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What is an Enabler Parent?

Parents love their children no matter what they are doing, including being addicted. Defense mechanisms parents resort to are not always healthy, as is the case with enabling behaviors. Enabling behaviors are unintentional efforts to help a loved one, but they hurt more. Good question for parents researching this topic, do you feel less anxiety and worry using these behaviors? The answer has to be a solid no. Enabling behaviors do nothing to end the addiction, which is the true goal of the situation.

What is Enabling?

Enabling is the intentional process of contributing to another person’s self-destructive behaviors. So, what is an enabler parent? For example, when trying to help someone with addiction, the habit becomes acceptable, excused, and continual. Therefore, enabling behavior excludes boundaries and accountability. 

Loaning an addicted child money when the parent knows it will probably go to drugs is a typical example. The loan is not an intentional acceptance of the addiction; the parent does not want to deal with the chance of rejection from a child if they do not comply. Enabling behavior is linked to codependency. What is an enabling parent’s intention with the loan? To keep the peace, to smooth things over, and not initiate complicated feelings and emotions. 

Why do People Adopt Enabling Behaviors?

Enabling behavior is a link to codependency. Co-dependency is an extreme or excessive emotional or psychological reliance on someone, typically someone who needs support because of an illness or addiction. What is an enabling parent? The enabling parent relies emotionally on a child who needs their help. Unfortunately, the enabling behavior is not protective or supportive behavior. 

Alcoholics Anonymous relates a phrase about enabling people with a substance use disorder is similar to “putting pillows under them” to protect them from the pain of their addiction. To end the enabling behaviors, one must remove the pillows one at a time. What is an enabling parent using enabling behaviors doing? Parents often use enabling behaviors to keep the family functioning. Unfortunately, normal may not be reality. 

Codependency and Enabling Behaviors

Enabling behavior could be difficult to identify in yourself as a parent. Seeing the behaviors laid out in black and white might make it easier. Codependent relationships breed enabling behaviors. What is an enabling parent? The following examples are common patterns in codependent relationships where enabling behaviors are found. 

Protection of Loved Ones from the Consequences of their Addiction

An enabling parent will bear protection over their addicted loved one instead of allowing the addict to take the consequences of their addiction. Paying their bills and rent, or bailing them out of jail when needed, are examples of what is an enabling parent. Parents may even break the code of honesty and lie to others to maintain a protective front. To stop this enabling behavior, the parent must hold the addict accountable. The protection is a false facade. 

Lies of Omission about the Loved One’s Addiction

What is an enabling parent? A parent who will keep the addiction secret for the addict. After all, it’s easier to lie and keep the unknown rather than to deal with all the drama from everyone knowing the truth. Keeping the peace is a common enabling ruse. Silence allows the addiction to continue. The parent needs to discuss this with someone for their own needs and mental health. Al-Anon and other support groups can help with this problem. 

Parents Who Refuse to Follow through With Boundaries and Expectations

A significant sign of codependency and enabling behaviors is setting boundaries, naming expectations, and failing to follow through on enforcement. What is an enabling parent to do when this happens? Enforcement can be painful. When boundaries are not respected, it gives the message that the addiction is OK and the consequences of the addiction do not matter. Sticking to the set rules is mandatory.

Falling into the Habit of Making Excuses for the Addict’s Behaviors

Making excuses is an enabler’s best trait. What is an enabling parent to do? Addiction is not easy for anyone. So what is an enabling parent doing when faced with the choice? Making excuses legitimizes the unacceptable behaviors of the addict. There are no excuses for allowing addiction to continue. Be strong and face the truth. 

Avoidance Behaviors are Not Healthy

Resolving a habit is difficult. Discussing the resolution of the problem can cause conflict and distress. However, avoiding the addiction and the need for treatment does not help anyone or anything. What is an enabling parent to do when they can’t face the inevitable? Outlining expectations and following through with consequences is essential.

How to Learn Healthy and Supportive Behaviors as a Parent

Individual and family therapy are a good starting point to leave enabling behaviors behind. But what is an enabling parent supposed to do when the habit is so deeply ingrained? You are not alone. Many parents unintentionally support their addicted children with unhealthy and harmful behaviors. Establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing them is a starting point. 

Support groups are available to address enabling behaviors and codependent relationships. Encouraging the addict to enter treatment is paramount. Being supportive in a healthy manner is essential to prevent relapse and cause successful recovery. Contacting a treatment center to address concerns and get the addict help is imperative. 

Support groups to help support the family and help alleviate enabling parental behaviors include:

  • Al-Anon
  • Co-dependents Anonymous
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families

Find Help Now to Resolve Parental Enabling Behaviors in California

Riviera Recovery Centers in Los Angeles, California is a premier treatment center with programs for families to learn how to support their addicted child. Our caring staff understands the sorts of family dynamics that can lead to and perpetuate addictive behaviors. Stop enabling and begin to enforce consequences with your addicted child. Contact us today to begin a journey in healing and sobriety.

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