Updated: Aug 23
Enabling is a behavior that actively encourages someone to indulge in unhealthy practices by doing for someone that they can do for themselves. The most common way that parents enable their adult children is through financial support. This can include any one or more of the following: monthly allowance, allow grown child to stay with them indefinitely, purchasing a home or paying rent on an apartment, etc. Financial support may be needed at some point in a child’s life, but not indefinitely.
As a parent of adult children, myself, I understand and know very well how challenging it can be to watch your adult children struggle and experience discomfort as they navigate their life journey. Our love naturally leads us to want to protect, comfort, and prevent any type of pain for our children. However, please keep in mind that discomfort and struggle are vital for your adult child’s growth. Although it is out of love, many parents, including myself, are guilty of enabling adult children. While the desire to help your child is perfectly normal, stopping enabling behaviors is crucial to ensuring that your child gets back on track to a normal adult lifestyle.
It is difficult to recognize what ‘enabling’ looks like. Therefore, I’ve provided a list of things you SHOULD be doing to prevent yourself from enabling your adult children:
Do not lend your child money for self-medicating
Set boundaries of what is acceptable
Identify consequences when these boundaries are not adhered to
Paying for your adult child’s expenses: transportation, food, clothing, etc.
Include them in household chores: laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, etc.
Enabling your child to prevent them from failing. When they fail, they are at least trying. Through failures, they will have opportunities to learn and grow. As parents, our responsibility to our adult children is to help them become independent adults to function in society. Remember, one day you will not be here to save them. So, start now and recognize the enabling behaviors and STOP them.
Enabling behaviors have negative impacts on both the parents and adult children. Parents who consistently ‘save’ their children from their mishaps may begin to resent their children. Adult children are negatively impacted primarily through stunted growth. Adults cannot reach appropriate emotional, financial, or mental maturity if they are constantly dependent on their parents.
In a nutshell, it is vital to your child’s growth and mental stability, empowering your children to become more independent and doing things on their own. This does not mean that they shouldn’t be able to come to you periodically to get advice. You will always be their parent and you will be expressing your love by encouraging their independence.