is by example. I am not sure how good an example Dina and Michael Lohan are for their daughter Lindsay. I don’t want to judge them but it seems that theirs is a particularly acrimonious situation and that this acrimony has spilled over to their daughter somehow. It would probably have helped someone like Lindsay a lot if there was more stability in that family.

To be fair to the Lohans, there are three other children in that family and they seem to be doing just fine. So, it could be that Lindsay was exposed to certain elements that were not good for her, and with the divorce such a raw pain in her mind, it was easy for her to make certain choices. I think the trick for parents is to continue to be parents post-divorce. Continue to monitor their children. Know where their children are. Be a good example (by that I mean don’t abuse drugs and alcohol themselves, don’t go out clubbing with the kids, things like that).

If all else fails, encourage the child to get the help he or she needs. In Lindsay’s case it almost seems like her mother Dina is in denial. She resents the fact that her daughter has been placed in rehab by a California judge. I don’t know how constructive or how effective this parental approach is.

Also, with divorce, it is not a bad idea to get family counseling and therapy for all members of the family and to have that on an ongoing basis….addiction is a tough disease. Sometimes all a parent can do is just brace themselves, and keep loving till this particular menace runs its course, and try to not cast blame on each other for the child’s shortcomings. As I said before, there is such a thing called CHOICE.

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