Thursday, September 10, 2015

Parenting Pointers: The Trauma of Privilege

"Parents must immediately take a step back," says Harriet Rossetto, founder of the educational institution and residential treatment center Beit T'Shuvah. "This generation's inclination toward over-parenting is devastating to the child and the parents."

Ms. Rossetto is working with families daily who are negatively impacted by an over-indulgent approach to raising a child. She first made the connection between parenting in affluent families and the failure to launch of their children fifteen years ago. Now with rates of depression, addiction and suicide on the rise, she felt the urgent need to share the knowledge Beit T'Shuvah applies with families, so others have the opportunity to fix these problems before it's too late.

Beit T'Shuvah is announcing the launch of an awareness campaign on "Trauma of Privilege."  This effort will include discussions, workshops, and educational outreach explaining how parents cause this trauma, what they can do to avoid it, and how teenage and adult children can undo the damage. 

The educational institution conducted a study, Drug, Alcohol, and Risky Behavior Report, which proves the rates of depression among affluent teens and young adults correspond to the rates of depression and anxiety suffered by incarcerated juveniles. "These children feel overlooked, believing as long as they appear to do well on the outside in athletics or with top grades, that no one will ever question or care if they're falling apart on the inside," explains Rossetto.

The "Trauma of Privilege" is not referencing the top 1% of society, but rather families privileged enough to have the time and inclination to be over involved in their children's lives. Rossetto explains, they often helicopter to the point of eliminating choices, challenges, and the growth essential to discovering individual passions. 

I had a chance to do an interview to learn more.

How can being raised in a privileged family cause trauma?
I’m referring to families privileged enough to have the time and inclination to be over-involved in their children’s lives. In treating many of these young adults for addiction, we’ve recognized a pattern of parenting that leads to these children feeling lost.  The parents have gone above and beyond to give them everything and to save them from failing. Privileged parents often use their influence to better position their child as athletes, for the best grades, and to get into the best colleges.  Ultimately, they end up pushing their child out of the game of life. While these children may appear to be outwardly successful in many areas like school and sports, they have a lack of drive and purpose, and ultimately question their self-worth.

Why do you think this type of trauma is often overlooked?
These adult children felt they could never measure up to their parents expectations. They are convinced their parents only care about image, and not who they really are.  “Perfect kids” feel they’re not allowed to have doubts or problems, so they hide them. As long as they do well and looked good on the outside, no one asks questions. They had done everything they were supposed to do but still felt empty.

What can parents do to make sure they aren't causing harm to their children by over-parenting?
The only way they can help their children is to back off and allow their child to repair his/her own life. Children need to fall to learn how to get up. Parents should immediately stop activities like doing homework for their children, solving their problems, interacting with adults like teachers on their behalf, and referring to their activities in “we” form such as “our soccer game” or “our art project.”

If parents realize they are starting to slip into that trap, how can they release control while still providing a loving environment?
Parents need to give themselves a break and recognize that the most loving gift they can give their children is independence and self reliance. They have to release control to allow for growth.  Not only will the child immediately start to learn how to solve problems, even if by failing, but the parents will begin to realize that they can enjoy a separate life without being so dependent on their child’s successes.

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