Not helping to help our difficult children

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Steely, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    The locked thread is excellent if it was not personalized. Whatta say we start it again?

    "A new thread started re the entire subject of tough love and how helping is NOT helping when it comes to many difficult children"

    "husband and I are still going to marriage counseling to work on communication problems, but not very often. Yesterday we were talking about our coping mechanisms when confronted with problems. I worry, and husband withdraws. When I was really bad off, I used to withdraw beyond the worry, so every time I went too far with the worry, I would withdraw. I spent a lot of time sad and worried and angry because L's dad and stepmonster constantly baited me with problems. That was about them. For about 6 years I fell for it and said "I can't do this anymore, I can't play games just to see my daughter" and everyone told me "you can, you have to." Eventually, it dawned on me that they actually needed me, too, because that was how they got every other weekend free. I realized I had power over them. I said "If you ever accuse me of abusing my daughter again, or deny me visitation, I won't come get her ever again and I won't go to court to fight it." It never happened again.

    husband and I went to a funeral of an old friend, C, this weekend. Thirty years ago she had been married to a man, and then divorced after years of drinking and abuse. He was a drunk and abusive before he married her, and she was going to save him. He showed her his worst side. She eventually divorced him. She felt like she had failed. A couple of years after their divorce, he stopped drinking. He got a job in the field that he had his Masters in, and was eventually a specialist in his field that was called on for especially difficult problems. She couldn't save him. I don't know how he pulled his act together, but it wasn't her and it couldn't happen until she stopped trying.

    When M was at home, we had international students stay with us for 3 - 4 week periods. It was hard work, but we enjoyed it. After M left home, we decided that we would like to offer our home to students for full school years. We had a young girl, K, from Korea stay with us. She seemed happy to be here and we were happy to have her. At first. In February she got mad at me for asking her to help me clean the house one day. Long story short, she started smoking in her room in her closet, sneaking out of the house, and drinking. There was lots of lying. We tried and tried to help her. We were so worried that she would have trouble attaining her goal and graduating high school and getting into a prestigious American college. It got worse and worse. We tried therapy. A big No No in Korean culture. We tried to engage her, talk with her teachers, etc. All she wanted to do was stay in her room. In June we told her that when school was out she couldn't stay with us anymore. She was thrilled. She lasted in the next home for about 6 weeks. The truth of the matter was she was a kid who was away from home and wanted to be a kid, not graduate high school and get into a prestigious American college. That was her parents dream. It was also

    husband and I talked about these things yesterday. husband is learning how important it is that he doesn't cope with everything by withdrawing into his World of Warcraft game - a highly addictive substance, by the way. I'm learning to let things go and not worry and obsess - another highly addictive substance. When we were talking about K, therapist asked if we remembered why we gave up. I told him "She needed help, but I couldn't help her. Maybe we were keeping her from moving on to the person who was able to help her." husband turned to me and said "That's really right on. Like C and her husband. She couldn't help him or save him. It wasn't until he got away from her that he was able to make a better life for himself" - how ever it was that he did it.
    problem, and we couldn't save her. "
  2. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I'm not certain why that thread shouldn't have been personalized. It was specific to Stands. She needed to hear it from a different point of view and I wanted it to stand out from the rest because it was a reason to disengage that no one had brought up with her before - is Stands' constant meddling keeping her son from that which could save him? Stands is hooked on the possibility that something she did in the past might make her son's problems her fault. My question to her, which she has not answered, was what if nothing that she had done in the past made his current situation her fault, but what she does today or tomorrow with her constant interference in his life is what keeps him from recovery?

    I don't think the question applies to anyone else here the way I meant it for Stands. No one else here has that kind of guilt. No one else here can't find a good enough reason to disengage the way that Stands can't find a good enough reason. It was a question brought to my mind by Stands, and it was meant for Stands. It was an opportunity for her to have a new thought that might save her son.

    I truly believe that we are not the right group to help Stands, and she does need help. I think she needs help more than her son needs help. A co-dependency group seems more appropriate. A trained therapist seems more appropriate.

