Are You An Enabler? Wilderness Therapy Breaks the Co-Dependency Cycle

Signs of Co-Dependent Parenting

For many parents, the thought of having their adult child move out seems like an all too distant future. What many parents suspect, but don’t know how to fix, is that they may be contributing to their young adult’s failure to launch. It’s a blurry line between looking after the well being of one’s child and enabling them to continue down a destructive path. When helping turns to hurting, it’s time to take a step back, seek help, and create a plan to implement change. Change can come in many forms from recognizing there is an issue, to enrolling your child in a wilderness therapy program. Regardless of what measure is taken, how and when to draw the line?

Where To Draw The Line: The Child’s Abilities

There’s a fine line to draw between helping your adult child through a temporary struggle, and preventing them from becoming a responsible and functioning adult. The difference between helping and enabling is simple: you help someone when you do something for them that they cannot do on their own; you enable someone when you do something for them that they can and should do on their own, but choose not to.

Often enablers recognize the error of their ways, but for whatever reason, can’t bring themselves to stop. Many parents continue to provide for their adult children as if they were still young dependents, perhaps out of a sense of guilt or fear. However this often leads to feelings of resentment and anger over the long-term.

Look For These Signs Of Co-Dependence

It’s time to draw the line when the young adult:

  • Has a victim mentality. It’s just not their fault that they can’t get on track—everybody and everything just keeps getting in their way.
  • Never admits to being wrong. If it does appear that they may be wrong, they avoid conversation and refuse to acknowledge it.
  • Manipulates the situation. They prey upon feelings of guilt, blame, or shame in subtle ways to get what they want.
  • Refuses to relinquish control. Often persuades or manipulates others with love or affection.
  • Experiences mood swings. Yelling and screaming are often involved in getting what they want, and then once they do their attitude shifts drastically.
  • Acts overly emotional. Especially, when it comes to simple things, like cleaning up or getting a job.
  • Fails to listen respectfully. Many parents describe this as “talking to a brick wall.”
Stop Enabling: Steps Parents Can Take

Once a parent recognizes that they have enabled their child to be co-dependent, there are proactive measures they can take to change the family dynamic:

Find support groups. Connecting with people who share the same struggles helps. This could be a community meeting group like Families Anonymous or an Al-Anon Family Group. Or, it could be something like a chat room or online group.

Let go. Many parents are co-dependent themselves and they enable their children because they are afraid of letting them go. But at a certain age, this fear does more harm than good for the young adult. Parents need to accept their responsibility in the unhealthy co-dependent relationship and take the necessary steps to correct their behavior.

Establish healthy boundaries. Many parents conflate demonstrating love with giving in to a young adult’s every whim. To help rather than hinder the young person, parents should only give them what they need, at the right time, and in the right amount. For example, sometimes it may be helpful to lend a bit of money in a pinch, but constantly funding a young adult’s groceries or phone bills does not help them towards independent adulthood.

Wilderness therapy breaks the co-dependency cycle.

Wilderness therapy offers parent and child time apart to regroup, catch their breath, and re-evaluate family dynamics. Getting stuck in the cycle of an unhealthy relationship often needs drastic measures for real change to take hold. A wilderness therapy program provides the initial intervention, an opportunity to create and implement a plan for change, and provides parents with the support structures they need to continue on a positive path long after the treatment program is over.

Re-establishing a healthy parent/child relationship takes recognition, time and effort. It’s easy to slip back into old habits. First, parents need to recognize the signs of a co-dependent relationship, and admit to themselves if their enabling has hindered their child’s progress. Once the parents have taken responsibility for their actions and have implemented the right support structures, they can avoid enabling behaviors and establish new, healthy boundaries that set their child up for successfully independence.

Wilderness therapy can help break the co-dependency cycle and assist in better behavior in children through positive programs and building self confidence. To learn more, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980.