Loving Detachment

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by DenitaS, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. DenitaS

    DenitaS New Member

    How do you achieve that? I am just curious. I am having a difficult time drawing the line of helping her and protecting myself. She keeps saying that she needs her mom, just to hold her and let her cry. I have to say it is REALLY tugging at my heart strings.
    I understand that she cannot live with us. It would be wonderful though if we could get to a place to have her for dinner and such. (and it not turn into a whole ordeal of her feeling like she is "in" again)
    Any suggestions on how to lovingly detach?

    DS :confused:
  2. emotionallybankrupt

    emotionallybankrupt New Member

    I've been thinking a lot about that over the past few weeks. I think that we parents may go through a process that has some parallels to addiction. Having to hit "rock bottom" before being able to turn it around. "Rock bottom" isn't the same for everybody, and it's a very individual process getting there. Definitely the physical threats and getting to the point that I believed she was capable of carrying them out spurred my process. The overall drive to survive myself, and knowing I really had to! Giving up was not an option, because I have another child who needs me! I also think most parents have to go around "the circle" a few times before being able to detach in a healthy way. "Helping," seeing that help be completely ineffective for difficult child while sapping every bit of energy you have, difficult child hits a new low, you think maybe they've finally "got it" and so you "help again," etc. Finally you see that maybe the only hope for difficult child is to do something different and bold, and you save yourself in the meantime. The guilt isn't there, because everything else imagineable has been tried and checked off the list, maybe more than once. I think that sums up my experience pretty well.
  3. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    I think it is a matter of first making sure you take care of you. Then I think it is figuring out what you are willing to do for her and what you are not willing to do for her and then making those boundaries very clear.

    So from you post sounds like you would like to see her, give her a hug, let her cry on your shoulder. That is a loving mommy thing to do and in my opinion does not enable her to do her bad behavior. It shows her you are there and you love her.

    It also sounds like you are very clear she can not live with you so you need to continue to be clear on that. Maybe it would be easier and clearer to meet her somewhere for dinner rather than have her come home for dinner....

    We are in a similar place with our son. I did take him shopping for some new clothes. We bought him dinner that night. We have told him we will make him a plane reservation to go back to his TBS for some help. We have driven him to court. We are telling him we love him, and we are trying to let him know we are still here to support him.

    We have not invited him to the house. We have not lifted the no tresspass order. We have not bailed him out or paid for a lawyer. He is not coming on vacation with us. I did not go rescue him when he called me in tears one night after being beat up by a neighbor. He did not ask me to do that but I was sorely tempted.

    It is a balancing act for sure. I found some good stuff on the internet which I don't remember where... but look up detaching with love and you should find it.

    To me though it means taking care of yourself, doing what feels right to you to do as a parent and not doing those things that feel like you are being taken advantage of or used.

    I don't think it means we have to reject or stop loving our kids.... it means we have to stop helping them to continue to do their bad behavior.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    First we understand why we are so attached. Actually, that one is easy - We love our kids but it goes deeper than that - we feel responsible for the life we brought into the world. We feel it is our responsibility that this person is taken care of and becomes a productive adult who provides a good life for themselves.

    So, as they grow, we do our best to provide the tools our kids need to become the self sufficient adults. easy child's take those tools and proudly enter adulthood. difficult children don't understand those tools or choose not to use them. It is those difficult child's who choose not to use the tools that we get the most upset with. They don't want to take on the responisibility of becoming an adult, they want someone to look after them their entire life and those who have gone through this know that is unhealthy for ALL involved (difficult child, parents, siblings, ect).

    So, detachment becomes a much longer process for difficult children. Once you have determined that your difficult child can stand on his/her own and can earn a living even though minimum you have to point those abilities out. You have to come right out and tell them in so many words that "difficult child, you are an adult. You can make decisions and take care of yourself. That is what adults do. In order to be your own person, you must take on the responsibility of being an adult. You get to decide what type of work you want to do, what housing you want that is within your income, what you buy for groceries, ect. ect. ect. You CAN do this. I will be available to give input but I can not support you financially or you will never know what you are capable of doing."

    1. Determine that your difficult child is an adult who can live on their own
    2. Show/Tell your difficult child that he/she can make a life of his/her own. Will take lots of reminders.
    3. Step back and let that life happen
    4. Refrain from setting too high an expectation for your difficult child. He/She has to set those goals. As long as he/she is making a living, that is all you can hope for even though they may not have the higher paying job you wish they would go for to make life a little easier.
    5. Know that once they are an adult, your job is done. You are not responsible for the type of life they choose for themselves. No matter what people may say, your child's life is not a reflection on your parenting skills. Some of the best parents have kids who choose not to follow the path or pick up the tools their parents worked hard to lay out for them.
  5. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree. This is the idea behind the concept of "codependency." It's why Al-anon has their own 12 steps. We become so enmeshed in the lives our our difficult children, that our own emotions get mixed up with theirs.. empathy turns to codependency. Our happiness becomes dependent on their happiness, and conversely, their unhappiness tends to make us unhappy. I don't mean the normal unhappiness when you see your child hurting, all parents feel that. I mean we become depressed and stressed over their unhappiness, especially when they seem to be doing nothing to change themselves. It doesn't have t be that way, and untangling that mess takes a lot of practice. It's why I think a support group of some kind can be really important, especially if you're dealing with a difficult child who has some addiction tendencies. Loving detachment takes practice... and more practice. It doesn't happen over night. It took me years, and I did a lot of reading, and had a lot of therapy.
  6. DenitaS

    DenitaS New Member

    I think that I went through a phase of TOTAL detachment. I just shut my emotions off completely (self preservation?) Now I am trying to be somewhat available to her without getting sucked into her world. I am having a hard time deciding where the "line" goes. Food? Clothes? Rides? Phone Calls? Everything with her has to happen RIGHT NOW!! There is no, let's think about it, or here are some other options. It is her way or hell for everyone to pay.
    It's just a tough line to draw. It is much easier to let go completely then be somewhat involved. I am one of those people that ABSORB other peoples energies and problems. I am still trying to learn to turn that off. Not an easy thing.

    Thanks guys for sharing. I don't believe that I am enabling her anymore, maybe just not making the rules clear enough. She seems to think the rules are because I am mad at her. I just need a sense of stability in our lives that don't revolve around her and the schedule does that for me. I have this day and that time that are devoted to her (if she chooses to use them) and the rest of the time I can be "present" with my remaining family.

    Does any of that make sense?

  7. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Denita, it makes total sense. To me, and probably to most of the other parents here. Thing is, it might not make sense to your difficult child.

    When our difficult children start to do better and we notice improvements, it is so tempting to lighten up, open the door a little bit, bend some of the rules etc. to show them that they are slowly starting to regain our trust and we feel comfortable moving some of the boundaries. And that's when it all goes straight into the dumper.

    I know this is true of my difficult child, and others have said similar things about theirs. Mine must have clear, absolute, unchanging rules. If I say, "I will never drive you anywhere again." Then I must never do so. Ever. If I break my own rule, even once, then that puts difficult child's whole understanding of all rules in question. He feels the need to test all of them. And his testing of limits and boundaries is NOT PRETTY. So he behaves terribly, and things go back into lockdown mode. I've realized over the years that this makes him feel secure. The rules are strict, unchanging and consistent. There's no wiggle room, so there's no room for him to make bad choices. That's really the only way he can function successfully -- if the day-to-day decisions are taken out of his hands.

    Part of taking decisions out of his hands means that I have to be 100% clear and 100% consistent. It's really hard and goes against our nature, because we want to support them for doing well, offer a reward for good behaviour, etc. But it just doesn't help them or the situation.

  8. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    You are doing a good job. Just keep clarifying those rules/boudaries to her. Sounds like you need to reclarify them to yourself which you are doing.

    I find that sometimes Diva will get into a "DO IT NOW!! DO IT MY WAY!!" mode whenever she is in a bit of a panic. She has come up with the solution to a problem and wants to plow ahead with the plan with no consideration to the lives of the people involved to make it happen. It is her way of being in control of the situation. I need to then tell her that I do not have time to do it her way and that she best calm down and figure it out.

    Diva needs to learn to think ahead just a little bit more sometimes. Procrastination does not always work and usually will end up putting her into panic mode then the "DO IT MY WAY NOW!" attitude comes through with the first plan she can think of.

    When your difficult child gets demanding, she is really in a panic mode. She is trying to get everyone else pulled into that mode because if everyone is panicing for her, they will put on their blinders and take directions from her how to get out. You are doing a good job in keeping that emotional tie severed. Use your strength to pull her out of that attitude, "difficult child, this is NOT an emergency! Calm down! You need to figure out an appropriate answer to this problem!"

