In my last blog I talked about three weapons for hurting parents. Time, Prayer and Love. As I kept thinking about it, I have a few more strategies. Here are three for parents whose children are causing them great pain due to their choices and behaviors. So often we end up being victims who unknowingly keep doing the same things over and over that aren’t really helping. Yes, our own behaviors can open us up to increased amounts of heartache and resentment.
These strategies can protect us from experiencing more pain and heartache. They can help us stop being victims. When we apply these principles, we’re no longer naively putting ourselves in a precarious place waiting to be injured. . . again and again. We can learn to do things differently.
1) Just say NO! – One simple word. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t help you, I can’t . . .or I won’t do that anymore.” Stop Enabling. That means quit helping, including giving money because it’s not really helping. Many parents have asked me to tell them exactly what enabling is. It’s when you do something for someone else that they can or should be doing for themselves. Ask yourself this question the next time you are tempted to step in and help, “Can they or should they be able to do this?” This makes it pretty clear. It’s anything you do to protect someone from experiencing painful consequences. If you need some examples: Covering a bounced check; making a payment for them; consistently waking them up for work or an appointment; doing their laundry or cooking; bailing them out of jail; calling in sick to their job, etc. Let pain (the pain of consequences) do its work. It is one of the best motivators for change.
2) Nip Excuses in the Bud – Don’t accept them anymore. If your child is an addict, remember what Al-Anon says: “If an addict’s lips are moving, they’re lying.” Sad, but true. We need to accept reality and not expect from them what they aren’t capable of. Do they suffer from a mental illness? Their intentions may be good when making a promise, but don’t put too much hope in them following through. Sometimes they will andsometimes they won’t, or can’t. Prepare yourself. Lower your expectations to protect yourself from unnecessary hurt or disappointment.
3) Detach with love – Let go and let God. Pull back emotionally from getting entangled in your child’s life.But don’t be indifferent or uncaring. Live your life and let your child live theirs. Focus on doing what you need to do to be healthy – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Learn to be okay and at peace, even if they’re not okay, so that what they do doesn’t have such a negative affect on you. Keep giving your son or daughter back to God and trust Him to work in the way He sees best. Remember, His thoughts are not your thoughts and His ways are not yours, either. (Isaiah 55:8)
Using these strategies requires a lot of courage and inner strength. Are you ready? Did you take your parental vitamins today? Did you do your workout? This is where being in a support group is crucial. This should probably be number four on my list. You need to surround yourself with others who understand and will support you as you grow stronger in these areas. In the beginning it’s very difficult. We’re so weak. We can’t stop helping. We can’t say “no”. We’re too afraid. Besides, we like to help – many of us mom’s do anyway – I sure do.
We want to believe everything they tell us. We can’t live our own lives because we’re so worried and upset. But as we start using these strategies, we get stronger and better at it. Although we’ll still have moments when we weaken and fall back, if we have a support group to turn to, it will make a huge difference.
A great book that helped me grow stronger in these areas is Setting Boundaries with Adult Children by Allison Bottke. If you don’t have a copy, I urge you to order one today. You won’t be sorry you did. Another one that really helped me is Hope and Help for the Addicted by Jeff VanVonderen. He has been on the popular cable TV program, Intervention. These two books could be invaluable for you as you learn to use these effective weapons.
If I can learn to do these things you can, too. Begin today.