As parents, we’re used to being able to fix our kids’ problems. It comes natural to want to and for awhile – at least most of their childhood – it’s easy to do.
One parent writes:
“I remember the days when nursing fixed absolutely everything. No matter what the problem was, I could take her into my arms and let her nurse and the world was right again. After she’d weaned, I could still hold her and hug her to set right again whatever had gone awry. If she fell and scraped a knee, I could scoop her up, give it a kiss and a bandaid and all was well. I miss those days – I long to still have that mommy superpower.”
The thing is that as our kids get bigger, their problems tend to get bigger and more complicated and simultaneously, our ability to ‘fix’ things for them becomes less and less.
When you really think about your role as a parent, you’ll see how it’s supposed to work this way. The best ‘job description’ I’ve heard for the role of a parent is, “…to nurture, protect and guide their children in their journey to become compassionate, caring, and fully functioning adults who contribute positively to society.”
In order to do this, we have to teach them how to think critically, control themselves, respect others and find solutions to problems they encounter (or create) in their own lives. The key here is to “TEACH” rather than “DO IT FOR THEM”. When we step out of the ‘teaching’ mode and into the ‘doing it for them’ mode, we actually cheat them out of experiences they need to have for their own healthy development. We enable them to stay stuck right where they are.
In fact, this is exactly how we describe enabling:
Doing for someone things that they could, and should be doing themselves and / or protecting them from the consequences of their behavior.
So as a parent, it can be excruciating to step back and let your child take their own knocks – especially when you are dealing with an addict. You’re afraid to NOT help – what if they do the unspeakable? You feel that as the parent, you should be able to fix it and if you can’t then you must be failing in your role and your obligation to your child – while this is a common assumption, it’s WRONG.
Let it give you strength to remember that enabling doesn’t help – it makes things much worse and impedes the growth of your child – no matter their age.
Even remembering this, it’s still nearly impossible to do nothing. So what can you do?
The best way you can help your addicted child is to make sure they get the support they need for their recovery. This can mean different things for different people but you need professional help for them (and for you). This isn’t something you have the power / ability to do on your own any more than a lone soldier would try to win a war. This is where a Recovery Management Agency becomes your best ally – we know what to do, how to support you and what resources will help most in each individual case.
Make no mistake, a parents love and support when combined with the right care for recovery, can make all the difference in the world. So you see, you haven’t lost your parent superpowers at all, you just have to learn how use them a little differently now.