How To Stop Enabling Your Grown Child: Guide for Parents

It may be hard to admit – or even to notice that you’re doing it – but enabling is something that parents of addicts do very regularly. Enabling can take many forms and can be glaringly obvious, or totally invisible.

Whether parents are conscious of it or not, their actions could potentially be allowing, encouraging, or even sustaining a drug addiction. This is why every parent of an addict should be able to identify what enabling is, see when it’s happening, and gain the tools to put a stop to it.

What Is Enabling?

In simple terms, enabling your adult child is the process of allowing addiction to continue through action, inaction, or mindset by those around an addict. It can be as blatant as giving your child money when you know that they are going to buy drugs with it, or as innocent as not realizing that your child may be trying to manipulate you.

However, when enabling behaviors occur, it creates an environment in which the addict sees that they can shift the playing field in favor of their drug use. Addicts will usually go to any lengths in order to satisfy their needs, and parents end up hurting because of it. But if you as a parent are able to set healthy boundaries for yourself, stick to them, and be aware of the intentions behind your child’s words and actions, you can cut enabling out of your life and help your grown child.

Signs That You Are Enabling Your Adult Child with a substance use problem

Here are some common enabling behaviors that parents of addicts engage in.

You are providing them with financial support despite their ability to be employed

Working-age adults that are not in school and still living at home may expect their parents to provide financial support. This is a form of enabling as this financial assistance could be holding them back from seeking employment and earning money to cover their expenses, which can include drugs and alcohol.

They struggle with Failure to Launch Syndrome

Failure to launch describes adult children who fail to leave the family home and become an independent adult. This phenomenon might be caused by several factors, including mental health issues, difficulty adjusting to college life, or fear of the unknown. There is a correlation between failure to launch and substance abuse. Common co-occurring disorders include depression, low self-esteem, social, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Your adult child has no respect for you

It is quite common for adult children with enabling parents to be disrespectful. For example, they fail to respect any boundaries you set, are manipulative, communicate inappropriately, and constantly disagree and argue with you. Addicts know what they want and will go to any length to get it, even if it means manipulating their families. This can be difficult for parents who want to lend emotional support while also being a victim of their child’s selfish behaviors.

How to stop enabling grown children

Here are some tips on how to stop enabling adult kids and their addiction.

Setting and Holding Firm Boundaries is Very Important

One of the most difficult things for loving parents of addicts to do is set boundaries and stick to them. Many addicts have a silver tongue and are incredibly good at manipulating situations and emotions in favor of their desires. This creates a tough situation for parents as you may never know what to believe.

While there may not be an easy cut-and-dry solution to this problem, parents can make it a lot easier on themselves by drawing hard lines on what they will and will not do, then sticking to that firmly. If you often find yourself wavering on boundaries that you have previously set, it would be a good idea to take a hard look at how easily you are willing to give in to your child’s requests, why you are wavering on your boundaries, and how they act and react to you in situations like these.

If you are able and willing to stand firm on the lines you have drawn, then you will be much less likely to enable addict behavior and can potentially nip the whole addiction in the bud.

Identifying and Stopping Manipulation From Your Child

Identifying manipulative behavior can be difficult, especially when adult children know their parents very well and know which buttons to push to get a certain reaction.

One parent may be more willing to cave on a boundary if their adult child is throwing a tantrum while the other parent can be bullied into submission. Again, this is a difficult subject to tackle as a parent, but it is necessary to know what your emotional weak spots are in order to defend against manipulation attacks.

Addicts can be notoriously successful at getting what they want from their parents once they figure out the right tactics, so it is crucial for a parent to know how to counteract this. You can start by questioning your own thought process in situations where you are unsure of whether or not to trust what your adult child is saying or doing. If you find yourself uneasy about caving on a boundary, it is probably in your child’s best interest that you hold firm. They will not be happy about it, but in the long run, it will benefit everyone involved.

Get Started with Addiction Treatment For Adult Children

In summary, enabling your grown child is an extremely tough beast to tackle and most parents of drug addicts have dealt with it in one form or another. However, you are not alone and there is definitely a way to identify and stop it. It all starts with you as the parent, and awareness is the key. A family therapist or addiction professional will be able to assess the situation and recommend the best treatment options for the grown child and their family.

New Life House Sober Living in Southern California

Call New Life House today at 888-357-7577 with any questions regarding enabling, addiction, sobriety, or to learn more about how a sober living home can help adult kids with their addiction and mental health issues. We can help repair the parent-child relationship and get your family on the path to recovery!

Last Updated on November 18, 2022


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