Ask Deepak: How to Parent Your Estranged Teenage Son
By Deepak Chopra
June 09, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: My husband had a child with a woman 19 years ago. The relationship had already ended when she found out she was pregnant. My husband paid child support for two years, then the mother of his child met someone else and married. Her husband adopted the child and helped raise him. Just recently, the child, now a 19-year-old man, contacted my husband. Over the last few months, we've gotten to know him and have now invited him to live with us. We want to help him on his journey and hope to have a positive influence on his life. He seems like he is already aware of his truth and is interested in mind expansion and meditation and is listening to many spiritual philosophers. Now, he has found psychedelic drugs as an avenue to awareness. The problem is, I know from experience that some drugs like acid, peyote and mushrooms really do expand awareness, but as an adult trying to direct him, it doesn't feel right to condone this method. How do you feel about using drugs in order to achieve self-awareness? Is it a valid way to seek the truth of the universe? Pretty big questions to close with! Thank you for any guidance you can lend.
— Lauren G., Colorado Springs, Colorado
I'm afraid what I think about psychedelics isn't going to get at the crux of your problem. It's a bit premature to call a 19-year-old a man. He's an adolescent emerging from the most difficult time for parenting and not yet ready to enter the stage of early adulthood when parenting becomes less important. You did not guide him through those difficult years. Therefore, you aren't really in a position to have much influence. Your husband's son is a stranger, for all intents and purposes, as fond as you feel toward him.
Why aren't his parents doing the job you have signed up for? If you are rushing into the breach, by implication you don't approve of how they raised their son. Let me assure you, whatever difficulties they faced, you cannot suddenly turn the boat around. Even if this young man can't wait to escape from home, he will carry his chains with him. His old habits and conditioning will have a much stronger influence than you. Please don't indulge in wishful thinking in this regard.
I don't mean to make the situation sound dire, but I don't think you can provide what he really needs right now—boundaries. Certainly he needs love and nurturing too—one can sense how much you want to provide them. But if he's taking drugs and not hiding it from you, he doesn't regard you as someone whose boundaries he will respect. However things fall out in the future, sit down and tell him you don't want him to take any more drugs. Make it clear that this is your position. As lovingly as possible, draw the lines where they need to be drawn. Your house isn't liberty hall. Then, from his response, judge where to go next.