child over 18? skip this post

I wish I could do that. I wish I could target posts to those who it might help and not bother or harm those it might upset. But this is a message we have to get to parents of younger patients: "GET HELP BEFORE YOUR CHILD TURNS 18."

Not just get help, but do everything you can to get your loved one well and HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE for after 18. After 18 you will not have legal standing, you may not get professional support for being involved, and you may, as Batty Mom so movingly says

"And, meanwhile, their parents and other people that love them and want to save their lives are faced with taking a ringside seat to watch the destruction take place.

Like being gagged and tied up, forced to watch your own child being fed to the lions in some hellish Roman arena. Just because it's the law."

Yes, you may be able to retain a relationship, you may be able to find clinicians who will insist on giving you a role, you may have financial or moral or practical agency. But the "hellish" experience of so many parents I have met is real and happens even to parents who did a great job before the loved one turned 18. Tragic, horrible stories cross my desk and most of them have to do with patients over 18 whose parents want desperately to help and WOULD but are held back by that "over 18" issue. 


  1. In many places it is 16, and I have heard of parents being excluded when the child is 14 but yes, when your child becomes an adult by whatever terms that is defined, the law and convention make it very difficult for you to step in and actively be the driving force behind help - difficult but not impossible so if your child is 18 or 38 don't despair, he or she still needs you and it is still possible to help them, it just might take a lot of creativity to do it.

  2. I know of a case where parents took guardianship (and a treatment center subsequently obtained short-term mental health certification) for a young lady over the age of 18. It can be done and the legal system is more and more aware of these cases. There are options available even if your son or daughter is over 18.

  3. Families all over the world have found creative, courageous, loving ways to deal with or avoid the pitfalls of legal age. If your loved one is over 18 (or younger in many places) you do what you have to do. I just wish families with kids under 18 knew how important it is to think ahead on this.

    I also wish more families would consider the number 18 as a legal but not a moral or loving limit. Fight for your children's future at ALL ages.

  4. @Marcella - I think this may be confusing age of majority laws with guidelines regarding the confidentiality of psychiatric notes. I have heard of psychiatric programs use such well-meaning but deeply misguided approached to eating disorder treatment. My advice to parents who run into this situation: find a medical program that treats your child's illness like any other medical illness. Can you imagine an oncologist telling you you can't participate in your 16 year old child's cancer treatment? I think not.

  5. I wish everyone COULD change providers at will, but those laws in the UK go along with a national health system where that choice doesn't exist.

    Worse still, even in countries where the legal age of agency is 18 many providers consider teens over 16 to be competent to decide on care.

    We need to change these laws and these customs.


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