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Weekly Reader 1.18.11

Blame the parents?

The massacre in Arizona set off a media blitz of coverage, including articles about the parents of 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman charged with the killings.  Should his parents have been alerted by his erratic behavior?  Should they have sought professional help or called police?

Pete Earley, the author of a book about his own son’s mental illness, argues “Don’t Blame the Parents” in USA Today.

Perhaps the most hurtful comment leveled at parents is that they should have done a better job raising their child. Would you attack a parent’s child-rearing skills if his son or daughter had cancer? Mental illnesses are just that: illnesses.

Blaming parents is easy, but before you throw that first stone, try walking in our shoes.

While Mr. Loughner’s behavior was disruptive enough to get him suspended from a local college, the warning signs are not always so obvious as a CNN piece points out:

The reality, however, is that the line between unusual behavior and someone being a true threat is murky. And there aren’t many options to detain people who exhibit disturbing behavior but have not committed a crime, experts said.

So what is parent to do when they suspect  an adult child has behavioral or mental health issues? Some of the suggestions from experts:

  • Reach out to them. Ask — not in an accusing tone — what’s going on. Make it easier for them to get help;
  • Discuss the problems or symptoms in a matter-of-fact manner, rather than a confrontational tone;
  • Call a local chapter of The National Alliance of Mental Illness and ask for referrals for children or adolescent mental illness;
  • Schedule an appointment with mental health professional and explain what you’re seeing.

One of the difficulties in deciding how to handle the situation is that sometimes the strange behavior doesn’t start until young adulthood.   In fact, the late teens and early 20s are a time when “many mentally ill people experience their first psychotic break,”  says Paul Ragan, a psychiatry professor at Vanderbilt University’s medical school.

Interviewed in USA Today, Dr. Ragan points out that the three leading causes of death for ages 15 to 24 all involve some kind of violence or trauma: unintentional injury, homicide and suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  He adds:

Although people in their early 20s are in the prime of their physical health, they’re also going through huge changes — such as graduating from college, moving away, starting a new job — that can leave them without crucial support.

When Grandma Moves In

Many baby boomers are sandwiched between the boomerang kids home after college and an aging parent who can no longer live alone.  Living with three generations in one household is not always easy, sometimes resembling a bad TV sit-com.

Some tips for baby boomers on how to ease the transition from “How to Make Multigenerational Living Work”:

  • Get in a groove. Consistency will help minimize the inevitable disruptions. Keep to routines such as mealtimes and bedtime rituals.
  • Don’t get caught in the middle. Often, parents are in no-man’s-land trying to please the older and younger generations. You can’t be expected to take care of everyone if you are running on empty.
  • Be realistic. Only so much furniture can fit in a house. People can only be expected to change so much over a lifetime. Teens are going to want to hang out with their grandparents only so much. Elders will be willing to handle only a certain volume level on the stereo. There are only 24 hours in a day. And you can be in only one place at a time, no matter how much everyone needs you.
  • Make memories. Capitalize on the opportunities you have with multiple generations in the household. Have fun and treasure the time.

And When GenY Moves Out?

What do they want? Not your sprawling suburban  house! That’s what a survey found that asked GenY about their ideal  home sweet homes, most likely an apartment or condo in some mythical planned community.

On their wish list: they want to walk to work and stores (no cars), they want to barbeque (but no lawn to mow), they want to entertain and work out (in their building’s party room and gym) they want to shower after that workout (but not in a tub).  The findings were presented by panelists at a recent  National Association of Home Builders conference.

What else?  According to “No McMansions for Millennials”:

Oh, but don’t forget space in front of the television for the Wii, and space to eat meals while glued to the tube, because dinner parties and families gathered around the table are so last-Gen. And maybe a little nook in the laundry room for Rover’s bed?

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