Lindsay Lohan has not had what we might think of as a normal life. She was a child star, modeling by age three, staring in movies by age 11. She was living in a world where typical structures such as school, activities and friendships were hard to come by. Lindsay was already at a disadvantage. That alone could greatly affect someone’s view of the world and how they function in it. But she had other demons to deal with, namely her parents contentious divorce and custody battle over Lindsay and her siblings. That turmoil probably pushed her to the place she is in now.
As a family therapist, I can’t help but think that both of these situations, which came so early in Lindsay’s life and were ever-present during her development, have contributed to her current plight: a history of thefts, five stays in a rehab facility to overcome alcohol and drug addictions, among other transgressions that have ended up in the news. Here is why: when parents divorce, very often one or both parents look to compensate for what they believe they are depriving their children of–an intact family. They tend to feel guilty that they have taken so much away from their kids’ childhood, so it becomes extremely hard to say no to anything. Usually these parents only want to make their children happy, so they become overindulgent and say yes too frequently for fear of upsetting their kids and causing them more pain. Also, it is hard enough to deal with an angry spouse, so they look to avoid having their children mad at them too. As a result, kids simply learn that if they demand loudly and aggressively enough they can get whatever they want, and they come to feel entitled, believing they deserve it as well. When parents fail to set important limits and boundaries, guidelines that are needed to develop a sense of inner-control are absent, so children have a more difficult time functioning in a world of rules and laws.
With the recent allegations that Lindsay stole an expensive necklace, her behavior may well be about her emotional impoverishment and trying to make up for what she missed out on. Attempting to fill the emptiness, coupled with her never having learned to deal with disappointment, is most likely what motivated her; because it is certainly not about the money. This really is the story of the poor little rich girl.
From what I have read, it seems that Lindsay’s relationship with her mother has been more about being friends than a mother figure. Her mother appears to be in denial about her daughter’s drug and alcohol abuse. As is her father, who was recently quoted as saying, “Lindsay never stole a necklace.”
What chance does Lindsay have when the two people entrusted to provide guidance and direction are in the same fog she is in? It is like the blind leading the blind. Her father has been fighting the legal system his whole life. It is what she knows and she has identified with him in her continuing legal battles. His ongoing combat with his ex-wife has simply added fuel to a roaring fire that burned away any possibility for Lindsay’s learning to relate in a respectful and acceptable way since he has not been a proper role model.
The bottom line is that when parents are divorcing, as daunting as it is, it is really imperative that boundaries and limits are set and upheld. Rather than fearing that you are denying your children and making them more unhappy, know that, in fact, it is a gift of love to give them a much better shot at being a strong, functioning adult.
Please tune in to “Let’s Talk Sex” which streams live on HealthyLife.net every last Tuesday of the month at 2 PM EST, 11 AM Pacific. We look forward to listener call-in questions, dealing with relationships, intimacy, family, and friendships, at 1.800.555.5453.
See Dr. Greer’s article on The Huffington Post.