Enabling your child

When Helping Becomes Enabling

One of the instincts that comes with being a parent is the desire to help and protect your child. Most parents will do anything and everything to ensure that their child is happy, healthy and safe.

As your child grows, this is often completely necessary: when your child is a baby, you need to put up safety gates to ensure that they don’t fall down the stairs. When they are in grade school, you need to teach them how to properly ride a bike so they don’t break an arm. When they hit middle school, you need to teach them how to stand up for themselves against bullies. In high school, you make sure they know the rules of the road before you give them the keys to your car.

When you have a child who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, that instinct remains the same. With the stakes so high, you are desperate to do anything to help and protect them. But when it comes to addiction, there is a fine line between helping or protecting your child and enabling them.


What Is Enabling?


Enabling is a form of “helping” (or what we think is helping) that allows the addict or alcoholic to continue participating in his or her addiction. It is different for everyone and can take many forms. For instance, it could mean bailing your child out of jail when they get a DUI. Or covering their rent when they spend all of their money on drugs. Or even making excuses for them when others comment on their drug and alcohol abuse. “But of COURSE I’m going to help my child!” you might be thinking. “I don’t want them to go to jail or be homeless or get a bad reputation.” But the truth of the matter is, even though your parental instincts may be telling you that this is helping your child, it is actually hurting them.

Therein lies the difference between helping and enabling – enabling is actually hurting your child in that it is giving them the ability to continue with their addictive behaviors without facing any negative consequences.


How Can I Stop Enabling But Continue To Help My Child?


As a parent, it can be challenging to recognize the difference between enabling and truly helping your child with their addiction. Support groups such as Al-Anon can be a great help in understanding your child’s addiction and how to support and help them without further enabling their addictive behaviors.

A helpful way to look at the situation (often quoted on the television show “Intervention”) is to say “I will do anything to help my child get well, but I will no longer do anything to help them stay sick.” Rather than bailing them out of the inevitable negative consequences of their addictions, turn the focus to helping them get into recovery. Research options for drug rehab, drug rehab aftercare, sober living and recovery communities.

While it might be hard and your child might initially resent you for it, stopping enabling behaviors is truly the most loving and helpful thing you can do for your child that is struggling with addiction. Recovery is possible, and the likelihood of your child exploring recovery is only going to grow when you stop enabling them to continue in their addiction.

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  • Martha
    Posted at 12:24h, 25 August Reply

    Great article, Deanna. Welcome to the New Life House family!

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