Setting Boundaries with My Adult Child

Posted by on Jul 6, 2010 in Faith, Setting Boundaries | 27 comments

Thank you to those who sent cards and letters to Chris during the years he was incarcerated, it meant a great deal to him. Chris was released from prison on April 29, and he arrived in Texas on May 1 to begin a new journey.

Literally thousands of people have read about the turbulent relationship I had with my adult son. In fact, Chris was serving time in prison when Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents released in 2008 from Harvest House Publishers.

Today, parents and grandparents around the world are finding freedom from the enabling epidemic sweeping our country. My son has also found freedom—from the bondage of poor choices as well as from prison walls.

In the years Chris was incarcerated, he came to know the Lord in a new and vibrant way, and over time our relationship changed. God used our phone calls and letters to bring the light of healing and hope into a formerly dark place. And as Chris neared the end of his time in prison, I felt convicted to give him the opportunity to once again change the course of his life—by inviting him to live with me in Texas for his parole.

For those of you who have read my book, you know this wasn’t an easy decision to make. I prayed about it for months and talked at great length with close friends and advisors beforehand. Was God really convicting me that this was the right thing to do, or was it my heart as an enabling-prone mother?

What do you think? Join me tomorrow for part two.

27 Responses to “Setting Boundaries with My Adult Child”

  1. Marie Scialdone says:

    I am trying to find a copy of “setting boundaries for your adult Child” and cannot find it. Can I buy it online?

    Currently, my life is upside down and my son (28 years old) is living on the streets. I took him to a homeless shelter today but he could not stay because he did not pass the drug test. I’m bringing him back Friday and PRAY that he will stay clean so he can go to a safe place where people really care and will help him find a job.

    Distressed and feeling very guilty as I have enabled my son for the past many years.

    My email address is
    Marie Scialdone

  2. I order mine from a Christian book store. I will pray for you because I been there. Hang in there and it will get better. Allison’s book is a great read and freeing also.
    I have been ruled by quilt for many years but it never change anything but made my kids into spoil brats. Now I am free from quilt and I know Jesus sent this book into my life so I could learn what to do and not live my life by what was going on in my kids’ lives. I could not even go to church with a feeling the regret on the way my kids were raised( which was not as bad as it could of been). One day Jesus touched my heart and took the regret away when I realize he took all my regrets on the cross for me and he forgives me and I have to forgive myself. Thank you allsion for leading me though the healing and Thank you Jesus for healing me!Jesus Loves Your Son Very Much!

  3. Marie, I am praying for you and for your son. How well I know the ache you feel in your heart. It’s sometimes very difficult to step back and let our adult children experience the consequences of their actions. Thank you, Nancy, for recommending my book to Marie. It’s available at most bookstores or online at If a local bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order it for you very quickly, Marie. I know what you mean about guilt, Nancy, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, eh? So thankful you have found freedom from the bondage that exists when we don’t have healthy boundaries. It’s a never-ending journey, though, as I’m sure you know. Keep the faith and remember that God is in control. The “Y” step in the Six Steps to SANITY is, YIELD EVERYTHING TO GOD. Amen!

  4. Dear Allison, I recently discovered your book when it nearly jumped off a book rack in front of me when I was perusing through the gift shop at the hospital where I work. There is no doubt in my mind that it was divine intervention, as only a few days prior to this, I was on my knees with my heart in agony and tears aflowing, praying for His help. I was and still am struggling with my 25 yo son who is addicted to drugs. Today, I just finished the book. I recognize myself, my situation, and yes, also my enabling behavior, presented throughout the book. Today, I am so upset with myself because I have set boundaries and resolved to not send any more money. Yet, my son is a master at manipulation and yesterday again, managed to use his ace in the hole (emotional blackmail) to break through my boundary. He tells me about his ‘plan’ for detox and follow up rehab, etc. And then asks me for just enough money to buy some food until he can get into the detox unit. I know the pattern. He lays out his plan to convince me that he is serious about getting clean and then he drops the bomb and asks for money. I have told him that his steps to recovery are definitely a positive for him, but that he should not expect to come to me for a reward because he is making progress. Yet, he tells me he feels hopeless and loses motivation when he has no money for food. So, yet again, I caved in. I guess you could say I am a recovering enabler. I’m still find myself slipping. I know this is a process and I am learning as I go through it. But I am anxious to feel a solid footing and desperately want peace of mind and peace in my heart. I will continue to refer back to the book and the many pages that I have earmarked. And even more importantly, I will continue to Pray for my son, and myself. Thank You Allison. You have helped to open my eyes wide to my part in all of this.

