April 11, 2008

It has been said that deciding to have a child is like deciding to let your heart walk around outside your body for the rest of your life. No one knows that better than author and mom Allison Bottke, whose most recent book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing (Harvest House, February 2008), is causing a stir—and a fresh light of hope—among hurting parents everywhere.

“In an era when personal responsibility has become more and more scarce,” Bottke says, “it’s often the parents who have spent years enabling their children who are now suffering.”

CBS News refers to these often immature and irresponsible adult children as “boomerang kids,” always leaving and returning to the nest, unable or unwilling to do what’s necessary to make it on their own. And why should they, when experience has taught them that Mom and Dad will eventually come to the rescue and do it for them?

Having experienced firsthand the revolving door of an adult child who moved in and out of her home nearly as often as he moved in and out of jail and/or drug rehabs (almost always entailing financial expense on Bottke’s part), this author has written a heartrendingly honest tough-love book that not only exposes the truth of her own struggles with her beloved yet rebellious adult child, but also includes glimpses into the lives of others with similar experiences.

So how does it happen? How do loving, well-meaning parents fall into this trap of enabling—and even crippling—their own children?

“For years I really thought I was helping my son,” Bottke explains. “I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt.” As a result, she often ran interference for him so he wouldn’t have to experience the unpleasant consequences of his actions. Sadly, she neglected to teach him a truth she now knows only too well—that “sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make”; by shielding her son from that pain, she enabled him to continue making poor choices. Their lives soon became entwined in a never-ending “rollercoaster of chaos” that neither knew how to stop.

“For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life,” Bottke says. “I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices.” When she finally got to the point where she could no longer stand the situation, she realized the only way off the rollercoaster was to refuse to fuel it anymore. It was then that she began to see a glimmer of hope at the end of her long, dark tunnel.

“When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing, my life changed,” Bottke says. And that’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.”

That’s the key to this excellent book. More than a “how-to” manual based on theory, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing is a practical yet personal guide to regaining and maintaining sanity after being caught up in an ongoing cycle of crisis and enabling. Not only does this book deliver what it promises—six practical steps to help struggling parents recover and reclaim their lives and their sanity—but it does so in a remarkable manner.

Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children is designed for individual study, as well as group settings, through the simple but effective use of a six-step S.A.N.I.T.Y. program: