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

We work with a special group of moms and dads – Parent Coaches – who, just like you, have been affected by a child’s substance use. They are volunteers who receive special training from the Partnership and our clinical partner in order to help other families through similar struggles. In these blog posts, they answer parents’ most frequent questions.

“How To Stop Enabling Your Child,” “How Being Co-Dependent Parent Can Hurt your Child,” “Consequences of Co-dependency” … These are titles of literature parents are given at support groups. Enabling, Co-dependent, Powerless – 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 my fault,” “I caused this.” These words, ideas and opinions leave parents 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: “So what IS enabling? 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 use.”

Supporting your child and advocating for your child’s care does not make you an enabler. What does work 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.

Would you like to connect with one of our Specialists for one-on-one help and learn more about Parent Coaching? Email us to get started.

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    April 3, 2019 at 9:02 PM

    I feel Paula’s pain and suffering, as it may seem at times. I have a 27 year old son that abuses pot, doesn’t work or want to work for anyone and borrows and yells at his mom and me. We feel so hopeless at times and worry daily for what might happen to him. Oh, and I forgot to mention he moved out and is living on the streets. We often wonder where did our son go. It’s so heartbreaking that I often say I last saw my son when he was 16 after his HS prom. 17 through 27 something took him over. Hang in there Paula and don’t let anyone tell you to give up, shut the door or the typical saying, give tough love. I know at least one family that tried the tough live thing and their child is no longer living because he had no where else to turn or a safe haven to rest and be secure.

    Warm regards and may God bless you and your family.


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    February 21, 2019 at 9:57 AM

    My son goes to a Clinic to get Methadone hes constalnly telling me about his progress. I use to take him but now he has a car i dont know if hes going. How can i find out if hes still getting help ?His attitude is agressive defensive rude and totally disrespecful . Hes dabbing in my house and i told him to stop but he dont listen then were arguing . He curses at me in front of his 4 year old daughter slams the door in my face . Hes 28 years old and doesnt take care of his responsibilities and he borrows money and doesnt pay back. How can i find out if hes still getting help?

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      Josie Feliz

      February 21, 2019 at 3:00 PM

      Thanks for your message Paula. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future: https://drugfree.org/helpline
      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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