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The Reason Parents May Be Enabling Addictive Behavior

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Parents bear the responsibility to help prepare children for life. Naturally, parents want what is best to make children successful and happy but sometimes that instinct can also hurt children. Learn how a family can help a loved one with addiction without becoming an enabler and how to quit enabling if the cycle has already begun.

Why Enabling Happens

Parents often feel a sense of failure when a child turns to drugs or alcohol as a teen or adult. In an effort to help the child overcome addiction, parents turn to enabling to cope. This comes from a truly loving desire to help but the actions may push a child further down into the spiral of addiction, taking everyone and everything with the spiral in its path. It is possible to stop enabling a child with addiction.

Definition of Enabling

Enabling is doing something for the person with addiction he or she should do on one’s own. When parents enable, it is usually an attempt to protect the child from getting hurt or destroying future prospects. By protecting the child from consequences of negative behavior and actions, the problem is allowed to grow larger, sometimes out of control.

How it Happens

Some of the more common examples of enabling behavior may include:

Allowing the child to live at home after age eighteen even though no contribution is being made to the house economically or otherwise. Without expectations, the child has no obligations to meet which makes it easier to spend money and time on drugs or alcohol.

Paying attention to rent or mortgage is not the responsibility of parents. When this is handled on behalf of the loved one with addiction, it makes it easier to use that money for drugs or alcohol.

Paying bills for the child so a car is not repossessed, cell phone turned off or other things delayed, the trend continues downward. If parents stop paying, the child must then face consequences which can spark a desire for positive change.

Bailing out a child from jail or going to court on behalf of the child may do more harm than good. Sometimes being locked up is the only realization a child can have as to the nature of negative consequences which cause a turn in the negative events of his or her life.

How to Stop

Understanding addiction is the first step for parents. It does not make sense if a child continues using drugs or alcohol in spite of consequences if lying, cheating and stealing is allowed to continue. Because of stigma around addiction, it may bring shame to the family to admit a problem exists but it is either this road or letting the child go down the negative path of destruction, taking everyone down in the process.

If you have further questions or concerns about helping a child with addiction, call us. We are here to help support you through the process with information and resources about addiction and treatment.