    So, is it not helping to help Stands? On the face of it her actions are socially acceptable. She presents as a worried mother. But she's way beyond that. For a year we have all advised her to stop, and for a year she says she will and she hasn't changed at all. Her son's actions are not socially acceptable. He steals and involves minors in crimes and takes drugs and he's in jail. But he could look on any corner and find help if he wanted it. He just doesn't want it.

    So, does Stands really want help? Are we with our constant advice to her the same as she with her constant "fixing" is to her son? Keeping her from recovering from what seems most likely to be an addiction? Are we addicted to giving advice to Stands, hoping against hope that one day we will find the one thing that makes her stop and change for the better? By continuing the same conversation with her for over a year are we keeping her from that one thing that will save her from being so unhappy?
  3. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think that is a very good point, Witz. Perhaps in attempting to help Stands we are in some way behaving in our own, codependent way. I do know that the feeling I get when she doesn't "get it" is similar to what I sometimes feel with my own kids.

    That being said, tough love is an excellent subject overall. I've had years of practice, and it comes a bit easier now (I can't believe I even can type that), but it's still hard sometimes. I was having a conversation with a date just last night about the subject.. discussing pushing kids out of the nest and not enabling them.. I could tell by the look on his face (and the fact that he has a 30 year old son that just moved back in with him) .. that he didn't get it. Of course, pushing a difficult child out of the next and pushing a easy child out (or not) are completely different things. "Normal" parents really don't get it, do they?
  4. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Witz your comments were excellent in regards to tough love. Many, many people read the board, many who do not post. I myself, need many many positive shoves in detachment. Posts like yours and Va help shove me in that direction.
    That is why this thread should be continued. To help ALL. Not just one. Because, after all, that is what this board is about. Helping ALL. If we were to help just one, than we would email each other privately.
  5. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Perhaps we all need help with Stands by not helping her all of the time. I'm not being mean or trying to pick on her. I am still trying to help her. I believe that the post was locked because I asked that it be locked because it had gotten off topic and back on to the same old ones that we always get onto in Stands' posts.

    The similarity of how we interact with her, when it doesn't help or may be keeping her from something or someplace else that will help, as compared to how she interacts with her son had not occurred to me until I read your post.

    In reality, we give individual advice directed to individuals every day on the board. I know that Stands' situation seems to stick out more than anyone else's. If she posts, you can guarantee that she will get 600 or a thousand hits on her thread. There's no one else who gets as much advice, attention, and help as she does.

    I believe it is the best example we can all relate to as to how "helping" can hurt by keeping someone from the cure. I also believe that after a year of going through the same cycles with her, it wouldn't be a bad thing if she was more actively seeking help from other resources. We clearly are not helping her. Not that she shouldn't post here, I'm not saying that. But that she needs something more than we have been offering to her this last year.
  6. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Hearing the phrase "tough love" reminds me of Useless Boy's mother, many years ago. Her idea of "tough love" was not letting him live in their home, but...she paid his rent, gave him food money, gas money, paid the power bill, whatever else he needed. Hindsight is 20/20...I should have run screaming way back then.

    Fast forward 20 years...OMG...has it really been that long? He lives in a house his mother owns, she pays the power bill, gave him a truck, gives him gas money, food money, whatever else he needs, AND pays child support and other KT-related expenses. He's almost 50 years old.

    I am determined I will not enable Miss KT the way her grandmother has enabled Useless Boy.
  7. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Mary, I hope that L does not end up that way. She can't hold a job, but why should she? Daddy pays her $700 a month for doing nothing, pays her car payment, her car insurance, her health insurance, her gas, her cell phone. Her boyfriend who keeps kicking her out lets her come back every time she loses a job. This is the third time she's lived with him in the last 4 years. So, it's not just parents who enable, I guess.
  8. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    I think Steely is right that this post can help alot of other members, especially many who read but don't post.

    I've learned alot from posts of addiction, even though I knew alot before from my own experiences. Codependency can be awfully complicated.

