Enabling – Providing a person something they could provide for themselves. Keeping them from experiencing the consequences of life.
What is wrong with helping your kids or grandkids after they are grown?
It may feel like help, but it can be harmful, keep them dependent, and can increase their entitlement.
There is a difference between enabling and helping.
You could be enabling them if:
- They live with you, or you pay for their living expenses such as a phone bill, a car payment, or medical insurance when they are an adult.
- You're constantly helping them through crises or providing financial support.
- They don’t have a full-time job or even a part time job after they have graduated.
- You constantly make sacrifices so they can have what they want.
- You are overwhelmed by helping the adult child.
- You constantly worry about doing something that will hurt or upset them.
(Better Help, 2022)
Why do we do it?
- We want what is best for them.
- We want to shield them from hardships
- It is hard to accept they are grown.
- It is hard to see them as anything but small kids who need you.
- We don’t want to see them in trouble.
- We don’t think they can handle their own responsibilities.
- They act as a companion to us and letting them go is difficult.
- We don’t want to see them struggle.
This is hard to hear...but we enable because of how it makes us feel.
The adult child may not know how to cook, clean, grocery shop, or pay bills because
- We did not teach them, and we can feel guilty about that.
- We can also keep doing this to maintain some control of their life.
- Sometimes we do this so they will keep needing us. We need them to need us.
- We feel valuable when we do things for others.
The bad news is that these adult children will have a harder time in the “real world” the longer we do things for them. As hard as it is for us to let them go, we and they will be better for it when we do.
Teach them and allow them to learn the life skills they need to be an adult. We are doing society a disservice to continue enabling them.
How to stop enabling and allow them to become productive, healthy adults?
Don’t throw them to the wolves and abandon them. You created this situation.
- Get help for yourself. If you are not already in counseling or coaching, consider starting. You are getting something out of this arrangement, it is important to figure out what that is.
- Talk with them about what you have realized about enabling. Tell them you realize you are partially responsible.
- Explain the reason it is important for them to learn these skills for themselves. You won’t always be around, and they will have to function on their own at some point.
- Help them learn the skills. You can show them once or twice, but better than showing them over and over, point them in the direction of other resources.
- Banks can provide information about finances.
- Classes to teach skills.
- YouTube videos teach everything. Even how to fold sheets.
- Their own therapist. They may need to learn emotional maturity, too.
- Maybe even a family therapist.
- You can start small, if it is easier.
- If they are not working at all, they can get a part time job to start.
- If they aren’t paying any bills, they can start by paying one. Have them pay for their own cell phone or their own insurance for a few months.
- Go with them to set up a bank account for the first time.
- Talk to them about finances and how to save, spend, and budget.
- If you do not know how to do these things, learn with them.
- You can find so much information online today.
- There are free classes online.
- There are tutorials on YouTube.
- There are podcasts about every topic imaginable.
If you give an adult money, write out an agreement for repayment. There are too many misunderstandings about money and those misunderstandings can cause a lot of relationship problems. This may seem too formal, but it can be a great learning tool and keep conflict from occurring.
- Make it clear the money is a loan.
- Type up a simple agreement about how often and how much they will be expected to pay back.
- Each person should sign the agreement.
- Provide them a receipt for every payment. Keep a copy for yourself.
Once you start, Don't Stop!
Don’t get roped back in by their pleas. Loving them really is teaching them then allowing them to do it on their own. Once you feel the pride from seeing them “adult” on their own, you will like that feeling. You may grieve a little, because you were getting some payoffs from keeping them dependent on you, but your relationship will be so much better.
- When you feel pulled back into enabling, check your own feelings.
- Is this legitimately something they could do for themself?
- What is the reason you are feeling like giving in?
- What is going on with you?
- What would your payoff be for doing something for the adult they could do for themself?
- Look into the future and imagine what would happen if you gave in.
- Look into the future and imagine what each of you would learn if you did not give in.
Seek support from others. Parents, fellowships, coaching, therapy, and groups are great ideas for support when we are making behavior changes in life.
CoDA - Co-Dependents Anonymous. Their website https://coda.org says "the only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy & loving relationships."
Kirby, S. (2022, October 7). How to stop enabling grown children and why it's important. . Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/family/how-to-stop-enabling-grown-children-and-why-its-important/
When researching information for this show and blog post, much of the information on enabling was related to enabling a person who has an addiction. I found a great website that was not specifically aimed at addiction. The website is Deborah Byrne Psychology Services I found a lot about self-care and a blog entry How Do You Stop Enabling Adult Children? that is full of valuable information. The authors book called The Building Blocks of Self-Care looks like it could be helpful and the cost was only €5.00!
This week, the Life Lived Better podcast topic was Enabling. Many of the resources I researched were aimed at people who enable because of addiction; therefore, I wrote most of the data myself. I did find some resources in a Better Help post. After we concluded recording, I found the website of a psychologist in the UK with valuable information. I have provided details and links to both at the bottom in "resources".
You can listen to Life Lived Better, Season 2: Episode 19 - Enabling on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music,iHeartRadio, Castbox, Overcast, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, and Stitcher.