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    I Have Been Told That I Am an Enabler. So, How Can I Help My Child?

    “How To Stop Enabling Your Child,” “How Being a Codependent Parent Can Hurt Your Child,” “Consequences of Codependency”: these are all titles of literature parents are given at support groups. Enabling, codependent, powerless: these are all words and ideas parents hear often as they navigate the path to try to help and support their child.

    While these ideas are meant to help families, they are often confusing and, at times, used in ways that are shaming and discouraging. A parent may be used to hearing, “You need to stop enabling,” but in reality, what that parent hears is, “It’s your fault,” and, “You caused this.” These words, ideas and opinions can leave parents feeling trapped and blamed.

    A better definition of enabling comes from The Parent’s 20-Minute Guide to Change from the Center for Motivation and Change: “Enabling is acting in ways that reinforce or support (not purposefully) substance use/negative behaviors. Examples include calling work for your hungover child to (falsely) explain their absence, or giving them money to help them ‘get by’ when they run out due to their [substance] use.”

    Supporting your child and advocating for their care do not make you an enabler. What works is lifting your child up and rewarding them for their good behaviors. Small changes build confidence and create the foundation for substantive, long-lasting change. Remember, while you have been told countless times that your presence may be a trigger for your child, your presence can also be a reward.

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    Want to connect with another parent who's been there?

    Denise is one of our volunteer Parent Coaches. Like all of our coaches, she knows first-hand the challenges of helping a child with addiction. In addition to their own experiences, all parent coaches receive extensive and on-going training.

    Learn more about parent coaching

    Last Updated

    September 2023