Codependency: How A Parent Can Make The Difference

There are all types of parents and all types of parenting styles. Parents normally parent how they were parented themselves, good or bad. Where else would they get the knowledge they need? It is their first point of reference and this is sometimes why the same issues run through generations of the same family. I always say that you must learn to be a parent and with the wealth of knowledge out there, this learning can be easily had. However, much of the codependency we see today is the result of less than stellar parenting from the last two generations and beyond.

Gender roles were set in stone, the breadwinner father, emotionally distant and usually there for discipline, had little to do with raising children. The mother, overwhelmed with a number of children as well as the home, had little time for real interaction with children, leaving them bereft of the attention and validation they needed. There was scant awareness of child development and authoritarian parenting styles were prevalent. No wonder many of todays adults grew up with a never ending quest for connection. Todays parents seem to be more aware of what is needed to help a child develop functionally and realise that this means more than offering the basics. Below are a list of effective roles and responsibilities for parents with child development in mind:

Good parents offer the “good” basics by default: This means clearly food, shelter, aspects of well-being and the necessities for survival. However, it also means exampling basic good behaviour, being a role model and avoiding addictive and unhealthy behaviours.

Good parents offer protection: Obvious but can be an issue. Especially younger children need constant supervision and attention. Apart from protecting children physically, protection also means protecting them from adult concepts they are not ready to handle. Many codependents have described the situation where they were made to deal with their parents issues and caretake rom a young age.

Good parents promote physical connection: Physical connection from parents is known to be a vital part of child development. Young children feel safe and loved through physical connection with their parents and it promotes bonding. Many codependents have described where physical connection was intentionally withdrawn as punishment;

Good parents understand child development: When this is the case, behaviour can be assessed as age appropriate or not. Good parents understand which behaviour belongs in each stage. Many enmeshed parents will have expectations for children that are not age appropriate or will fail to understand what their child is going through.

Good parents understand that parenting changes as a child gets older: Children in healthy families move through various developmental stages from dependence to interdependence and parenting needs to be adapted as this happens. Bad parenting means keeping a child dependent or codependent for the parent’s purposes, either as a caretaker or an extension of themselves.

Good parents set rules and boundaries: A good parent will realiser that younger children need a safe and secure physical environment. As the child grows, they set limits by offering explanations, clear choices, rewards for good behaviour and discussing logical consequences. For ac teenager, more negotiation and responsibility. Children subjected to inconsistent parenting and fewer boundaries tend to grow up without limits on their behaviour and an unhealthy dislike of authority. Many codependents have stated that the ability to set boundaries has been an issue for them in relationships.

Good parents validate the child’s feelings and teach them emotional regulation: Good parenting means being a good listener which helps a child to express feelings and thoughts. They also help them find effective ways of expressing them without aggression or feeling ignored or criticised. This means eventually that the child will learn that is is fine to express thoughts and feelings in an appropriate way, something codependents have learnt is dangerous for them. In childhood, codependents are often taught that they are only allowed to express thoughts and feelings if they think and feel the same way the parents do. They are often rewarded for this, leaving the child believing that expressing thoughts means manipulation.

Good parents work towards independence for their child: Children move from total dependence to possible independence if things run fine. Good parenting means providing the tools needed to think independently and be able to make decisions based on this, taking responsibilities for action taken and a wide range of social skills. Bad or selfish parenting means this might not happen. Either too much is done for the child or the child is made fearful causing enmeshment. Some children are made to feel guilty for wanting to be independent and some will comply with the parent’s wishes to keep them dependent. Others will break away in a counterdepeindent move which means that even though they are physically distant, emotionally, they are still attached. They often transfer this dysfunction onto other relationships.

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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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