    Keep strengthening those rules/boundaries and when she starts pushing them ask her to calm down and think about what needs to be done in a way that is respectful to everyone. Asking/demanding for rides or anything at the last minute is very very disrespectful unless there is an emergency. Tell her she should not be treating anyone that way.

    If there is a way that you can help her in planning her week/month and maybe asking her how her plans are going to come about (such as "Do you have a ride to that doctor's appointment? You should check the bus schedule now so that you know when you will need to be ready to catch it")

    She has to be open to you helping her learn to budget her time and look at all her options or this conversation will not work. If you start with, "Do you have a ride to ......?" she may think you are either offering or controlling but if you start with, "difficult child, can I help you plan your week?" she may be more open to suggestions.
  9. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    I am struggling to find my way through detachment, too. My difficult child, 19, thinks she's an adult - capable of being on her own. Unfortunately, she makes scary, dangerous, terrible decisions ... especially about guys. She cannot manage money - at all. She alternates between acting like an 8 year old and acting like a world-weary rebel. She has left my home and I've set clear boundaries about what I will and will not do for her. Or at least I think they are clear. I will not drive her and her idiot internet boyfriend to look for aparments. I will not drive her to or from work - even if it's dark, raining, storming, hailing. I did, however, do this when she was at home. I will not pick her and I.I.B up and allow them to come to my home, however, I WILL pick her up and see her one-on-one. I will not give her money. I do call her frequently and, when we talk, I always say "I love you".

    Still, I'm not sure how to move the boundaries as time goes on. Eight days ago, I had a difficult child living with me. I dealt with things like lying, hypersexuality, eating issues, a tornado of messiness... stuff like that. Today, she lives with a virtual stranger in a hotel. Who knows what is next? I may have to set new boundaries as the situation unfolds, but I won't be lifting those already in place.

    Probably my biggest detachment issue has to do with her dad. I've been fighting to detach from his behavior through this. He gives her money, he drives her and I.I.B to and fromt he motel. His girlfriend took them apartment hunting and both he and girlfriend have had them to dinner, as though meeting guys online and moving in with them is perfectly acceptable.

    I keep repeating, I cannot do anything about him. I rage,and repeat.

    Sigh. It's hard. I've gained a lot of wisdom from the others here. Detaching with a difficult child is a real challenge. She's my only, so I have no idea what it's like to allow a easy child to spread their wings.

    Last edited: Aug 9, 2010
  10. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Oh Dash it is so darned hard and it sounds like you are doing a great job and exactly what you need to do. The best advice my therapist gave me when we kicked my son out in June was to do our best to keep the communication lines open and keep letting him know we love him BUT continue to be clear he can't come home.

    Within the last few days some very bad things have happened where he is staying....with some people getting beaten up and hurt. Luckily my son was not physically hurt. Anyway I think he is not going to be able to stay there any longer.

    Meanwhile we are now on vacation thousands of miles away. Thank Goodness for internet access in hotels and text messaging.

    BUT my son has decided to go back to the TBS for a while and I am going to make an airline reservation today.

    There is no way he would have decided this if he was still living at home. I think he had to find out that being on his own in a different environment did not necessarily go all that well either.

    Of course i have no idea what the outcome will be but I do know that his best chance right now is to go back to the TBS where he was successful and get back on track.

    So you are doing a great job. Hopefully your ex will figure it out soon but at least you are beign clear with yourself and your daugther.
  11. bhin

    bhin Guest

    wow, you seem really strong, I am new here so, bear with me...hope I can someday find your strength.........
  12. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Bless you, bhin. Trust me, I don't have anything on the warrior women on this board. I may be holding my ground with her, but I am scared to death most of the time.

  13. 7jewels

    7jewels Guest

    We are in same boat; my hubby and I have an adopted difficult child 19 out of house and making very sad, bad decisions. I am new to this forum but wanted to tell you that your posting made me feel not "so alone". It's been two months since I last saw difficult child, and I haven't even texted her in 2-3 weeks; but I'm in a deeper, healthier detachment now and truly enjoying my OWN life and my other (six) children. I try not to get "the guilts" about what I did right or wrong in raising difficult child; most was really good if I'm honest with myself.... we gave her a love-filled, family-filled, faith-filled, awesome, amazing 18 years (even through the teens with cutting, anorexia, manipulation, etc.)!! Whatever it is that hurts her and makes her want to rebel and hurt herself and US has convinced her to ABANDON her wonderful life. I fluctuate between HOPE and DESPAIR that she will ever find us again. She has given up private university scholarships, doting grandparents, a 3-year-old brother that sings little songs about her daily, a "mother" (me, not bio, but stronger than that) with whom she has always felt a deep spiritual connection, a wonderful and healthy and non-dysfunctional father ..... for what? Trash, drugs, poverty, self-pity. Hard to understand, but I DO detach 98% of each day. I laugh again, I play and cook and work and golf and read again. Sorry for the rambling. This is a nice site! Love to all of you in our situation.
  14. Bean

