How to Avoid Enabling Your Child’s Addiction



  August 23, 2018    

Although you want to give your child all the help you can when it comes to quitting his or her substance abuse, sadly, all too often, families make things harder for their children to remain sober without ever realizing they are exacerbating the problem. Loving families should, in theory, help each other to bring out his or her best side. However, addiction harms families by promoting unhealthy patterns of behavior. Families that are stuck in the cycle of anxiety, fear, and frustration often find they are unable to turn the situation around without professional help. And, the more they learn about enablement and why it should be avoided, the more they realize they could actually be affecting their children’s chances of recovery.

What Does Enabling Mean?

The term “enabling” refers to actions that reinforce an addict’s behaviors and allow them to continue. By enabling, you are encouraging your child to keep using drugs or alcohol because he or she experiences no negative consequence as a result of his or her actions. It is only natural to want to protect your addicted child by justifying his or her bad behavior, making excuses for them, and trying to pretend that life is normal. However, doing this only serves to increase family tension, worsen any financial problems and prolong your child’s addiction.

How Do Parents Enable Their Children?

There are many ways in which parents enable their addicted children, although they don’t always realize it. Here are some of the actions they often take:

  • Accepting excuses – This allows your child to justify his or her substance abuse and rationalize the way he or she behaves rather than trying to deal with emotional problems in a healthier way.
  • Paying bills – If you pay his or her bills, your child will never feel the financial impact of his or her addiction.
  • Making excuses– If you’re always calling up his or her school or work to make excuses about why he or she can’t come in, this shields your child from the impact of his or her addiction.
  • Driving him or her around – If your loved one has lost his or her license to drive it can be tempting to step in as chauffeur. However, this, again, is protecting your child from the consequences of his or her addiction.

Setting Boundaries

Although it can be hard to start setting boundaries for your child for the first time, it is a key step in helping him or her to recover from addiction. Gather everyone together who enables your child and talk about how you all can contribute toward making positive changes. If just one person continued enabling your child, the entire family’s progress will be rendered irrelevant.

Here are some rules you should put in place for everyone involved:

  • Never cover up for bad behavior – If your child behaves badly while under the influence of drink or drugs, don’t be tempted to protect him or her from the consequences. Don’t be his or her cover.
  • Never buy any alcohol or drugs for him or her– Remove all temptations from the house and from any family celebrations to show your support.
  • Get some counseling – Although many people feel that treatment is just for someone who has a substance abuse disorder, in fact, the whole family can benefit. Addiction rehab provides support and healing for everyone in the family.
  • Encourage treatment – When your child begins to experience the consequences of his or her addiction, he or she may be ready to acknowledge he or she needs to change. You can then encourage your child to seek out professional help and to get into rehab.

Tips for Parents

For parents who want to protect their children, it can be hard to accept you need to take steps to stop enabling them for their own good.

Here are some tips to make the process easier:

  • Get peer support – There are peer support groups out there for family members that give a forum to discuss issues and vent emotions. By listening to others’ experiences and sharing your own, you can get useful advice and the vital support you need to help your child.
  • Talk openly to your child about change – By opening a two-way dialogue with your child about the behaviors he or she should change, you can help to foster an honest and open environment with a positive focus. Make clear limits, remain positive, and avoid arguments while discussing issues.
  • Work together – A focused approach between all family members is the only way to succeed. However, if each person limits the amount of time he or she spends with the addicted individual, the less pressured and manipulated he or she will feel.
  • Let the police get involved – Many behaviors linked to addiction are illegal, from stealing drugs, alcohol or money to driving while intoxicated. Even if you have the ability and the finances to help your child to overcome the legal consequences of his or her actions, you should resist the temptation to get involved.
  • Don’t give him or her any money – Even if your child is asking you for money to help cover debts or to pay for essentials, don’t give in.

It is important to remember that if at first you don’t succeed in persuading your child to seek rehab treatment straight away, never give in to your child’s demands. Enablement is never going to be the key to success. Keep encouraging your child to get professional help and, eventually, he or she may begin to consider it and act.

Getting Family Addiction Treatment

SOBA College Recovery Addiction Treatment Center involves the whole family whenever possible in its customized approach to rehab. By encouraging a positive family support network for the addicted person, it is possible to give your child the best chance of long-term recovery surrounded by the right positive attitude.

SOBA treats the underlying causes behind addiction, as well as the addiction itself, in a dual-pronged approach that helps young people to face the challenges of life without relying on the crutch of alcohol or drugs to cope.

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