How can we love our kids without robbing them of the important life lessons they need to learn?

I heard the long sigh in her voice.

Leah called me on a quiet Sunday afternoon because I saw her message on Facebook. It was something like “I’m so stressed I can’t stand it.” While I see those messages pretty frequently on social media, Leah wasn’t one to post something like that. So, I sent her an inbox and instead of writing me back, she gave me a call.

Turns out, Leah’s adult children were in the middle of crisis and Leah was overwhelmed with worry- among other things. Her 20-something daughter was pregnant and her son’s youthful irresponsibility turned into legal trouble, including a warrant for his arrest.

As a single mom, Leah spent her life working hard to provide a good life for her kids. She admitted that single-mom guilt propelled her to jump in and help her kids out whenever they asked. While she’d been an amazing single mom, Leah felt like she let her kids down by not having a dad in their lives. So, even though they were adults, Leah would slip them money to cover funding gaps in car payments, to keep cell phones from getting shut off or allow the kids to live with her when they were between jobs.

But all of that stress of caring for adults who should be caring for themselves exacted a toll on Leah. She felt stressed because they were desperate for her money, but not to correct the behaviors that created the situation. Leah would help them, hoping that it would be “just this time” and then feel crushed when the same situation would repeat itself later.

If you’ve been worn out by worrying about your adult kids, I’d like to introduce you to the Sort-It-Out tool from my Winning the Worry Battle book. This tool offers four questions to help you determine how you can show love and concern for your adult kids without letting their problems or worries wear YOU out.

So, when an adult child comes and asks for financial help, a place to stay, or for you to get involved with a conflict with another person, ask yourself these questions:


  1. Am I legally responsible? (Legal status)
  2. Is my adult child asking for support in an improving situation or for rescue from a self-inflicted AND declining situation. (improving)
  3. Does my adult child have a track record of irresponsible decisions? (track record)
  4. Will my assistance build my child’s self-reliance or make him or her more dependent in the future? (enabling)

I know that your situation is likely complex. For years, I’ve had to use this tool to deal with an addiction issue in my household. It’s tough! There are no easy answers and it’s not my role to tell you what to do. My hope is to help you see where your helping has the potential to hurt you both. It’s hurting your adult child because instead of allowing the consequences of his or her circumstances to push them toward God, you might be the one getting in the way of them asking God for help.

If you determine that it would not be healthy or helpful to bail your adult child out, here are some things that you can say:

  • I’m so sorry that you are going through this, but I am unable to help you.
  • This is so hard! Can I help you put together a plan that you can use to deal with this problem? (Only if you can plan without taking over responsibility!)
  • I know that you can figure this out. Keep me posted on how you are doing.

 Yes, it feels bad saying no to helping someone, but remember, you aren’t saying that the individual isn’t worthy of help, only that you choose not to get in the way of God doing His work in their lives.


Comments: Has there been a  time when you have been able to say “no” to someone when you really wanted to help them?

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