Posted on March 7, 2014 | 2 Comments
by Linda Herman, LMHC
It had to come to this:
High school senior is unhappy with her parents. She moves out and lives with a friend’s family. She sues her parents to pay for her senior year at a Catholic high school and four years of college, saying they owe her a college education.
Apparently in the first case of it’s kind, a young woman wants to force her mother and father to pay for her college education. According to the CNN article referenced above, eighteen year-old Rachel Canning said, “My parents simply will not help me any longer…(They) should be required to provide for my support and education until I can stand on my own two feet. In order to do this, I had to take legal action.”
This case could not be more timely, as parents and their children tackle the issue of who pays and how to pay for post-high school education. Ms. Canning would appear to reflect the “entitlement” attitude about which I have written many times. My fantasy is that she led a middle to upper middle class lifestyle and was denied little. Consequently it makes perfect sense to her that her parents shelve out the cash for high school and college expenses, regardless of her behavior toward them.
She and her parents clashed over her boyfriend, her cutting classes and curfews. Things escalated at home to where she left. She says they made her leave. They say she ran away after refusing to abide by the family’s rules. She refuses to come home. (Many parents say to their children, “If you want to live here, you’ve got to follow our rules.” And many teens do interpret that as being forced to leave.)
Arguments have been presented in court on both sides. Sean and Elizabeth Canning, the parents, are “dumbfounded.” Mrs. Canning says that they have always been their daughter’s “support team, cheering her on or defending her whenever she had a problem.” Ms. Canning, however, cites “verbal and emotional abuse” which the parents deny and which the local child protective services agency has ruled out.
According to court documents referenced by CNN, Ms. Canning stated that her parents stopped paying her high school tuition and “redirected” her college funds, a sign to her that they were refusing her an education.
In addition to her schooling, Ms. Canning wants her parents to pay for her legal expenses and room and board at the home where she has been staying. I can only imagine the intensity of emotions on both sides and an ever-increasing escalation of anger and hurt.
By going to court, the opportunity for reflection and resolution has been missed. The damage to the parent/child relationship has been done. These people needed a good family therapist more than a team of lawyers. One side may win in court, but ultimately both sides in this family will lose.