The first thing we think of when we hear the word “codependent” is usually someone who is enabling an alcoholic or a drug addict. No longer is the word just associated with enablers or romantic partners. Most codependent relationships are between a parent and child.
In a codependent parent-child relationship, the lines between protecting and obsessing, engaged and over-involved, are often confused beyond distinction.
Codependency is a learned behavior that is generally passed down through families. It is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. It is known as “love addiction” because it is an emotional, behavioral, spiritual, sexual and physical state that impairs a person’s ability to sustain a healthy, significant and meaningful relationship.
The problem of parent-child codependency is becoming more prevalent. When you become a parent, it’s important to remember your individual self while loving your children. Naturally, you want the unending love and adoration of your child. In turn, the child gives unconditional love and adoration back. This is perfectly healthy.
The unspoken demands of changing diapers, feeding, dressing and helping your child fall to sleep can be quite challenging. As your child grows, it may be difficult for you to allow them to explore their own capabilities.
Children develop their sense of identity, identify their values, and learn how to communicate and express their needs and feelings from parental interaction and guidance. Parents play a major role in shaping who and what their child becomes in life. By providing parental guidance, you help your child develop confidence and security within themselves. Most importantly you help them feel loved, valued, and secure.
Often, codependent children lack these attributes. They lack the self–esteem to succeed and fully thrive as a healthy, functioning child.
Sadly, codependency can often mask itself through anxiety, stress and depression. It can lead to conflict in relationships. Common warning signs of codependency in your child are:
Blaming self for others problems
Fear of being alone
Difficulty making decisions
Excessive need to please others
Codependency can cause damage to the family unit. Getting help for yourself and your child to break the vicious cycle will allow you to more effectively help your child. With the right tools, the cycle can be broken and the healing process can begin.
Treatment begins by working with a trained professional in individual, group or family counseling. With the assistance of a mental health therapist, you will receive psycho–education, resources and help with establishing effective boundary settings. Most importantly, you will become a healthier parent.
Signs you might be a codependent parent
Dependency – The fear of being rejected or abandoned by your child is so strong that you allow the child to cross your boundaries and break rules.
Intimacy problems – You share with your child the emotional struggles you are having with your spouse rather than talking with your spouse directly.
Low self-esteem – If you are not happy/secure with yourself, how can your child feel safe and secure with you?
People–pleasing behaviors – Feeling stressed or guilty about saying “no”.
Poor boundaries – There are no consequences when your rules are broken, therefore, your child’s misbehavior continues.
Excessive care taking – Doing more for your child than what is age–appropriate.
Dysfunctional communication – You might be dishonest in order to protect, hide, or change the truth.
By // Dr. Morgan Francis, PsyD, LAC