5 Sneaky Ways You Might Still Be (Problematically) Enabling Your Adult Child
As a parent, you undoubtedly love your child and want what's best for them. You spent many years changing diapers and carpooling and trying to protect your beautiful baby from all harm. You likely sacrificed time, money, and your own personal needs to take care of your family.
And now that your child is an adult, you might be finding that parenting doesn't automatically stop. In fact, armed with a new set of stressors, you may even struggle more with their independence than you ever did in the past.
Enabling your adult child can cause significant problems. At a minimum, you risk stunting their growth and fostering a twisted sense of codependency. But in more severe dynamics, you might unknowingly accommodate self-destructive behaviors that may result in devastating consequences.
Let's dive into some more subtle, sneaky ways you might be enabling your adult child.
You Still Think You Know What's Best
You anxiously keep emailing them apartment listings because you worry about the safety of their current place. You keep recommending they try that doctor or therapist because you know they'd get the help they need. You wish they'd just stop hanging out with that awful friend- can't they see how toxic the relationship has become?
As a parent, you might believe you know your child best. And even if that belief has some merit, it isn't helpful once a child becomes an independent adult.
They are their own person. If you continue acting like an all-knowing teacher, you risk your child resenting you. You also risk them withholding or lying about information because they don't want to hear your judgment.
You Lie For Them
It can feel embarrassing when your child makes a mistake, especially if you believe their mistakes are directly associated with your standing as a parent.
While you are entitled to your feelings, lying about your child's behavior creates multiple problems. First, it conveys that you believe it's okay to conceal the truth. Second, modeling this behavior can inadvertently tell your child that you deem it acceptable for them to lie when needed.
Additionally, lying can feel exhaustive. It limits your ability to feel connected and intimate with others because you are so preoccupied with how they might perceive you.
You Make Excuses For Them
She can't make their doctor's appointment. She gets so overwhelmed.
It isn't fair to ask him to pay rent- he's just getting back on his feet.
It's no wonder she relapsed. That boyfriend isn't doing her any favors!
It's normal to want to give your child the benefit of the doubt. But if you're consistently defending or rationalizing their concerning behaviors, you might be exacerbating the problem yourself.
Likewise, if they know you're going to swoop in and take their side, your child may have little incentive to change their ways. After all, they know mom or dad has their back!
You Neglect Your Own Self-Care
We all need self-care to rejuvenate and restore our mental well-being. And yet, many parents struggle with this concept because they assume they need to be fully available to their children at all times.
Unfortunately, this strategy often perpetuates more issues. You might find yourself feeling exhausted or physically sick. You may neglect important responsibilities because you deem that as too selfish.
At the same time, even if you're "fully" available to your child, doing so at your own expense often causes you to be less present and engaged. In addition, your child might feel overwhelmed or bombarded by your hovering, causing them to withdraw altogether.
You Fail to Implement Your Boundaries
Identifying boundaries is a basic skill. Stating boundaries to your child is a more intermediate-level skill. But implementing boundaries requires an advanced awareness of you and your child's relationship.
Many parents struggle with that last part. They might know what they need to do, and they might even tell their kids certain limits, but when it's time to put the words into action, they falter.
Boundaries are hard, but it's important to remember that limits are relatively meaningless without implementation. If anything, stating boundaries without any intention to act on them can be more harmful than failing to state them at all. That's because, once your child knows you won't do what you say, they have ample opportunity to take advantage of the situation.
You Can Learn to Stop Enabling Your Adult Child
Enabling often comes from a place of good intentions. After all, you don't want to see your child struggle or experience pain. But, at the same time, their ability to succeed may require that you take more of a backseat- even if it feels uncomfortable.
At The Resurface Group, we work with our families in strengthening communication, redefining values, and implementing healthy boundaries. You can learn how to support your child without enabling problematic behaviors. Contact us today to learn more.