Tag Archive: Enabling

  1. What Is the Difference Between Supporting and Enabling?

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    As a parent, you always want to support your child. But what constitutes support, and when does it become enabling? You want to have boundaries for your teen, but what is appropriate discipline and what is too harsh? Sometimes, these lines can be imperceptible, particularly if you are emotionally invested. Your child’s behaviors and reactions can also cause you to supersede good judgment and perhaps react yourself when it comes to parenting. How can you know the difference between supporting and enabling?

    How Can You Offer Support to Your Teen?

    Adolescents still require housing, food, clothing, and a form of transportation, as well as other physical or financial support. Many teens require help with schoolwork, need someone to show up for extracurricular activities, and especially need someone with a listening ear. Your wisdom and guidance are also important but should decrease as their independence increases. They need rules and boundaries, but they also need the freedom to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes.

    Everyone needs to feel loved; it is a part of the human experience that is shared with every individual on the planet. Teens especially need to know that you love them but may feel more comfortable if you show that love in less demonstrative ways. The love and support that you give them become increasingly more about respect and agency than hugs and kisses.

    When Does Support Become Enabling?

    Being supportive does not mean giving teens everything they ask for or letting them do anything they want. Too often, parents who want to be their child’s friend, or give them the material possessions and opportunities they did not have themselves, are more interested in having their teen’s approval than allowing them to learn and have character-building experiences.

    Most children, whether consciously or not, will attempt to manipulate parents at some point in their lifetime. Adolescents are increasingly likely to do whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means playing one parent when the other has said no. Negative behaviors are another way teens attempt to get attention, privileges, or material items. When parents give in to their demands, fail to follow through with consequences, or ignore poor behavior, support becomes enabling.

    Why Are Structure and Consistency Important?

    Offering your teen structure and consistency can help to prevent enabling and also let them know that you love them. Providing a set schedule or requiring them to show up for family dinner or other activities can prevent them from making poor choices with free time.

    Despite the fact that many teens will reject or rebel against structure and consistency, being consistent and enforcing the rules and boundaries you set provides them with expectations and is another way of demonstrating love and support. Letting them know that if they do something, this will be the consequence and then following through every time teaches them accountability and increases their capacity to make good decisions.

    When parents fail to be consistent, a teen is likely to view discipline as unfair. If they do the same thing multiple times, but the consequences are different, they will struggle to learn from their mistakes. Creating consequences that are appropriate to the behavior rather than using reactionary discipline will demonstrate consistency.

    What Kinds of Boundaries Should You Set for Your Teen?

    Some of the boundaries you might need to set as a parent include:

    • Communication regarding plans and scheduling
    • Having reasonable curfews and bedtimes
    • Chores and other responsibilities
    • Reasonable expectations regarding school attendance and performance
    • Acceptable behaviors, particularly in regards to anger or violence
    • Moral or ethical expectations, including not using substances or dating guidelines
    • Amount of screen time if it interferes with school, family, or behaviors

    Some of the opportunities for increased decision making and agency for your teen might include:

    • Which classes, extracurricular activities, hobbies, or work they would like
    • Allowing them to choose clothing and hairstyles that match reasonable moral expectations but without judging their taste or choices
    • Allowing them to create their own schedule of their free time
    • Letting them be involved in family decision making
    • Allowing them to make their own future plans regarding education or vocation

    How Do You Keep Boundaries When It Hurts?

    Love hurts. Being a parent is sometimes painful. Watching your child suffer is not something a parent should enjoy. However, maintaining appropriate boundaries and consequences demonstrates love and support and prevents enabling behaviors that will cause them more suffering down the road. Remember that while it may be difficult to enforce reasonable discipline, your actions will help them to learn accountability. Offering structure and consistency may be difficult but doing so is one of the best ways to demonstrate to your teen that you love them.

    What is the difference between supporting and enabling teens? Support maintains their agency while enabling prevents accountability. Allowing your teen increased decision-making while still offering structure and consistency will help them to feel your love. The extended residential programs at Sustain Recovery focus on creating structure and consistency to teach accountability. Our clients learn the consequences of their actions, whether positive or negative. We treat adolescents with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders; instead of focusing on behavioral problems teens may have, we look at what is causing their behaviors and how they can make new choices regarding their behaviors. Would your child benefit from a program like ours? Contact us at (949) 407-9052 to learn more about how we can help your child, even if other programs have not worked before. Supporting them in healing so they can choose recovery over substance abuse is another way that you can show your teen you love them.

