I wrote a piece a while back on parental substance abuse, and the fallout this has on their kids. Given the great number of celebrities that headline the news about their struggles with addiction, there is rarely a mention of the ensuing damage this has on their children.
While growing up with an alcoholic or addict can be devastating, parentification is almost always going to be part of their dynamic. This phenomenon has two things in common: parenting and addiction. Pretty simple but incredibly complicated.
Like substance abuse, parentification is an equal opportunity destroyer. It matters not if you are famous, rich, middle class or homeless.
I've always had this inexplicable deep caring for young girls, wanting to help them, guide them, mentor them. Perhaps because I myself grew up with an alcoholic mother and somehow survived, and thrived. I emancipated myself at 15. Much of that story I wrote in my first book, A Halfway Decent Girl.
Then I had to wear the mask of "perfection" so people would leave me alone. A perfect GPA, excelling at sports, hanging out with older people to appear sophisticated and killing myself physically to have the perfect body. But, sadly, you still hate yourself.
So I recognize these girls immediately. I read that Paris tried to emancipate herself as well. We can only hope she succeeds, and fast.
From Paris Jackson to Lindsey Lohan to Amanda Bynes to Bobbi Brown to Kelly Osbourne, what I see is pain. They are all in tremendous pain and a lot of confusion.
And unfortunately when someone is in pain, they try to hide behind a disguise of anger, fake perfection, silliness or some kind of masked behavior in an effort to keep people away.
But truthfully they feel very alone. And in today's world of technology, a secret window to the outside world, many of them are met with cyber bullying. We see it over and over.
The problem is it's very difficult to keep up the pretense. In my own experience, the anxiety and depression was so great by the time I got to college, the school psychiatrist gave me "calming" pills, but then I needed cocaine to perk me back up so I could run a marathon. Which lead to addiction, which lead to recovery, which lead to finally trusting someone enough to talk about my feelings and my past. My own addiction cycle lasted two years, in many ways I was incredibly lucky. And remain grateful.
I want to help all of these girls, and when I see Paris Jackson, so completely lovely but thinks otherwise, it's clear she too is a victim of parentification. She's adorable, in many ways a typical teenaged girl but one that also believes she is ugly without make-up, calls herself weird and crazy and cuts gashes into her skin.
If that were not enough, she is being dragged through a horrific trial as a Plaintiff! full of mud slinging and further ugly rumors about her father, a man she clearly adores.
This entire Michael Jackson lawsuit to me is a pathetic debacle based on greed and nonsense, and no one is considering the consequences that rests on his children's heads.
I have not been following this trial, nor will I, but I can see it's all about money. Nothing will bring Michael back and he has left an incredible legacy. Leave it alone.
Did the Jackson family actual believe AEG was made up of kindly folks who only had Michael's best interests at heart? Truly beyond my comprehension given they know how this business works very well. The whole thing is preposterous.
Further troubling is their 24-hour lock on Paris and the two boys. Let them go already.
It seemed for the first time in their lives they all attempted some semblance of normalcy through school and friends, as much as that is actually possible. Paris was home schooled her entire life. How could she have been even remotely prepared for a private school swarming with "mean" girls who had their own opinion of the Jackson clan? How could you navigate that? No one gave her tools. Clearly she was trying to reach out in the make-up video. "Act normal." That is what kids of alcoholics try to do.
I suspect now she will be on some kind of lockdown. Any progress she made, possibly lost. This girl can't make a move without bodyguards, cameras, and around the clock surveillance.
My hope for her is she continues to develop more of a relationship with Debbie Rowe, if only because it gets her out of the Jackson compound and around a woman who can possibly help her divine the actual truth.
I can tell Paris is a strong girl. On the plus side of kids with addicted parents, narcissistic parents and celebrity parents, they often develop incredible coping skills, keen perception, great empathy, strong intuition, the ability to arbitrate situations like a pro and are highly creative. She will see the truth. She will get out of this circus one day, hopefully soon, and build her own life.
A few signs of parentification:
Giving others more value than they're worth
Underestimating their own intelligence
Shame, guilt, anxiety, depression
Taking on the role of caretakers
Feelings of disconnection to their real self
Fear they cannot meet their own expectations
Now having young daughters of my own, even despite my best efforts as a sober, loving parent, society still works against you. Girls, through the media, are told over and over they will never measure up, they should not speak up, their best is not good enough. Not to mention the bullying that is now the norm at schools. It's a daily battle to stop this wave of negativity that is directed toward them.
When you add to that a parent, who despite their best efforts, can't even parent themselves, the child simply has no compass, no inner security and a weak sense of self. Often they are doomed. The troubles further compounded when every single member of the family wanted guardianship.
Are they trying to be the Weird Sisters of Macbeth? ^^^^^^^^
Is it any wonder the Jackson kids, particularly Paris, just wanted to know what it might feel like to be average? To find out whom exactly might be genuinely looking out for her?
The only upside to constant news coverage of troubled celebrity kids is the potential awareness this can have on other parents. Sure, these people are not like us, but kids are kids.
Parents have to be diligent in keeping the lines of communication open, have the ability to recognize when their child is in trouble and have a strong foundation that began the day the child was born.
My heart goes out to all of those suffering. As a parent, I believe it is all of our responsibilities to be aware of all kids, and not turn the other way when you see problems. Many times kids can't talk to their parents or guardians. It doesn't mean they can't talk to you.
Both Alateen and Alanon are great places for support and are available everywhere: