Yesterday I spoke to a group of social workers in Tumwater, Washington. We talked about caregiver anger, guilt, depression and grief. Social workers, by the way, don’t live in a vacuum. They have children and parents, and they have to deal with all of the same issues the rest of us face every single day.

When we talked about guilt, one woman shared that she had guilt issues about her children. (Who doesn’t?) She feels like the mistakes she made when her kids were young have contributed to her daughter’s inability to manage her finances as an adult. As a result she’s been bailing her daughter out of one mess after another for the last several years. She has now given so much to her daughter that she thinks her son is getting cheated, and she’s feeling guilty about that.

I told her that at some point she will need to let her daughter own her own mistakes. We cannot control another person’s behavior. Each person is responsible for his/her own choices, actions and attitude.

It’s one thing to step in and rescue a loved one in a moment of crisis, but at some point, especially when making bad choices becomes a lifestyle choice, we have to step back and let our loved ones deal with the consequences of their actions and figure out how to fix their own problems.

We can listen and empathize, but if we really want to help them, we will relinquish our need to fix, change or control their problems, and we will let them stand (of fall) on their own.