  2. Putting a Stop to Enabling

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    Putting a Stop to EnablingAdults, especially parents, often act as enablers for an adolescent’s substance abuse. Although they mean well, adults close to adolescents who engage in self-destructive behaviors often have trouble understanding where supporting ends and enabling begins. As the professional, you have the ability to see the situation with clearer eyes. You can help parents and caregivers walk this fine line in a more productive way, so they are no longer contributing to their child’s substance abuse.

    Supporting vs. Enabling

    Parents of adolescents who abuse substances don’t always know how to handle their child’s behavior. Their emotional ties can cloud their decision-making skills and leave them questioning what the right approach is. You can help parents understand where supporting ends and enabling begins. Generally, parents who are supporting their children help their child with things they are not yet capable of doing on their own. On the other hand, parents who are enabling their child’s bad behaviors do so by shielding their child from negative consequences. Enabling sends their child the message that their behavior is okay.

    Parents who are enablers promote their child’s bad behaviors in many different ways. They may make excuses for their child’s behavior, have trouble enforcing rules, or even take it upon themselves to solve their child’s problem for them. While they may think they’re doing the right thing and helping their child, they are actually strengthening the bad behaviors and holding their child back because their child is never left to deal with the consequences of their actions. This typically leads to dependence and is very unhealthy for all involved.

    Problem vs. Solution

    As a professional, you can help parents learn to stop enabling their child by helping them understand the reason for the substance abuse. Instead of looking at the abuse of substances as the problem, you can explain to them that the adolescent used substances to help them cope with the problems they were experiencing. Each time the parents engage in enabling behavior, they’re reinforcing the bad behavior and sending the message that the child’s only problem is their substance abuse. By helping parents reframe how they see their child’s addiction, they can take steps to stop the enabling of their child’s behavior and instead support their child’s journey of recovering from the root problem.

    For example, a parent who routinely makes excuses for their child’s substance abuse is focusing on substances as the problem. If they can shift to looking at substances as their child’s solution, they will be better able to support their child as they process the deep emotions that go along with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other issues. Helping parents retrain their mindset from enabling to supporting is a great way to create lasting healthy change in the adolescent’s recovery.

    Wants vs. Needs

    Adolescents whose parents act as enablers often give their child what they want when they want it. However, adolescents whose parents act as supporters usually give their child what they need when they need it. This is a key difference that can be very helpful to pass along to the parents of the adolescent who engages in substance abuse. You can help parents stand on the right side of the supporting and enabling line by helping them understand the importance of boundaries.

    Boundaries are set by parents who act as supporters, not enablers, because boundaries ensure that the adolescent gets what they need instead of what they want. When their child returns home from treatment, it’s common for them to test limits and see if they can get what they want without any serious consequences. This is where the parents must hold their ground. Enablers usually give in if their buttons are pushed, but supporters will stand their ground and enforce the healthy boundaries that are necessary for their child’s sobriety.

    If their child crosses a boundary, supportive parents will hand down the consequences for their child’s actions. Enablers, on the other hand, make excuses and have trouble enforcing the consequences. As the professional, you can help parents decide what the necessary boundaries are for their child in recovery and help them determine what consequences are appropriate for when the child crosses a boundary.

    Nobody Is Perfect

    Redirecting their child’s unhealthy behavior isn’t going to be an easy task for parents who are used to enabling that behavior. Parents aren’t going to be the only ones who have trouble with this — the adolescent will probably be very surprised when their parents set limits and don’t waver in difficult situations. The adolescent will try to find a way to get what they want and will be uncomfortable when they are met with firm consequences.

    It’s important to remind the family that they shouldn’t be striving for perfection. Encourage the parents to stand tall and firm, reminding them that their child will benefit from supportive behavior in the long run, even if they are upset with it now. Their child will learn to make the right decisions with a little bit of trial and error. They, too, will thrive with the right balance of supportive behavior.

    Recovery is a learning process for both the adolescent and their parents. Sustain Recovery is here to help everyone, including you as their professional, through this process. By helping them understand how they can stop enabling their children, parents will be able to act as supporters and facilitate a healthy and positive recovery. Let’s work together to help your clients and their families heal from substance abuse and addiction. To learn more, call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052.

The people at Sustain Recovery are truly passionate about their work. They put all their love, energy and spiritual strength in to it. They continue to support me today as I continue my ongoing journey in my personal recovery. I now have over a year of sobriety, my own apartment, a job, true friends and a support network that is always available to me. Although all that stuff is great, what matters most today is that I love myself and have the ability to love others. Thank you to all who had a hand and heart in Sustain Recovery

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