    I find myself backing off more and more in doing things for my kids that they are capable of learning and doing for themselves. But sometimes that fine line of helping vs enabling isn't always so clear, at least to the person involved.

    When I'm unsure I try to think what my grandmother would've done. She had tough love down to an art form. But not everyone has someone like that to draw from.

    I adore my mother in law. But she enabled the heck out of husband for 40 some years until I put a stop to it. I'm still living with the reprocussions from that. And I'm determined my kids won't wind up the same way. mother in law's reason to me was to prevent my kids from suffering for his actions. A good reason from her stand point, but nothing changed until I told her no more or I was divorcing him.

    And even with that...... Lately I've been asking myself if I'm not making Travis do enough to strive to attempt independence. When should I draw the line with letting Nichole live here?
  9. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I think this is an interesting discussion. I also think many of these things discussed here will not have clear cut answers.

    People come here for advice and that especially in the PE Forum, enabling can be a frequent cause for concern. But since we are not medical experts and can't truly know the full stories behind each case (medical, familly, marital issues), I would hesitate to encourage a person to for example, disengage from their adult child so completely that medical care was not going to be provided. However, sometimes there are extreme situations and that might have to be the case.

    It seems that most of us have learned the value of detachment and that enabling our children (esp. our adult children) often is NOT the road to their salvation.

    I believe there are the extreme situations and that there are many shades of gray. There might be a way to keep our kids safe, but refuse to enable. I do believe enabling takes away a child's desire to propel himself (a necessary force) towards self sufficiency. Believe me, I'm not always "comfortable" with this stuff myself, but baby steps forward, especially for those with diagnosis's, are a good thing.

    I think Stands was simply asking for help, but was not fully ready to hear what everyone was saying to her. Gettng angry certainly wont help. Perhaps too many opinions are confusing. I do think that many folks in these predicaments need professional guidance and counseling. Not always, but sometimes...this is a long process.

    If it is troubling to post to the poster mentioned here, I probably wouldn't do it. But, just like I believe is often the case with many of our children...there are shades of gray. Here are some possibilities:
    1) either not respond 2) limit your response 3) simply suggest she see a counselor -regularly or attend Al-Anon or Family Anonymous meetings. Repetition is the key to learning and if she hears it often enough, it is likely to stick.

    The idea of being propelled (addicted?) to help this poster is intriquing...I'm sure there are many possible reasons for it. It could be a possible indication of projection or that we are feeling insecure in our own abilities to productive in this world (in my humble opinion). Hmmmmm
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I've learned that, for my own sake, I just stop posting to certain people...or reading their posts. Some folks think that it's a parent's duty to not only be there no matter what the kid does, but to support the grown adult in high style. Since that goes against everything I believe in (and have seen in real life), I refrain from trying to help people who have this mindset imbedded in them. To me, you do NO grown child any good by not letting him become self-sufficient. It is worse if the child doesn't want to take responsibility and takes, takes, takes. What happens when we're gone? We have a forty year old adult, no longer cute to anybody, who is completely selfish and unlovable and likely very unsuccessful in his life...just thinking about it saddens me.
    I've learned my limitations of giving advice...good thread.
  11. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    With all due respect, we have been repeating ourselves verbatim for a year. It clearly isn't the key here. As we seem to have been drawn into her disease by repeating ourselves in spite of her not taking our advice. So, if something bad happens to her son, are we complicit because we continued our supportive role rather than nudge her elsewhere for more appropriate assistance? It's great to say we shouldn't engage with her, but we do. So, in good conscience, shouldn't there be a balance in input?
  12. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    Hey Everyone-

    I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with this thread. Let's be sensitive towards each other and careful that it stays conversational and not confrontational.

  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I think it is good that you are giving this some thought.

    I also think you, yourself would agree that "if something bad happens to her son" it is her son's fault.

    And you have the opportunity to refer her to professional counseling with each and every one of her posts since it seems likely that this is what is called for.

    In addition, she can NOT take away YOUR personal choice to ignore her posts altogether ( there might even be a feature on this website to make that happen).

