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How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child: From Parent to Helper
Mental Health

How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child: From Parent to Helper

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 26, 2023
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6 min

One of the roles parents have is to give their children the necessary support so that they can become self-sufficient adults. However, many times and without realizing it, these behaviors tend to enable their grown child.

how to stop enanbling your grown child
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Many parents want to give their children everything they need, as they feel it is a way to support them in becoming good adults. Even if these behaviors are loaded with good intentions, the results are usually not the same. Some parents are inadvertently enabling their grown children.

Enabling an adult child can be a dangerous thing, as they grow up without skills and without the ability to respond to the challenges that life brings. Because of enabling, the parents take charge of everything, and, in the end, the parent-child relationship suffers.

As a parent, you might wonder how you are enabling your grown child and how you could stop this kind of behavior. This article aims to teach readers about enabling, how to identify it, and how it can be addressed.

How to Stop Enabling Your Grown Child?

It is necessary for parents to learn how to stop enabling their children if they want their adult children to accept their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions. Some strategies that can be put into practice are the following:

#1 Set boundaries and preserve them

Boundaries determine how far a person can go. In the case of parents with enabling behavior, they must make clear points with their adult children. It is necessary for parents to be clear about the established boundaries and remain strong since if they aren’t, the result will be the same, and the enabling behavior will continue.

#2 Create realistic expectations

In order to stop being an enabler parent, you don’t need to wait until your children are 18 and withdraw your support, but rather help them transition into independent adults. Parents help their children set realistic goals and expectations so that as their children grow, they can take on more responsibilities, solve problems, and cope with everyday situations.

#3 Learn to say “no”

At first, it can be difficult for a parent to say “no” to their child, but as they practice it, this process becomes habitual and, eventually, less difficult. This magic word must be accompanied by a reason so that the adult child understands why the parent has decided to act this way.

When faced with a negative answer, the adult child will often try to change it in their favor. 

#4 Do not feel guilty

It is common for parents to feel guilty when they have to withdraw certain aid from their children. Ceasing to support them financially and separating both emotionally and physically can be charged with many emotions that make it difficult to stop enabling. But it is necessary so that their adult kids can grow up to be independent.

Parents can resort to different strategies to handle the guilt of no longer fully supporting their children. Apps like Sensa have a series of tools that can help manage guilt and thus obtain greater well-being.

Sensa Health
Your calm mind assistant
  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
  • Challenges & self-improvement activities
  • Quick relief function
  • Assessments to help you grow
Our rating:
4.5
Start Free Quiz Now

The Sensa app has techniques based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), widely used to work on guilt-related irrational beliefs. With this app, the transition process from enabling to independence will be easier for parents.

#5 Create new social connections

If your life as a parent is primarily focused on your child’s needs rather than your own, it could be a reason why you may be enabling your adult child. Some parents choose to neglect their social lives to care for their adult children, which can result in enabling behaviors.

It is necessary for parents to have social lives. Sharing with others can help them refrain from searching for validation they receive from their children when enabling them. 

#6 Consider parent coaching

External help can be essential if you find it hard to deal with it alone. Parent coaching can help parents learn more appropriate behaviors for raising their children and manage their relationship with them in a healthier way. 

What Is Enabling?

Enabling refers to actions a person supports in response to another’s unhealthy behavior. When discussing enabling, it frequently alludes to a parent’s relationship with their adult child. An enabling parent performs tasks that their adult children should already be able to do. Generally, parents struggle to accept that their children have grown up and that it is time for them to accept their responsibilities.

This behavior negatively impacts the enabled as it develops into a lack of responsibility. Adult children don’t concern themselves with washing, going to work, or doing household chores as everything is already done by their parents. Later, this lack of life skills can be detrimental to the independence of the adult child. 

While it is true that many parents do not want their children to struggle, there are times when it is necessary to let children learn to solve problems on their own as they grow up.

In enabling, it is also common for parents to continue solving their children’s money problems. Even though they no longer live together, their parents provide financial support. It is good to help your child if they have money issues at times, but it is not healthy to continue this financial support well into adulthood.

Enabling behaviors are also indicative of codependency. 

Parents caring only for the needs of others, in this case, of their adult children, provides a boost to their fragile self-esteem. Sometimes, parents enable without noticing it because they fear “losing” their child. 

Signs You Are Enabling Your Child

For parents, it can be difficult to identify if their behaviors toward their adult children benefit their growth or enable them. The following signs will help you determine if you are an enabling parent:

  • You make all of the decisions in your adult child’s life.
  • You support them financially in everything, even if they do not live with you.
  • You have trouble saying “no.”
  • You excuse your child’s inappropriate behaviors.
  • You do the tasks they should do.
  • You are the person responsible for all of the mistakes they make.
  • They do not respect you.
  • You feel emotionally drained.
  • It is difficult for you to set boundaries.
  • You worry about doing something that might upset them.
  • Your whole life revolves around the needs of your child.
  • You have little social life as you spend most of your time caring for your adult child’s needs.

Effects of Enabling Children in Adulthood

At first glance, parents may not be aware that enabling their children can seriously harm them when they are adults. A father or mother who assumes all commitments and duties of their adult child risks them developing codependency issues.

When adult children have to make important and simple decisions, they will not know what to do – they will be confused and won’t stop calling their parents to ask for help. These adults will lack the skill and confidence to solve a problem when it arises, which can greatly affect their self-esteem, impacting their chances of succeeding in different areas of life.

The effects of enabling might affect not only the children but also the parents. As parents continue to do the chores and take on their kids’ responsibilities, they can start resenting their children because of their lack of independence.

Adult children living with their parents at an age where they should be on their own can also create problems in the parent-child relationship.

A Word From a Psychologist

An adult child living with their parents is not always synonymous with enabling. According to studies, the number of adults still living with their parents has increased. This is due to living costs, success in the job market, and possible debt.

Many parents set rules and boundaries when their adult child is living with them. The children must contribute to household expenses and do certain chores and other tasks. Enabling will be less common when parents understand that adult children have their own obligations, whether living at home or not.

Conclusion

It can be difficult for parents to recognize their behavior as enabling, as they believe they must take care of their children, even when they are adults. Parental support is essential, but this support shouldn’t stun the child’s growth into an independent person.

Family therapy can be a good start if you feel you are enabling your adult child and don’t know how to change the behavior. A family therapist can help you and your grown child establish healthy boundaries, rules, and dynamics so that the parent-child relationship can be healthier.

Sensa Health
Your calm mind assistant
  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
  • Challenges & self-improvement activities
  • Quick relief function
  • Assessments to help you grow
Our rating:
4.5
Start Free Quiz Now
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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