  5. When I read your book it was exactly what I needed to hear even thought it took me several times of picking it up and putting it down before I read it through. Even though I knew it was what I need to do with my daughter, I didn’t think I had it in me to do it. My daughter is 33 yrs old & has lived with me and my husband for just about all her adult life. She has a daughter that is know 14. My daughters addiction started when she was a CMA at a doctors ofc. She started running with a “boy” that was into drugs & she fell into the cycle of abusing medicine and progressed to all kinds of drug addictions. She’s overdosed 4 times, nearly died the last time. Been in & out of rehab 3 times. I found the peace from your book and the Holy Spirit to make her leave. I knew we would wake up & find her dead. Her grandmother took her in because she didn’t want her on the street. She had her worst overdose at her house. After 3 months in rehab, I let her come back at Christmas time, alot because of our granddaughter. I feel my delima is so much different than if we were talking about a son instead of a daughter with a child. Please let me hear some incouraging words on what to do. Thank you and God Bless

  6. Rebecca says:

    My 27-year-old son got arrested yet again last Tuesday, the Tuesday after Easter. He had just a little over a month before he was to be released from parole and yet again he drank, got violent and I had to call 911 and he got arrested and is currently facing parole violation and I don’t know how many more years tacked onto that. He has called me via family friends asking me to send money, come visit and re-hook up my house phone… all of these I will not do. I just read your book and although it kind of made me angry (noone likes to be called an “enabler”) yet, I knew that this was me and that I had to stop these behaviors once and for all. So, I refuse to send money, go visit and/or rack up another phone bill for collect calls from jails/prisons. Today, three days before Mothers Day my heart is aching. I know I must stick to my guns but, feeling like a bad mom. I know my son has a drug/alcohol problem but I have done everything possible in the past 9 years to try and help him… drug rehabs, cleaning out lost apartments, bankruptcy’s, lost relationships, etc. As of now, I have a backseat full of my sons stuff (AGAIN) due to the fact that he left his halfway house living and was not allowed to go back. I really need some prayer to keep and stay strong and to get through yet another Mother’s Day alone.
    Peace and Love,

  7. I just got your book in the mail today. What a blessing from God! Just this morning I was lying face down on the floor begging for God to change my daughter. He answered me with your book saying I’m the one who needs to change. I pray I will have the strength to do what must be done. We have struggled with our daughter for the last 10 years. She is 22 and just flunked out of a very expensive private university for the second time. She had 4 F s on her transcripts. I am heart sick. We are going this week to collect her things once again. Please say a prayer for me and my family. Thank you for writing such an honest book. I find it so hard to read at times because I know now how much damage I have done to my daughter. Please pray that I will be forgiven and restored.

  8. I am currently reading Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child. It has really helped me see that I am not helping my son by letting him continue to behave in such a disrespectful way towards my husband and myself. He is 20 years old and thinks he can live with us and do whatever he wants. He stays out til all hours of the night and then wants to sleep all day. I know he is on drugs…not exactly sure what. He has admitted to marajuana. My husband has given him work with his company but my son fights him to get up and go to work. We are at the end of our rope with him. We have told him to leave and he said he has nowhere to go. Although this hurts us as parents…we can no longer live this way. This book has showed me that we can not enable him any more…he will have to see what it’s like out in the real world. As of right now…we have no idea where he went when he left but all we can do is continue to pray for him. I have given this situation to God and now I will just wait to see what happens. Please pray that our son will choose a better life for himself and make the right choices.

  9. Dear Allison,

    Thank you for writing Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. My daughter is 35 years old and for many years, a prodigal making poor choices. Thankfully, the Lord has restored our relationship but she still makes poor choices. She has been living with us for over a month and has been asked to leave by my husband.

    I’ve confessed and repented for being an enabling parent and seek help. I would greatly appreciate finding a Sanity Support group in our area.

