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How to Stop Enabling Your Addicted Adult Child

Before a child is even born, most parents already assume responsibility for every outcome that comes along with bringing that child into the world. They recognize and even sometimes believe every decision they make will ultimately determine their child’s successes and failures.

During pregnancy, some choices may influence a child’s psychology and future health. For example, consuming copious amounts of alcohol/drugs, eating nutritionally, and stress during pregnancy can all directly impact the overall wellbeing of a child. However, down to the moment of conception, there are genetic predispositions, characteristics, and psychological potentials that have already been determined, despite any post/pre birth parenting decisions made.

Parenting a child that is suffering from addiction, can be more difficult than any other challenge you may have previously faced. When your kids were younger and misbehaving, you probably knew exactly how to discipline accordingly. Whether your efforts were effective, or in vain, you most likely felt you did all you could.

It’s no secret that addiction spreads like wildfire, devouring everyone in its path. Addiction affects the  family’s emotional health, physical health, financial stability, and the overall dynamics. The normal routines are often interrupted with chaos and an enormous amount of stress. Looking at how far down the scale your child has fallen, you may begin carrying a load of anger, guilt, and shame. You may find yourself angry and neglecting your child, falling into debt wrapped into overcompensating because of guilt, or maybe you find yourself running to rescue your grown child. No matter how you respond, if you begin to assume responsibility for your child’s addiction you will find yourself subconsciously enabling them and making matters far worse.

Addiction is the exception to all of the “rules” we place on parenting. Addiction is a three-part disease that affects an individual physically, mentally, and spiritually. Most families experience shame and wish to keep the addict’s struggles behind closed doors. This can arouse fear, resentment, and guilt amongst members within the household. As the addiction progresses, the addict will exhaust all options to get his/her next high. Even at the expense of causing harm amongst the family dynamics, the addict is overcome with the desire to continue using despite consequences.The addict will often manipulate and play family members against one another to better suit their needs.

Prolonged substance abuse can lead to complicated physical and emotional detriment that requires assistance. Education and therapeutic family resources are vital to providing healing for the entire family. It’s common for members of the family to feel it is their duty to adjust their roles to fit the dynamics of living with an addict. It is important to remember that the disease of addiction is all-encompassing and cannot be corrected through discipline or an excess of love, but rather through an individual psychic change and spiritual experience. Here are some tips on how to stop enabling your adult child.

Hold your child accountable. Remind your daughter/son that their life is a direct result of their choices. It is important to emphasize that your child is not a victim of circumstance or unlucky but their decisions created their own painful reality. No parent is perfect and it is important that you do not hold yourself accountable for your grown child’s actions. Loving yourself first, and negating your responsibility to the outcome of your child’s life, will help prevent enabling behaviors.


Be realistic and only offer support within your means. On the subject of money, you must be mindful of the manipulative tendencies of an addict and gauge whether you are causing harm or being helpful. Do not give money to your child, if it will only propel his/her bad behavior. It has been suggested that parental funding should be based solely on your child’s willingness and efforts to accept help. If your son/daughter calls for money for groceries, offer to take him/her to the grocery store instead of handing over cash.


Protect yourself and your family. Hitting rock bottom is not always the requirement for change and it doesn’t have to be a requirement for you and your family either. Despite the pain you may be experiencing, with your child’s addiction, you still have a family to protect. If you are consuming your life with attempting to save your addicted child, you will eventually cause more harm than good – for yourself and others. If you are not taking care of yourself first, you can be of no help to anyone else. It is important that you protect yourself and your family, while waiting for your addicted child to seek help.


Remember, you cannot rescue your child. Perhaps the most difficult part of raising children is detaching yourself from the outcome of their lives. You cannot protect your child from everything, much like you cannot rescue your child from his/her addiction. You will always love your child, but you do not have to participate in enabling them. Continuously running to “save” your child will destroy any chance for him/her to find responsibility and ultimately autonomy.


Your adult child is going to make their own decisions and it may lead to their demise. You can encourage and reward healthy outcomes, but you cannot support their success through enabling behaviors. It is important that you do not allow your decisions to be driven by fear, guilt, blackmale, or intimidation but rather made out of tough love, concern, and wisdom. It is always suggested you seek help for you and your family as you embark on this process.