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Am I Enabling My Child’s Addiction?

Brandi Marcene
Jul 07, 2021

For parents, their most pressing desire is to protect their children from every harm and danger. There is nothing negative about nurturing a protective instinct towards your offspring. However, a line between between enabling and protecting must be drawn.

This is especially necessary in the case of teen addiction. Substance abuse is commonly called a family disease because it tends to impact each member individually. Before we delve further into the details of how parents can inadvertently become enablers instead of helpers, let’s look at the two approaches individually.


By definition, helping means you become of some benefit to a person or contribute to improving a situation for one’s best interests. If we connect helping to a drug-addiction situation, it would mean discussing drug use with your daughter or son openly.

Helping could be displayed by intervening in addiction’s initial stages or seeking help professionally for your child.


By definition, enabling means to make something possible for someone or provide them with the means to get what they desire. In this case, it would mean giving your child the money to purchase what they want, like a car for example, and ignoring the problem of addiction.

Assistance in the form of enabling makes it possible for a child to continue consuming and abusing drugs. In enabling, you could also be excusing, smoothing over and justifying behaviors and consequences of your loved one.

As part of enabling, here are the common behavioral displays one may see:

  • Denying, justifying, or minimizing drug abuse
  • Avoiding confrontation just to maintain the peace
  • Freely providing the resources to continuing substance abuse
  • Rushing to rescue your child from a situation that has directly resulted from substance abuse
  • Not prioritizing self-care or feeling incapable of saying no
  • Letting fear influence your decision

How Parents May be Enabling their Child

Usually parents enable their children out of an act of love. The primary objective of parents is to keep their children safe from painful experiences and struggles.

Parents most often give in to enabling just so they would not lose their child, either by breaking contact of by overdosing on a harmful substance. Let’s look at how parents can give into enabling in different ways below:

1.     Giving Money

Parents tend to give their children the amount of money they ask for, out of fear that the child may resort to other means if they refuse. Although not every child may follow illegal means of procuring money, there is always that possibility.

In any case, no matter what the reason may be, if parents finance their child’s drug purchase, they are enabling drug abuse.

2.     Ignoring Potentially Destructive Behavior in Children

There are several ways parents deliberately choose to ignore destructive or dangerous behaviors in their children. This could include downplaying their shopping habits, turning a blind eye to an existing problem, or overlooking substance abuse issues.

They may even encourage their shopping habits just to please the child. They may also focus too much on their positive habits and gloss over the negative aspects of their child’s character. All of these actions fall into the category of enabling.

3.     Lying to cover up their activity

If you lie to cover up the faults of your child, you are certainly an active enabler. Lying is never a good strategy in any case, but most especially in substance abuse. The reason behind lying to cover up for their children is always to protect them from the consequences of drug abuse.

What some parents find difficult to accept is that by continuously covering up the substance abuse contributes to their children’s negative patterns.

4.     Deliberately Ignoring the Issue

If you deliberately ignore a problem and choose not to confront your child regarding their drug usage, you are enabling their addiction. You may wish to maintain the peace by steering clear of the problem. But avoiding the necessary discussion does not have positive effects in the long-term.

5.     Fulfilling Your Child’s Responsibilities

 Parents tend to take on the responsibilities of their child just to save him/her from the negative consequences in order. These can be small responsibilities, such as filling in for them at the community service hours or completing their school projects.

The truth is that regardless of the scope of the project, the continuous habit of filling in for your child’s irresponsibility resulting from their substance abuse is the worst practice. It can lead to even more disastrous consequences in the future. A message is sent to the child that their drug abuse is not a problem for you.

Final Thoughts

Enabling is the act of parents of supporting substance abuse by their child in multiple ways. From giving money whenever the child asks for it to neglecting to take them to task, parents can enable in multiple ways.

This approach may be a result of fear of losing their child or watching them suffer through consequences. However, it is worst thing parents can do for their child’s life and may lead to even more problematic situations if the child perseveres in their drug abuse.

If your child struggles with substance abuse we can help. Reach out please to Avenues Recovery Indiana.

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