    Wishing you well (and thank you for your super cool response to my request on wc!)
  14. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Yes, I agree. So, then is the answer that we can never give our children too much help? Or is there a time when we have to stop in order to save them?
  15. judi

    judi Active Member

    Like with other boards, we don't really KNOW each other - only what we put out here for the public to see. I know that when my son was home, it seemed harsh sometimes to hear that I should detach. I know now (many years later) that to detach does not mean I don't care or love my son very much. the heat of the moment our comments can sometimes be taken out of context.
  16. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I really don't know the answer, but I think we know from these boards and other sources that it is possible to give too much help to an adult child (and must stop in order to save them). I also think other factors have to be taken into consideration like illness. Sometimes there are no black and white answers. Each individual is different and each family has to make a determination as to what is appropriate. Hopefully, families going through great difficulties will seek wise counsel. We all know there are good support groups and even books available. And professional guidance is often a good move as well.

    I know for me "detaching" meant letting go in a certain kind of way. I think these issues are so sensitive, and parents of difficult children have been through so much, it is wise to be gentle. Great point about things being taken out of context in the heat of the moment!

    I see what you mean totally when you say that detaching doesn't mean we still don't love our children. I suppose this is just one more area that can lead to misunderstandings...esp. with folks who have not been in our shoes.
  17. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think it's not a matter of "saving them" if and when we stop helping. It's a matter of stepping back and letting them save themselves. Semantics, maybe.

    As recently as a month or so ago, my Oldest called me with veiled threats of suicide, saying she couldn't "take it any more," etc. etc. (she had no rent money, no job, etc.) The old Crazy might have called 911, sent the rescue squad to her house, met them there and gone to the ER with her. (the old crazy DID do that on at least one occasion, actually). Not to mention, might have foregone my own bills to give her money. But that particular night, my response was, "you know what you need to do, if you're really serious about that." That of course was met with cries of how I always criticized her, she never felt like I loved her, etc. etc. etc. I hung up finally, and did worry if this time, she was really serious. Just when I was getting ready to call Youngest and ask her to check on Oldest, Oldest called back. Completely different mindset, ticked off at me about something completely separate. No mention of not being able to take it any more. Ticked and making plans for the next day, in fact. That told me she was fine. In fact, 100% of the time when I ignore her threats, she has been fine. At least, she hasn't tried to actually kill herself. She's admitted herself to the psychiatric unit occasionally, or found a new man to give her money/a place to live/whatever emotional support she feels she needs at the time. She's survived so far. Somehow, she's also figured out, that her manipulative threats don't work any more. Oh she still tries them, but, they are fewer and far between.

    It took me years to learn how to detach in that way. The same therapist who once gave me the "anything you do to help her now, only hurts her later" advice, also gave me harsher advice... "it's quite possible that Oldest will die from her own neglect and refusal to take care of herself, and if that happens, it will NOT be your fault." She wrote it down and handed it to me, and asked me to repeat it. I remember being shocked when she told me that. But she was right. If Oldest chose not to follow doctor's orders, or get help for her physical or mental health issues, I couldn't change that. It was on her.

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except to say that for me, this type of "not helping" was the hardest to learn for me. It's also the type that is probably the hardest for anyone else NOT in my situation, or not the parent of a mentally ill (and addicted) child, to understand.
  18. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Crazy...Thank you for your post. I am going to re-read it.
    My gut (at this time) is teling me to always help difficult child provide for medical care (especially psychological services) if she wants it, is willing to make use of it appropriately...i.e. make her appointments, keep her appointments and take any prescribed medications. However, I can't and wont force the issue. I always want there to be hope for health.

    However, I am learning to detach and have made much progress. Part of this learning process had to do with the difficult and painful realization/acceptance that if difficult child doesn't follow doctor's orders, doesn't progress with her issues, it could be very costly...but it will be "on her" like you put it.

    I agree... it was hard for me to grasp. My husband still struggles alot. And other parents are not only clueless, but they are often inclined to judge us as well (potentially causing more pain).