A Parent Should Not Be A Child’s Friend Or Foe!

I often hear the following statements :

“I was very close to my mother/father as a child, we were friends and we talked about everything” or “My parents were always at work and never seemed to have time for me and my siblings”.

When we compare the two statements, one appears to be far more favorable than the other. Who wouldn’t want to be close to their parents and be able to share everything with them? However, from a developmental standpoint, they are both harmful, and both have the potential to lead to codependent relationships later in life.

We all know that our perceptions of maturity and the people in our lives are heavily influenced by our upbringing. This is where we obtain our information and the pattern for how we will spend our lives. The result of this is instinctive, automatic and comes from a very deep place. It governs our behaviour and it appears to be so engrained at times that it may feel impossible to do things any other way. That is certainly the message I often hear. It seems very difficult to shed this blueprint. It can be done as I mentioned in a recent post but it takes work and daily practice.

The bond that children form with their caretakers is a vital element of their development. I am convinced that it is the most crucial, and as we all know, it can go extremely well, ok or very badly. This serves as the foundation for the thought patterns that will accompany them into adulthood and the relationships they will build. Most importantly, it teaches them a lot about themselves and their ability to function in a relationship.

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Certain parents are either excessively protective or insufficiently protective, which many observers of codependency have observed as parenting styles that are more likely to result in codependency later in life. It leads to typical behavioural issues such as:

  • You have difficulty coping with daily life without your partner’s input and support.
  • Your entire life revolves around your partner.
  • One of you “needs,” while the other takes pleasure in feeling needed by taking on the role of caregiver.
  • You despise being alone for an extended period of time.
  • Through your partner, you discover your self-worth.
  • One of you is unable to articulate – or even identify – their needs.
  • You lack confidence in your own judgment and require a great deal of reassurance.
  • Seeking reassurance may extend beyond the relationship, into work, friends, and family, for example.
  • The relationship is fraught with anxiety, with at least one partner feeling the need to “please.”
  • You are not complete without your partner.

Overprotective parents repress their children and instill fear in them around anything they deem dangerous: Frequently, these “risky” activities are developmentally appropriate but perceived as dangerous or threatening. Allowing a child to use a swing on the playground or climb a tree is an example. Often, these parent-child relationships become entangled, and the child is unable to learn basic skills such as cleaning or washing clothes as a result of the parent’s desire to “mollycoddle” or pamper the child. Overprotective parents are also more likely to transform their child into a friend with few personal boundaries. The parent overshares, displays inappropriate emotions in front of the child, and frequently expects the child to grasp adult concepts before they are ready. By reinforcing dependent behaviors and discouraging independent behaviors, the parent maintains the child’s dependence on them. Apart from a lack of confidence in one’s ability to care for oneself, there may be feelings of guilt and shame associated with the child desiring an independent life in these instances.

Parents who are under protective and oblivious of the hazards their children face are frequently far too indulgent and also lack the capacity to set reasonable rules or boundaries. This parenting method instils autonomy in a child far too early, and the child struggles to see beyond how they may survive and help themselves. In this scenario, the strong foundation required for the youngster to feel secure in the setting in which he or she grows up never forms and a child growing up in this manner feels extremely alone. Codependency develops when the youngster feels the need to overcompensate and overachieve in order to acquire the caregivers’ attention and affection. Additionally, there is a stress on self-sacrifice and on serving the needs of others. Certain children with under protective parents may overcompensate for this sense of vulnerability by becoming excessively autonomous, rejecting any need for supervision and assistance. Nonetheless, the underlying concerns and sense of isolation will be tough to overcome.

Some Tips If The Above Applies To You:

  • To begin, be gentle with yourself. If you identify with any of the above, you’ve developed a pattern of codependency as a result of not having your basic needs met as a child. You did what was necessary to survive and establish connection. It was actually quite astute at the time! It is simply not beneficial to you – or your relationships – at the moment.
  • Codependency can be resolved by healing your inner child. Re-establish a connection with yourself and your own needs. What did you lack as a child? Were you left to fend for yourself and told to “get on with it”? Perhaps your parents were “everything” to you, but you also felt suffocated? Determine the source of this.
  • Make a list of the things that scare you. If necessary, jot them down on a list. Internal confidence is gradually developed through being able to face fears. After identifying your fears, begin small and work your way up. If you discover that you rely excessively on your partner, make a conscious effort to resist the urge to seek reassurance.
  • Have faith in your own judgement. With each small step, your confidence will gradually grow. Everything you require is already in your possession. Have faith in yourself.
  • If you and your partner do everything together, develop an independent hobby or activity. If you’re unsure, consider the activities you enjoyed as a child and try something new. Your partner will never be able to meet all of your requirements and nor should they try. Create a life that is rich and varied – and not entirely centred on them.
  • Individual or couples therapy can be extremely beneficial in assisting you in unravelling the source of this pattern of codependency in order to break the cycle. A therapist will assist you in identifying your needs and increasing your self-worth to the point where you realise you are deserving of them.

The security you seek is already within you. You have the ability to give it to yourself – all you need to do is recognise it.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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