An interview with Allison Bottke, author of Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents.
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.
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.
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?
You say the main problem with dysfunctional adult children isn’t the choice they make or don’t make – but something else entirely. If their choices aren’t the main problem, what is?
ALLISON: Our biggest problem isn’t about our adult child’s inability to wake up when their alarm clock rings, or their inability to keep a schedule, or their inability to hold down a job or pay their bills. It’s not about their drug use or alcohol addictions. It’s not about the mess they’re making of their life. The main problem is about the part we’re playing in stepping in to soften the blow of the consequences that come from the choices they make. The main problem is us. Instead of praying to God to stop the pain, remove the difficulty, or change the life of our adult child, we must rise up and pray for something entirely different. We must pray for the courage to look deep in our own heart and soul—pray for the strength to begin a journey that quite possibly may change our own life—and pray for the wisdom to make new choices in our own life.
What does this book accomplish that other books on the topic do not?
ALLISON: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will empower readers with a no holds barred six step S.A.N.I.T.Y. format, stating in black and white the parental behaviors that must STOP, along with identifying new habits to implement if change is to occur. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will identify the false conceptions parents believe about themselves and their adult children and will counter each lie of captivity with the truth that setting boundaries is not only a good thing—but a vital part of hope and healing. True stories from other enabling parents and grandparents are woven throughout the chapters. Discussions with and observations from licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are also included.
Is Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children applicable to readers who many not share the same faith journey as you?
ALLISON: Absolutely. As a Christian, I write from that perspective. I personally believe that a focus on God or on your Higher Power is vital in this healing process. However, the book is written in such a way as to appeal to people of all beliefs and denominations.
You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?
ALLISON: There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.
I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. 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!