    Thanking and praising God for the release of your son, Chris, from prison. You are blessed having a loving, understanding and supportive husband giving his blessing to you inviting your son to live with you again while on parole. Praying the Holy Spirit gives Chris the desire to continue yielding himself to his Saviour as he continues a closer walk with Christ Jesus for God’s glory and his (and everyones’) good.

    Since is currently down, could you please send me info on the closest support group in the Bradenton/Sarasota, FL area?

    With my heart-felt gratitude, praises and prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord for restoring my relationship with our daughter, Alexis. Her late dad died when she was 8 years old, and we both had a difficult time with the person I married when she was 11; I’ve now been happily married to a wonderful husband for the past 17 years, but Alexis and I have been estranged until last year. Please pray the Lord gives me wisdom, knowledge, understanding, patience, increased faith and hope in our loving and long-suffering Saviour as I continue resting and trusting in the Lord, yielding to His sovereign will. Also, please pray the Lord restores the years that the locusts have devoured ~ and for the Holy Spirit to continue softening Alexis’ stoney, hardened little heart, giving her a desire to get rid of her deep root of bitterness and replacing it with a forgiving and compassionate spirit.

    Thank you,

    Phil. 1:3-4; 4:4; 6-8; 11-13; 19 (Lexie’s favorite verse)
    Rom. 8:28
    Prov. 3:13-18
    Eph. 3:20, 21

  10. sandy middleton says:

    where can i get the book setting bounderies with adult children & 6 steps to hope and healing with struggling parents

  11. Debbie Woodward says:


    Would you be able to tell me where the nearest SANITY group is near Birmingham,Alabama? I would also possibly be interested in starting one.

  12. I’m not aware of any in your area right now, but I’ll be conducting an online SANITY support group myself in the next few weeks, are you signed up on my email list? I’ll be posting updates when the new setting boundaries books website launches in the few weeks. I’m also revising the support group materials and the 12-week session will now be an 8-week session. I’d love to help you start a group, let’s talk soon. God bless you.

  13. I am embarking on setting boundaries for 2 adult children today. I’, scarred but at peace with my decision. I have a lot of work to do but feel it’s the absolute only thing left to save my daughters, my grandchildren and myself. Thank you so much for caring enough to share.

  14. I too would like help in starting a SANITY support group. My husband and I have been struggling with our 22 year old son for many years now. We are sick over the mess he is making of his life. He continually makes choices that make life very hard for himself. We live in a Northern suburb of Philadelphia. I love your book Allison on Boundaries With Adult Children and feel that so many people need help with this. Thank you!

  15. Jan,
    I will be praying for you as you work on this. May God give you wisdom, strength, grace and power as you set these boundaried, this can be so hard on us emotionally! God bless you!

  16. Carolyn frels says:

    Purchased and read your book in just over 4 hours…wow…I am so struggling with my 22 yr old son….almost spent my entire sayings on trying to help him….I realize how wrong I was and such an enabler I am….thank God for putting your book into my hands and your words in my heart….would love to find a sanity support group…..huffman, Texas???

  17. I just found out about your book. I have been struggling with my 34 year old son for 14 years for many bad choices he has made. I am suffocating with his bad choices and my enabling behavior. I dicided Tuesday night, to let him go from my day to day struggles. He lives in another state and has had repititive blunders. After, my husband died 20 years ago, it has been a struggle. He is a sex adit/alcoholic with anger issues. He will not get help for his issues. He has lost 2 appartments and countless jobs. Just Tuesday, he was stabbed by a female. I still have not gotten the full story. On top of all of this he was just hired last week. My oldest son, who lives in another part of my state said he will not be an ATM for him anymore. I agree and am thankful that I must finally let him go. He is a brilliant artist, but prefers to be caught up in disorder.

    I am going out to look for the book, to seal my decision to let him find his way, on his own.

    God help and bless everyone facing this abyse.

