Are you held hostage by your adult child?

Holding the parent hostage: the upheaval of authority within family systems.

Much has been said and written about children behavior regarding understanding boundaries and keeping each individual safe. However, in my practice is seen the more abusive behavior towards parents by young adult children.

Most concerning are how young adults (YA) blow up the family systems model by overturning authority within families. The YA emerges as the prison guard over parents who are older, incapable of protecting themselves from the assertiveness, aggressiveness and violence. The YA now hold the keys over life, car, house, family dynamics and the emotions of their parents. They are literally holding their parents’ hostage using extreme emotions and expectations.

In a most recent case I’ve come to know a young adult in treatment who is so highly critical and aggressive towards parents, now saying that he will begin by suing them or “do something worse” if they attempt to withhold him their finances, any attempt further interrupting and directive over life (to include additional treatment or therapies), etc. The YA sets up to commandeer the family, even while staying out of the house.

Certainly, this type of oppositional / anti-authority behavior begins during early childhood upbringing with over lenient, and often super emotionally needy caregivers / parents who “can’t do” enough for their children — creating finally a young adult who “can’t do” anything for her or his self, except rely on parents for everything.

So, what to do? The courts and law enforcement can be of use; however, legal services are not treatment oriented. Clearly, an intervention can shift the dynamic, but not without recognizing the need for long-term change and introducing parent / YA education and continuing treatment. The usefulness of program solutions can’t be underemphasized. Neither can the usefulness of a family therapist, such as Neil Brown, with whom I regularly work.

As a psychologist who possesses decades of experience within the behavioral health field, I have successfully assessed and placed many YA’s into supportive residential programs. YA’s who today thank me for turning their sinking lives into successes. They just couldn’t fathom how to do it, until a treatment, mentoring program was introduced to guide them.

Without sounding simplistic, it’s fundament to empower both the parents and the YA to look to apply themselves elsewhere, somewhere they can make a solid difference for themselves in individual growth, while bringing back a healthy family system thanks to professionals. I would invite other professionals’ collaboration with me on this critical topic of family resources.

Why a Licensed Educational Psychologist in Court?

NY Supreme Court Expert Testimony Oct 2022

The purpose of my professional involvement in the court is particularly critical when questions of school choice are involved. Recently, a question of least restrictive environment (LRE) was entered into court discussion around a special education student. The question from the one parent of whether her child would emulate the behavior of others in a more restrictive setting where behavioral outbursts were often, yet unpredictable, resonated. Mood stability was not an ongoing issue for the daughter who had more learning challenges due to physical limitations. After my presentation and much discussion, the family law judge was able to understand the population making up the restrictive classroom setting, and agreed with my analysis that mainstream classes were more appropriate in providing better learning opportunity for the daughter. This is just one of many examples where a licensed practitioner is of value to helping the court determine ”best interests” of the child. For more information on our expert court educational services visit

Sometimes it takes time away….

I wrote a song, “Love Is All that Matters” on this very subject.

I recently helped in the placement of a young man needing time away to work through challenges of life and his addiction. Outside Cape Town. It’s been a success so far, and even though it was quite a change in location, all agree it’s worth the time, distance, and effort.
South Africa has its own way of healing both people and existential concerns. Nothing happens too rapidly, giving opportunity to reflect, resolve, and restart again. There are few distractions, only natural beauty, wild life, ocean and people who care.

If you know of someone, perhaps yourself that could benefit from treatment abroad, let me know. I do not do one size fits all — rather “your size fits you” individually perfect and fitting for you and your needs.

I wrote a song, “Love Is All that Matters” on this very subject. I’m happy to share it with you. Caution — it might convince you to get help !

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

If you are finding yourself anxious, distracted, moody in this time of COVID pandemic, here is a podcast for you to help explain what’s happening. The podcast: This is Your Brain on Stress (Jan 12) by Sanjay Gupta interviewing Robert Saplosky, Stanford Professor gives us description of how our brains are trying to adapt to present ‘super stress’ situations; situations that aren’t really there for us to manage.

What to do? Of course we have the same answers provided to us by many health professionals, including psychologists — exercise, meditation, diet. The takeaway here is that the “longer you wait to intervene the hard the battle” will be. In other words — don’t put off fending chronic stress before they turn into mood disorders including depression and anxiety. Stress also speeds up cognitive aging and decline.

Gupta has a HBO series on this matter of Stress titled “ONE NATION UNDER STRESS, Investigating the Historic Decline in American Life Expectancy” that debuts March 25 on HBO. We will want to watch to understand how stress actually shortens our life expectancy in the US. Are you, or your family member under intense, chronic stress? There are programs for every age to work to alleviate chronic stress.

Let’s face it — we’re ALL under stress, whether it be chronic (long term) or acute (short term). We have our ways of dealing with stress, some are better than others. Ways such as alcohol and both prescription or non-prescription drugs are not as helpful. Some of us just scream and tantrum, while others hold it inside. Let’s talk to find a solution that fits and is unique to your needs.