    Bean Member

    I can really identify with you. I also tend to be an all or nothing. It is difficult for me to find that balance. I try to keep it in my mind each day, and especially when I interact with my daughter. Speak with love, be honest, put emotion aside. I tell myself this silently as I talk with her. If I "let myself go" we'd be brawling constantly, OR I'd be bawling constantly. Neither is good. This is a good thread and some good thoughts for me to ponder on, too, so thanks for bringing it up.

    Yes, this is true for us, too.
  15. 7jewels

    7jewels Guest

    Thank you, Bean, for the advice: Speak with love, be honest, put emotion aside. Like you, DenitaS, I have a tough time not detaching TOTALLY, which equates to UNLOVINGLY to my difficult child. But it's a process. Right now we're down to a few text messages a week; and even then, I can tell it's a control/manipulation game where every texted word has a role in her efforts to push boundaries. Trinity is right: the rules need to be clear. It's just that "lockdown" is no longer possible with "adult" (18+) difficult child's, in my humble opinion. ... unless I'm not understanding what Trinity means by that. It appear to mean that WE parents are the ones to make sure the consequences for boundary-pushing are implemented; well, I think that the world and natural consequences are the ONLY things that will nudge our difficult child's into the direction of wanting to change. I love my difficult child so dearly, but I refuse to remain sabotaged during her legal adulthood such that I'VE got to keep the rules enforced in her life. Too me that's not detachment; it's a reworking of "enabling". Does anyone agree?
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have found out the hard way that loosening up on detachment has not been a good thing.

    I find it very interesting that so many of you talk about this in correlation to addiction because I was watching that Intervention show the other night and it dawned on me that I really think I could use a good stay in the program they use for the families of the addicts so they wont continue to enable the addicts. I see so much of a parallel between the way I want to "save" my son from discomfort or problems and the way an addict could play their parent to get money for drugs. I shouldnt have let mine move back home. It was a mistake. I thought it would be a help to me and them. It was at first but now it has deteriorated. The only real difference now is I do have more of a backbone where he knows I will say no and I mean it and he doesnt push me.

    I really need to get him out again. I dont think it would be so bad if it wasnt for his girlfriend. She is a piece of work.
  17. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    I just have to say that I could have written this - I have been in the same situation.
  18. 7jewels

    7jewels Guest

    You are right; the parallels and overlaps between difficult child-ness and addiction are HUGE. In our case, our daughter has BOTH (diagnosis's include anorexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, asperger's, Borderline (BPD), bipolar rapid cycling) -- and she self-medicates. It's SO hard to determine how far to take the tough love. However, if she is refusing to stop using and self-sabotaging, husband and I choose to address primarily the addiction issues with tough love, i.e. not allowed to live at home with younger sibs, no financial support, just moral and emotional support. WHEN and IF she decides to stop the self-medicating, the underlying biochemical issues can be addressed. At times I weaken about our stance and want to run in to save her, but husband is very strong about this. Finding distractions and lecturing myself out of ANY guilt are important components of my daily detachment strategy. Love to all in our situation, again. D.
  19. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Not sure of your exact situation. But I think your adult daughter has the same or a similar disorder as ours.
    In our case, our daughter is on disability and this helps a little.
    We help her VERY (the key word is VERY) limited fashion financially.
    And on a rare ocassion, might offer her some advice. We will have her over for dinner about once a month and listen to her concerns, if and only if she is appropriate. We will help her find a mental health counselor and might even help pay for one if she feels she needs one and is willing to do the work. However, WE WILL NOT be difficult children own private counseling center....this is up to the professionals.

    RE: lovingly detach
    There were times I had to go to Family Anonymous Mtgs. Got some great information and support there.
    They have GOOD literature. You can read it many times...to gather strength.

    It's good for both you and your difficult child to detach.

    You might provide limited support if she is willing to use this support in a healthy way. But if she is an adult, it is time for her to do things on her own.

    This is YOUR time to move forward. And if you do, you will set a good example for her. Thinking about this might give you strength.

    Good luck.