The Difference Between Enabling and Supporting Your Child Struggling With Addiction
Realizing your child is struggling with addiction can be an extremely painful experience for any parent. You desperately want your child to stop using drugs or drinking alcohol. However, if you are like most parents, you also love them unconditionally and donâ€™t want to see them suffer.
Unfortunately, this clash of emotions can lead to some parents becoming enablers of their childâ€™s addiction. An enabler is someone who thinks they are supporting the person in need, but they are really making it easier for them to continue their drug or alcohol use.
Itâ€™s important to understand the distinction between enabling and supporting so you can help your child overcome their addictive behavior.
What Is an Enabler?
An enabler is someone whose behavior makes it easier for a loved one to continue their addictive and destructive behavior. An enabler likely believes they are helping and showing love and compassion. They do not realize they are enabling addictive behaviors.
If you are an enabler, you may believe that if you donâ€™t help, the outcome for everyone will be much worse than it already is. You might excuse damaging behavior, lend them money, make excuses, or even lie about their addiction to cover it up.
Understanding that these enabling behaviors are not helping is the first step toward becoming a more supportive parent instead of an enabling one.
Characteristics of an Enabler
Here are some of the common signs of enabling behavior.
- Ignoring the problem: When you realize your child is suffering from an addiction, you might feel a sense of denial and want to ignore the problem. By ignoring it, you might hope it goes away on its own. Instead, it will likely get worse.
- Offering money: If your child is struggling to meet their financial obligations, as a parent, you want to help. Unfortunately, when you give them money, this makes them more dependent on you and can support their drug or alcohol habits.
- Making excuses: If you find yourself continually covering up for your child or making excuses as to why they arenâ€™t around or why they are acting differently, this shows them that they donâ€™t have to suffer the consequences of their actions.
How to Support Your Child Through Addiction
If you realize that you have some enabling behaviors, you can make changes to become a more supportive parent without sacrificing the relationship you have with your child. A supportive parent wants to see their child recover and gives them the tools they need to make changes on their own.
To empower your child and become more supportive through their addiction, try these suggestions:
- Talk about the issue: Instead of ignoring the issue, talk about it head-on. Be compassionate, but make sure they understand their behavior is unacceptable.
- Encourage treatment: Your child may not agree to start treatment right away. It is ok to keep mentioning it in positive situations.
- Hold your boundaries: Create boundaries for your child and stick to them. For example, you might take them to appointments, but you will not give them money.
Substance Use Among Teenagers
One of the most common signs of an enabler is denial. You might think your teen is making good choices and saying no to substances like marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs. Unfortunately, substance use among teenagers is relatively high.
According to the CDC, about two-thirds of high school students have tried alcohol by the 12th grade. In addition, about half of all high school students have reported using marijuana.
While using marijuana or drinking alcohol once does not constitute an addiction, it is important to remember that many young people participate in these risky behaviors. If you do not address these issues early, they could lead to serious consequences like addiction or impaired development.
If you have a child or loved one who is working to overcome an addiction, a safe, supportive sober living community for young men may be an ideal recovery solution.
Contact us today to learn more about our focus on community recovery.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.