  18. Have read with much compassion and sympathy the letters from parents with troubled adult children. I just read Setting boundaries with adult children. I have a 42 year old son who at 16 was in a car accident due to drugs and has a spinal cord injury he is very mobil but in a wheel chair. He has consistently made bad choices and is now a convicted felon out of a job and will soon have no place to live. His father and I are at wits end financially as well as emotionaly. I am heart broken. Does the outreach program help with finding an affordable place for him to live. We have been online and cannot seem to find the right website.
    Help Linda

  19. Dear Allison,
    Thank you so much for the resource of the adult children boundaries book. I haven’t even finished reading it but it has become second in importance only to the Bible in my life right now. My husband and I have been struggling with our 19 yr old son for over three years. We have spent countless resources sending him to out-of-state wilderness therapy programs, private counseling, group counseling, etc…These help for a bit but nothing has seemed to make a lasting impact. I never even realized how much a part of the problem we are until I picked up your book. Long story short, he is moving out of our house TODAY. It is probably the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do even though I know it’s the right thing. I am excited to know you’re going to start an online SANITY group. I would love to be part of it. Thanks so much.

  20. Dear Allison,
    Do you have advice for how to handle the relationship once we have removed the adult child from our home?? I have read your book (almost to the end) so maybe the end addresses that, but I’m not sure. I guess my heart is torn with how much contact to have or not have and how to proceed. We quit giving money a while ago but now I wonder if it’s better to have very limited communication for a while?? Thank you so much for any help or thoughts you might have.

  21. I have a 28 year old daughter who is on the fast track, if not already there, to alcoholism. At 18 years old she was as responsible as could be and well on her way. At 20 we bought a manufactured home and put it on the back of our acreage. She made payments and was very self reliant for 2 years when she became pregnant and married a man who was not our grandaughters father. This man was an abuser and a con. They separated after about 18 months and he is now in prison. In the last two years we have tried to help her get on her feet and take care of her child yet she feels the need to drink to excess. We have to make the house payment since our name is on the mortgage. Had it not been for the grandchild I would have followed each and every step in the book and had her out of the house within a week. Unfortunately she knows our love for the grandchild and uses her as a tool to get what she wants. We have been to lawyers, counselors, spoken with DSS agents and everything we know but state laws are not on our side as far as custody of the child. My greatest fear is that if she leaves with our grandaughter what will happen to our grandaughter. Our daughter does not have a drivers license due to alcohol and yes we are taking her to and from work and our grandaughter to and from school. For our grandaughter’s safety we do not know what to do other than pray.

  22. Donald Tharp says:

    Planning to start a new Sanity group in Victoria next month. Please help us find a copy of your old version of the 12 weeks to freedom support group kit – if the new material are not available yet. In fact, we are planning this group to meet 14 weeks, so it would probably help us more than the new 8-week kit. Thanks. Donald

  23. Donald: Good news, we’re back to the 12-week format! The new materials will be available mid-August! When does your group start?

  24. I’ve not even read half of these comments but the comment by Pam says hits close to home, I agree it is different when you are talking about a son instead of a daughter with a child. I have a 35 year old daughter with 2 children, one is 18 so she is basically on her own except for the support my husband and I provide, which is scary because I ask myself am I doing the same thing with her as I did with my 35 year old daughter, which is NOT setting boundries? I had to ask my 35 year old daughter who was living with us for over 2 years to leave. We asked our 5 year old grandaughter’s father to step in and take care of her until “mom” get’s back on her feet which may never happen? I could go on and on about the issues my daughter has but the bottom line is I have to STOP enabling and START setting boundries and I have to stop feeling guilty when I say no. I welcome any advice on how to get through the guilt of thinking I haven’t done enough, if I were a better parent, my child would not be in the situation she is in if I did this and had I done that we can go on and one and I get so mad at myself, but getting her out of our home when she had no where else to go was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do in my life and I do give myself credit for that..


    Mother of Adult Child!

  25. What group is Allison refering to and are there any groups in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, preferably the Pinellas County area, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, etc… I can be emailed at Please no Junk mail


    Mother of an adult child

  26. I want to start a support group and teach others the concepts of your book. Where can I buy the supplies I need for a 12 week or 8 week study? I don’t understand why this information is so hard to find on your website. Shouldn’t it be as easy as ordering the book. Please advise ASAP. There are hurting families everywhere that would benefit from this type of group. Thank you!

  27. Fawn Wilfong says:

    I also would like to conduct a study for the parents in our church. We were talkinf about our children the other evening and I commented “I think we need to find a councelor” I’ve been praying for help and then I saw you on a christian talk show. I believe you are the answer to pray. Looking forward to your reply.
    Many Blessings to you,

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