( Original article located at PNC Bizwomen )
In 2006, Dr. Madeline Levine released a book that brought a behind-closed-doors issue to light: “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.”
Through her psychology practice, Levine had identified a pattern in which the children of affluent parents were demonstrating behavioral, emotional and/or substance abuse issues. She hoped to help parents see that they were not alone and that they should seek support.
Susan Weiner founded Forging Futures, a Pittsburgh-based national therapeutic consulting service with offices in Seattle and Sarasota, Florida, for the same reasons.
“Wealthy parents often recognize that issues exist, but hesitate to admit they need help because they fear the stigma associated with substance abuse or emotional and behavioral issues,” Weiner says. “I understand, because I lived through this experience. I found that asking for help is the first step toward doing what’s right for your child and your family.”
Weiner also discovered a lack of resources for supporting the family. That realization inspired her to establish Forging Futures.
“Forging Futures is different from other counseling services in that we support the entire family,” she says. “It does no good to send a child through a therapeutic program only to have them come back home to the same circumstances that contributed to the wheels falling off in the first place.”
Those circumstances frequently involve the child’s perception that they can never meet the high standards set by their parents. Because affluence is often the result of both parents holding high-paying professional positions, children often feel pressured, whether or not their parents expect them to follow in their footsteps. Parents can perpetuate a negative environment for their children without realizing it.
At Forging Futures, licensed clinicians assess both individual and family dynamics. They strive to get a holistic view of the child’s life, reaching out to counselors, therapists, teachers or school administrators as needed, and then recommend options ranging from wilderness programs, designed to encourage accountability and healthy camaraderie while offering a change of scenery, to therapeutic boarding school, where rigorous academic programs are supplemented by therapy. Teens rising above substance-abuse issues or facing college- or job-readiness issues might opt for transitional living, where mentoring and group support help prepare them for independent living.
Weiner shares one of her favorite examples of a teen’s overcoming his challenges: “Andrew has a very loving, affluent family. A graduate of private high school, he played Division 1 sports at a renowned college. After unexpectedly quitting school his sophomore year, he was charged with a misdemeanor that revealed he had a substance-abuse problem. Forging Futures helped him navigate his path to sobriety: a wilderness program and step-down program. As part of his healing process, he began working within our program and was then hired into another support program to help other young people overcome their issues. Andrew also went back to college to earn his degree.”
Success starts with reaching out, Weiner says. “I tell parents, ‘If you think your kids are drinking too much or getting involved in drugs, or if they’re engaging in other dysfunctional or defiant behaviors, denial won’t help. Act now, before they flunk out or do harm to themselves or others, and you can get them back on a positive track.”