NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The Chicago mother murdered in Indonesia this summer had reportedly tapped into half a million dollars set aside by her late husband, James Mack, for their, child, Heather Mack who is now 19 years old.
“In this case using money to control the daughter backfired, because it interfered with the separation-individuation process that teens go through on their way towards a healthy adulthood,” said Dr. Jeannette Raymond, a licensed psychologist with a counseling practice in Los Angeles.
Read More: Will Today's Teens Out-Earn Their Parents or Just Live in the Basement Eating Wheaties?
Mack and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, are being held in connection with the August 12 bludgeoning death of 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese Mack in Bali.
Mack allegedly helped stuff her mother’s dead body into a suitcase that was then abandoned at the ritzy St. Regis Hotel taxi stand.
“Unsuccessful in trying to control her mother and secure the money her father had specifically designated for her make it likely that Heather Mack would need to kill the person who in her eyes was withholding what was rightfully hers,” Raymond told MainStreet.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that von Wiese Mack had originally received $340,887 of a $1.5 million settlement in 2011 from a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises filed by her composer husband James Mack, who allocated $500,000 to provide for his daughter Heather Mack before he died. However, a judge subsequently awarded Heather’s portion of the settlement to her mother, von Wiese Mack. “When a parent cannot have a relationship with a teen but wants one, money is a powerful tool by which to ensure some kind of connection even if it’s based on the threat of financial insecurity,” Raymond said.
It’s unknown whether the pair attended therapy individually or together in an attempt to address the troubled mother-daughter relationship.
“If you see signs of entitlement, label the behavior, discuss it, come up with a plan to change it and adhere to it,” said Janet Lehman, a family behavioral therapist. “It is never too late. Teens are fast learners and will rise to the new level of expectations when you set them and require them to comply.”
Another way to have handled these particular financial circumstances was for von Weise Mack to explain to her daughter why she re-allocated the $500,000 and detail when the money would eventually come to Heather.
“Teens need to learn how to make decisions and learn from money mistakes,” said Dr. Susan Kuczmarski, author of Becoming a Happy Family: Pathways to the Family Soul. “Giving them the opportunity to call the shots does teach kids some valuable lessons about money management.”
As for credit cards, some teens are responsible enough to charge and pay off expenses monthly while others have not demonstrated a level of maturity and responsibility to warrant their own credit card.,p> “Discuss long-term planning like educational funds and budgets for college,” Lehman told MainStreet. “If you neglect to share your fiscal values and educate your teen, you run the risk of a false sense of entitlement and an adult that is dependent and incapable of leaving the nest.”
Heather may have been trying to leave the nest in June when police found her throwing a party for friends at a luxury hotel in Chicago after von Weise Mack complained someone was using her credit card.
“Heather was probably trying every trick in the book to get her hands on that credit card, because it was the one way she could feel free of her mother’s control,” Raymond said. “She wanted the fight so she could finally break the noose around her neck and hurt her mother in the process.”
Although she may have been seeking emancipation, Mack took her struggle one step too far into imprisonment for herself and her unborn child.
“The use of her mother's credit card for a luxury hotel room indicates a complete lack of disregard for fiscal consequences, but this case is extreme and troubling and the underlying issues go far deeper than fiscal entitlement,” said Lehman. “The alleged brutal murder of her mother may indicate some far deeper mental issues and problems.”
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet