Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents

If you have not yet heard of Allison Bottke and her latest book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing, I would like to introduce to you this brilliant author. I recently had the opportunity to interview Allison about her book, and her efforts to help parents who are struggling with adult children living at home, and the often burdensome problems parents are experiencing in learning the difference between helping and enabling.

Allison is a frequent guest on radio and TV programs around the country, the 700 Club featured her life story in what has become one of their highest rated programs ever, and she has appeared on the covers of such national magazines as Writer’s Digest, BOND, The Christian Communicator, O.H. Magazine and others. With 23 non-fiction and fiction books published since 2001, Allison speaks and teaches at conferences around the country. Her column for baby boomer women, Boomer Babes Rock! appears monthly in Christian Women Online (CWO). Without further ado, please allow me to introduce Allison Bottke to Telling It Like It Is.

A special opening message from Allison Bottke: I want to personally thank Lin for taking the time to read my newest non-fiction book and for sharing it here today on the Setting Boundaries May Blog Tour. Lin, You are helping to spread the word about a topic that desperately needs to be addressed—with a message already striking a chord in hearts around the nation.

Our country is in a crisis of epidemic proportion concerning adult children whose lives are spinning out of control—leaving parents and grandparents broken-hearted and confused. This painful issue is destroying individuals, families, marriages, churches, and communities. I believe in my heart that you are reading this message today for a very specific reason. Do you know someone who has an adult child who is always in crisis? An adult child who brings chaos to virtually every situation? Could this painful issue be touching your life today?

If so, there’s a truth I’ve come to embrace that has changed my life—it can change yours, too. It’s taken me more years than I care to admit, but I no longer believe in “coincidences.” The truth I’ve come to embrace is that God is the Master of orchestrating “God-cidences.” He has a plan for who he wants us to meet, what lessons he wants us to learn, even what books he wants us to read. He even has a plan for the trials and tribulations of life.

When we begin to look at everything that happens to us throughout the day as “God-cidences” (and not accidental coincidences) it changes the way we view our world.

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling ParentsThat said, my prayer is that you will see the following message and the book; Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing as a “God-cidence” placed into your life today for a powerful purpose. Perhaps it’s to help heal your family or the family of a loved one. Perhaps you are here to help us introduce this resource to a broader audience via additional media contacts you may have. Whatever the “God-cidence” may be, please know our primary goal is to bring hope and healing to families around the nation—thank you for helping us do that.

I pray you will view what you are about to read as a “God-cidence” meant just for you.

God Bless and Keep You,

Allison Bottke

LIN: The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

LIN: How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

LIN: What are some of the most common ways that parents enable their children?

ALLISON: Being the Bank of Mom and Dad, or the Bank of Grandma and Grandpa. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices. Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies. Blaming ourselves for their problems. We have given too much and expected too little.

LIN: You say there are two separate yet intrinsically combined things going on when we look at the pathology of enabling our adult children, what are those two things?

ALLISON: #1. We have the issue of the dysfunctional child himself—the product of our enabling. Most often, we are dealing with adult children who have no concept of healthy boundaries as they pertain to their parents and grandparents. Many are dealing with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling, and more. Some of these children are involved in illegal activity, while others have been in and out of jail numerous times. Some are abusive to us. Some have jobs while others do not, most have extreme financial challenges.

Others are still living at home, and some have even moved their spouse or “significant other” into their parents’ home with them. Many have been in and out of treatment centers, most often at the urging (and cost) of their parents. While we cannot change the behavior of our adult children, we can change how we respond to their actions and to their choices. We can, and must, begin to establish healthy boundaries and rules.

#2. Then, we have the issue of our own personal health and growth (or lack thereof.) For many of us, we have spent years taking care of, bailing out, coming to the rescue, making excuses for, crying over, praying for, and otherwise focusing an unhealthy amount of time and attention on this adult child, that we have neglected our own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Many of us have neglected other family members as well, as the adult child has taken so much of our energy. Some of us are now experiencing severe financial ramifications from having enabled our adult child. Others are finding their marriage falling apart as tempers flair and situations spiral out of control. What is it inside us that makes us respond in such a way—that makes us enable our adult children?

LIN: What are some things that parents can do to break the cycle of enabling?

ALLISON: Follow the six steps to S.A.N.I.T.Y.: Stop blaming yourself and stop the flow of money. Stop continually rescuing your adult children from one mess after another. Assemble a support group of other parents in the same situation. Nip excuses in the bud. Implement rules and boundaries. Trust your instincts. Yield everything to God, because you’re not in control. These six things can start a parent on the road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. in an insane situation that is spinning out of control. However, a key issue in breaking the cycle of enabling is to understand whose problem it really is.

LIN: What is the ultimate goal of Setting Boundaries?

ALLISON:While recognizing and identifying enabling issues must come before positive change can be made, it is the eventual peace and healing parents will feel as they gain power in their own lives that is the goal of this book. It’s a tough love book for coping with dysfunctional adult children, as well as getting our own lives back on track, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children empowers families by offering hope and healing through six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps. I walk parents through a six step program to regaining control in their home, and in their life.

LIN: What are the six steps for hope and healing you refer to in Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children?

ALLISON: S.A.N.I.T.Y. Six Steps for Regaining a Healthy Relationship with Adult Children

S = STOP Enabling, STOP Blaming Yourself, and STOP the Flow of Money
A = Assemble a Support Group
N = Nip Excuses in the Bud
I = Implement Rules/Boundaries
T = Trust Your Instincts
Y = Yield Everything to the Higher Power of God (Surrender)

LIN: Tell us about the S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network you founded. How can people get involved? ALLISON: The “A” step in S.A.N.I.T.Y. is to ASSEMBLE a support group. This is a vital component in being able to look at our situations more objectively. We have developed a powerful Companion Study Guide that can be read individually or in a group setting. This Companion Study Guide contains all the information you need to conduct a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support group in your neighborhood or community. Visit our web site here to find out more: .The S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network is a powerful resource to help parents and grandparents who have challenging adult children gain S.A.N.I.T.Y. in a world spinning out of control. During the years I spent as an enabling parent there were no support groups available for me as a parent in pain. Although it’s a tremendously successful program, AA wasn’t quite right for me, and I attended a few Alanon meetings, but the kind of empowering strength I needed for my situation wasn’t available. I needed to hear from others who had walked in my shoes—I needed to hear what they were doing that worked. I needed people around me who would lovingly hold me accountable to my own choices as I experienced the journey of parenting and enabling a dysfunctional adult child. I needed an action plan to help me make changes in my life.I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as I was writing Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child that a vital part of the outreach would be the development of an international support group network based on the six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps I had developed.We need a resource that can help us to set appropriate boundaries and get some S.A.N.I.TY. in our households, as well as assuring us that we are walking in God’s will. Following the steps outlined in Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child is a start in addressing this issue. Attending, and/or facilitating a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group in your community is the next vital step in gaining hope as you walk the often painful path to healing.

ALLISON: I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: SettingBoundaries@SanitySupport.com. Please be sure to visit our web site at http://www.sanitysupport.com/blogtourguests.htm where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!

I would like to personally thank Allison for taking the time out of her busy tour schedule to speak with me personally about a topic I am very passionate about. It is my sincere hope that parents have been helped to understand that enabling children (whether adults, teenagers or even younger children), is harmful to their wellbeing and it needs to stop now.

Related Posts:

Are Parents Helping or Enabling Their Adult Children?

Helping and Enabling: Is There A Difference?

Are You An Enabler? Identifying Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors

How To Stop Enabling: When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us

How To Teach Children about Money and Money Management

Parenting Tips: Raising Children With Tough Love

Closing The Bank of Mom and Dad

Raising Independent Children, Not Moochers

Children Who Refuse To Grow Up

A Sense of Entitlement

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12 Responses to “Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents”

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  1. fragileheart says:

    Fabulous! Can’t wait to get this book when I get kids – it’s something I’ve been thinking about as I watch CSI and watch them portray kids make some of the biggest mistakes of their lives. Yes, I know CSI is fiction, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen!

  2. Lin says:

    Fragile Heart, enabling is a huge problem, and I just continue to pound the subject in, hoping parents will be able to figure out that they’re not really helping their children by ‘enabling’ them.

    David, thanks. Some of my posts are pretty clear cut, but others (like this one) hopefully helps parents give the topic some serious thought.

  3. Great information. I can’t get the book where I am, and I’m glad to get a piece of it here.

    My wife was an enabler with our older son until I put my foot down. It was the best stomping a man could ever do.

  4. Nice interview and article Lin, especially the stuff about enabling. My parents constantly enable my brother, and I’ve talked to them about it many, many times. They’ve gotten better and he is better for it. It prevents young adults from growing up – let them fail already!

  5. Lin says:

    Thanks Jeremy! You’re so right; parents have to allow children/teens/grown adult children to make mistakes with how they handle money and their spending habits etc, and fail in order to learn how to take care of themselves. Every time a parent or grandparent rescues their child, it only makes matters worse.

  6. Lin says:

    RT, good for you! Someone has to put a stop to it, so it’s great that you’ve had your foot stomp and ended the enabling. Yeah!

  7. Really enjoyed this interview. A take out for me was to make sure that you set the basis for a healthy, enabling relationship when they are young. I can imagine it would be much harder to change relationship behaviour after it has been entrenched for decades.

  8. Lin says:

    PQ, you’re right. Raising children to become responsible adults really must start early in life because it’s that much harder to change enabling behaviors. But it is doable, and Allison’s suggestions as well as my other articles on the subject of helping vs. enabling can help enabling parents stop the behaviors and change attitudes that have created Entitlement issues in society. Thank you for your input!

  9. Wow… thanks for visiting my site… i never follow the blog catalog people, but i followed yours and I am glad I did… my in-laws need this badly… I hope I win the book giveaway, if not, it’ll be worth it to go out of our budget to get this for my in-laws… they need a good Christian perspective on this issue…

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  1. [...] you haven’t yet had the chance to read my interview with Allison, I recommend you do so, as she is a phenomenal author and she gave a great [...]

  2. [...] Temporarily allowing adult kids to move back home, pay rent and help out around the house with clearly established boundaries, can be advantageous for the parents and the kids on a verrry short-term [...]