Do you feel overwhelmed with being a fixer as you try to save your child from their substance use problem? Would you like some tips … Tired of Being a Fixer? Here are 3 Helpful Steps to Try Read More


Do you feel overwhelmed with being a fixer as you try to save your child from their substance use problem?

Would you like some tips so that you can start helping yourself which will, in turn, help your child?

I’ve been reading The Giving Tree to my three-year-old grandson recently.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the story of a tree that gives so much to her boy that all she has left of herself is a stump. The story is a great illustration of how we have very little left of ourselves when we give too much.
…and she loved a little boy very very much-even more than she loved herself. ~ Shel Silverstein
Most parents put their children’s needs above their own. This is normal when your children are young, and things are going smoothly. But now, they are older and you are faced with substance use. The worry and concern may be overwhelming.

It’s easy to become consumed with being a fixer because you are worried about your child’s safety. Helping becomes a problem when it’s to the detriment of your own health and sanity.

People who are generally fixer types are warm, affectionate, and caring. As a parent, you want to be there for your child. You are probably empathetic and a good listener. Your child felt nurtured and loved growing up. You would move mountains if your child had a problem.

Now he or she does. They are struggling with substance use. You may feel like you’re drowning because you are consumed with trying to save, fix or help your child.

You sense your child’s pain and want to respond to it. It may also feel deep down that helping is the way to be loved by your child or others.

If you are a parent consumed with fixing, you may feel resentment because you have given so much to your child, and you are getting nothing in return.

Parents who find themselves helping too much focus their attention and energy on meeting the needs of their troubled child. They put aside any needs of their own.  Any struggling child is needy. But parents consumed with helping are convinced that they know what is best. They want to be indispensable and solve the problem.

If you have strong caregiver traits, you help your child because you view them as weak. You are convinced they will not be able to manage their life well without you intervening. Your child will be lost without you. Some of this may be true, but it doesn’t help your child become strong when you step in and solve their problems for them.

If you are in fixer mode, you may have a hard time putting a cap on the time and energy that you are willing to put out to save your child.

All this helping is understandable when you are watching your child’s life destruct before your eyes. The problem when you constantly put your child first, is that you can become a resentful martyr.

If you find yourself in the fixer or helper role to the detriment of yourself and other family members, know you are not alone.
And after a long time the boy came back again. ‘I am sorry, Boy,’ said the tree, ‘but I have nothing left to give you–’ Shel Silverstein
Here are three ideas that can help.

Rather than be a fixer, take inventory of your own needs

Dealing with your child’s substance use can be a frightening experience. You can be a helpful support person for your child without neglecting your own needs. If you are not addressing your own needs, you cannot support anyone else without creating problems, resentments, and frustration.

You will not stay resilient over the long haul if you don’t take care of yourself first.  You won’t bounce back if you are exhausted because you have become dependent on fixing your child’s problem.

Make a list of some helpful things you can do for yourself and reward yourself when you follow through. You deserve to be happy and find joy in life no matter what your child is doing.

Finally, become self-aware so that you can express to others what you need. Your family can’t help you if you don’t ask. It’s important to take a step back from time to time to help yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Ask yourself: Is this your problem to fix?

Unless your child is in a life-threatening situation, use restraint whenever possible. Rather than jumping in and trying to fix the problem, ask your child what he needs to do first. That way, you give your child some responsibility in solving the problem. Consider what “healthy” helping is and what it is not. Feel free to let your child know you need to think about their request if they ask for the kind of help that feels like it’s going to support their continued substance use.

Check-in with yourself to be sure you don’t have underlying motives for all your helping. Sometimes parents are looking for gratitude and appreciation from their child. Please recognize that you will most likely not receive it from them when they are in the midst of their addiction. Pace yourself so that you can be a support, but don’t overdo it.

While you may feel that you are doing the right thing, to your child it may feel like meddling and intruding when you are helping too much. It is a fuzzy line between too much fixing and giving positive, helpful support. Consider your situation and think about what you can do to motivate your child to change in a healthy way.

Set clear boundaries

You may have become dependent on the relationship with your child and have poor boundaries. When setting boundaries, the most important thing is to be sure you are 100% clear with yourself that you will follow through. Otherwise, you lose your power in the relationship.

Be clear with your child and discuss any boundaries with them ahead of time. Even better, have a brainstorming session and work through boundary setting together so feel they are part of the process. Boundaries should be clear, concise, and consistent. No matter your child’s age, if they are struggling with substances, they need consistent boundaries from you. Otherwise, it adds to the confusion.

Finally, realize that it is important to stay close to your child and encourage them to live a healthier life. Be clear on your motives and that you are not so caught up with being a fixer that you are losing yourself in your efforts to help your child change.


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