Are you killing your kid with kindness? If you are parents that are enablers that have set up a trust fund for your kid, think twice about your action. As a psychiatrist that specializes in addiction, I am exposed a lot to the “trust fund baby crisis”. In other words, I treat young people who fund their drug and alcohol use with the money YOU are supplying them. Trust funds perpetuate teenage alcoholism and teenage drug abuse.
Trust funds are a form of “enabling”. They often prevent a teen from becoming a self-sufficient, independent young adult. Families set up trust funds because they want to make things “easier” for their children compared to how they grew up. BIG MISTAKE!
Trust funds are the fastest way to drive your teen toward dependence and laziness. Trust funds are crippling and often plant the seeds for developing addiction. Addiction combined with a lot of money can be lethal. Trust funds disable your teen by interfering with 4 key life lessons:
1. We grow by meeting challenges we are not sure we can meet. By stretching our boundaries and succeeding, we build confidence and skills, whether it is an academic success, athletic success, or social success.
2. We learn to value money by “sweat and toil”. If money is given and not earned, it is not “valued”.
3. By “making a living” we learn about delayed gratification. We wait for a paycheck, we budget our expenses in order to afford a purchase, and we learn to save. We learn to “put off” immediate pleasure.
4. Earning money gives us a sense of satisfaction. It is an external validation of something positive we have accomplished on our own. We learn to understand that by working hard, we will be rewarded for our persistence, focus, and dedication.
Setting up a trust fund for your teen literally robs him from standing on his own two feet. Here is a case from my practice:
T.S. is a 26 year-old boy whose parents sent him to me for excessive drinking. He had a history of teenage alcoholism and never finished high school. His grandparents left him an inheritance. He has never worked, has never succeeded in school and has been drinking since age 13. Unfortunately, the one skill he has developed is drinking alcohol. He has failed 2 treatment programs because after he is discharged, he always returns to living in his apartment (paid for by the inheritance) where he eventually relapses after he feels bored doing nothing. He has enough money to pay for an apartment. He spends a lot of money on alcohol.
T.J. has no idea how to get a job. He has no skills and has never learned to “buckle down”. He has very low self-esteem and is easily frustrated. He also has no interest whatsoever in the work world. He says he does not want to be under anyone’s control (i.e. a boss), yet he is under the control of alcohol.
His parents are waiting for him to run out of money (which will be soon), so he will be open to getting the help he needs to succeed in sobriety. If he had not had his inheritance, he would have had to finish school, get a job, and would probably have cooperated with alcohol treatment. His inheritance has made it almost impossible for him to get well. His situation is very similar to the trust fund addicts I treat. Most of them do not work, don’t go to school (or take very few classes), spend money on drugs and alcohol, and live in beautiful places that their trust fund pays for. They are essentially rewarded for their addiction!
A trust fund baby or “trust fund addict” has never been pushed in school where discipline skills first begin. Are you guilty of making excuses for your teen like- “he had it so hard when we got divorced” or” he had attention deficit disorder and school was too hard for him” or “his father was an alcoholic”. Expect more from your teen and you will get more.
Parents; do not be enablers!. Trust funds, more often than not, are damaging. Set expectations for your teen or young adult child that they have to work or do well in school. If necessary, get tutors. If ADD is present, have it treated. Get legal counsel on getting control of their trust fund money if teenage alcoholism or teenage drug abuse has been present. Addiction problems that start early often continue into young adulthood.
Don’t raise a trust fund baby! Don’t fund and perpetuate your teen’s addiction. Support your child in becoming independent and successful. After all, that is our job as parents.