Boundaries Q&A with Dr. Townsend: How to Love Without Enabling an Adult Child

Question: Dr. Townsend, I have a 35-year-old son in jail for possession of a controlled substance and thievery. How do I love him without enabling him, yet letting him know that I care? First, let me say that I am sorry for you and your son’s situation. I’m also very glad you want to help him. Jail is a lonely and difficult place to be, even if the individual has committed acts that justify him being there. To answer to your question, in a way, you really don’t have to worry a great deal about enabling him. To “enable” is to remove someone from the consequences of his behavior, and jail actually is those consequences. So, he is already in a non-enabling environment. I have worked with inmates, and the responses have been very growth-producing for them. Here are three things you can do to help your son while maintaining healthy boundaries: 1. Stay connected to him. Often, loved ones will visit an inmate in prison or jail at first, then they will come less frequently, because either they don’t like the negative environment, or they simply disconnect and move on. Don’t do that. If there is any time a person... Continue Reading »