I know my opinion is not going to be popular, but here goes -- Sean and Elizabeth Canning are the adults and the parents in this relationship. They need to work harder than an 18-year-old to mend their family fences.
Rachel Canning has been called a "spoiled brat" who's suffering from "affluenza" because she is suing her estranged parents for high school and college tuition and support. I agree that she may feel "entitled," but I also think it's ridiculous that her parents have allowed her to live at a friend's home for over four months without making serious efforts to repair their relationship.
Rachel Canning & Parents' Relationship Ruined? -- They Need To Win Daughter Back
Why have the Cannings not engaged an experienced family therapist to help themselves and Rachel work through the issues dividing them?
How can they, as supposedly concerned parents, go to sleep every night, not knowing how their daughter is doing -- not knowing that she is physically and emotionally safe? How can they not be worried about her state of mind? How do they know that she isn't suffering from depression?
Whether Rachel left her family home voluntarily or was kicked out, I can guarantee you that she feels abandoned.
She actually described herself as a "throwaway" on her Facebook page on March 7. "I have been stunned by the financial greed of modern parents who are more concerned with retiring into some fantasy world rather than provide for their children's college and young adult years ... I see parents like this every day, children were always an accessory to them and nothing more, once that accessory grew up and went out of fashion ... the child becomes a throwaway," she wrote.
Sean & Elizabeth Canning: Rachel Canning Feels Abandoned
Sean and Elizabeth, I doubt that you really saw Rachel only as an "accessory" that you grew tired of. However, Rachel believes that you feel that way.
She feels abandoned. Even if she was the one who left your home, you didn't go after her or try to resolve your differences so she could come home. In her mind, that is the same as abandonment.
Rachel's lawsuit is an attempt to get your attention. Since neither of you have been trying to see her or resolve your differences, she thinks that you don't care about her. From Rachel's perspective, you're not prepared to support her education anymore because you'd rather spend your money on some new accessory. She feels you took on a responsibility when you conceived her and you need to fulfill that, even though she disappointed you by not being "perfect."
Sean and Elizabeth -- I can see her point of view. I don't see that she is so much "entitled" as genuinely hurt.
Despite the odds, she has continued to be a 3.5 GPA student at Morris Catholic High School, her private school that has not thrown her out, to its credit. Her continued school and cheerleading performance has demonstrated to you, her parents, that she is not a bad girl.
Sure, you didn't like her boyfriend, Lucas Kitzmiller, but should you really have forced her to choose between seeing him or living in your home? She didn't want to live by your house rules but in the world of 2014, were those fair rules for a 17-year-old?
I haven't seen or heard any evidence of Lucas being some terrible character. He sounds like a typical high school guy. Was it right to have drawn a line in the sand over him?
"Parents can set up rules in the house regarding who can be there but kicking her out seems rash. What message does that send -- my way or the highway," points out clinical psychologist Dr. David Gottesfeld, who specializes in treating children and adolescents. "They're certainly getting it back in spades."
Sean and Elizabeth, you've worked to paint a picture in court of Rachel as a spoiled, disrespectful girl who drinks too much. Doing that, in itself, is so damaging to your daughter, who is still trying to get into a good college and prepare for life. Her own parents are sliming her, publicly.
Now, Rachel has made some strong allegations against you two, and they aren't pretty -- accusing her mother of giving her an eating disorder and implying that her dad's behavior was too familiar. She is lashing out, and no doubt, will very much regret her allegations.
The Canning Family Needs Counseling
But I come back to you, Sean and Elizabeth. Rachel wouldn't be in court if you had pursued her with love and family counseling after she moved out.
Rachel is not a "bad" girl. "I tell parents this ... there is only one way to monitor your high schooler -- that is grades. If your child's grades are good, you can be pretty sure that they are doing what they need to be doing," advises Dr. David Gottesfeld. "A student could not obtain good to excellent grades if they were drunk or stoned or fooling around with their boyfriend."
Got that, Mr. and Mrs. Canning? Rachel's grades are very good. You don't have an inherently evil daughter. You have a daughter who feels hurt and abandoned and who sees her future slipping away, because her parents care so little about her that they haven't tried to reconcile and they won't send her to college.
"The Cannings need family counseling and Rachel needs crisis intervention and intensive individual counseling," says psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman. "Rachel's parents should tell her what the college budget is and have her find a college that fits."
Sean and Elizabeth -- your daughter is just 18. 18-year-olds are still babies. You have to be the bigger people and reach out to her, tell her that you love her, that you will pay for school, and get a therapist for all of you to work through your issues, for as long as it takes.
Do you really want the alternative -- no relationship with Rachel or your future grandchildren for the rest of your lives? It's a lose-lose situation for all of you.
Now, get out of court, thank Rachel's friend's parents for taking care of her, and thank the Lord that she hasn't done anything more rash and hurt herself.
-- Bonnie Fuller