Codependency is commonly associated with being emotionally dependent on others. Humans are dependent and social creatures, which is fine, the problems begin when there is an imbalance and we rely on other’s for our sense of self worth and constantly need validation. It is important that recovering codependents are aware of their boundaries and ensure that they do not go against their values in order to avoid upsetting someone else or being rejected.
Codependent Parents have weak boundaries
A fear of upsetting others and weak boundaries come in to play for codpendents in parenting. Many parents strive to have a good relationship with their children but we need to remember that we are not our children’s friends. Having grown up in an enmeshed relationship with my mother, I know that being too close to a parent can be damaging. On the surface people always commented on the fact that we were more like best-friends than mother and daughter, however that came at a price. My previous post looks at enmeshed relationships with parents in more detail click to read.
Codependent Parents struggle to let children Feel their Feelings
Codependent parents can have a difficult time allowing their child to sit and feel their emotions, partly because they do not know how to do this for themselves, and also because they feel a need to protect their children. It is common for parents to want to protect children from pain but it is inevitable that they will get hurt or be disappointed, this is a normal part of growth especially if are to be emotionally mature. I have had to work on this in my parenting, allowing my son to tell me his feelings and express his emotions without firing off suggestions of how I believe we can solve the problem and get him to feel happy again. I allow my son to share his feelings, I let him know that I am there for him and that I love him and usually this enough. He does not want me to fix anything he just wants to feel heard.
Codependent Parents Give Unsolicited Advice
This is usually done because it makes the codependent feel useful for but it is not warranted and often considered rude in many instances. Giving unsolicited advice makes the codependent feel powerful and useful, especially if the person takes them up on their suggestion. They sometimes get annoyed if their suggestion is ignored, even though it was not requested in the first place. I remember being surprised the first time that I heard this term because it made me realise how much unsolicited advice I actually gave. I thought that it was just a part of normal conversation to give people your opinion on what they should do, but I have learned to hold back until, or if, I am asked. This is easier to practice with adult friends than it is with children, who we believe need our advice on every aspect of their lives, but they do not and it can be good to hold back sometimes.
I can trace giving unsolicited advice back to my childhood because I felt like I had to help my mother to get her life on track. For example I would suggest healthy meals, exercises, and workout plans that she could use as she really wanted to lose weight. These plans never worked even though she was enthusiastic in the beginning, and I can see now that it was because she never asked for them. She was not ready to make any drastic changes, and although I was trying to be ‘helpful’ it was not my place.
Codependent Parents can be Controlling
The control or manipulation is often very subtle and covert and a favourite tactic may be to sulk or give someone the silent treatment. Due to the fact that codependents are not good at expressing their true emotions, if their child asks them what is wrong it is more than likely that they will say nothing, even though it is obvious that there is a problem. This is also passive aggressive, to sulk without allowing the person who you are sulking with to know the problem, and see if they may be able to rectify what they have done.
I believe that much of the codependent parents controlling behaviour is unconscious, although this does not make it any less damaging for the children on the receiving end. Codependents do not feel worthy of openly expressing their needs and enforcing their boundaries therefore they get their needs met in a covert way.
Codependent Parents rarely Apologize
Some codependents struggle with apologising, simply because they do not want to admit fault and see that they are in the wrong. Even if they do apologise it may just be for the sake of keeping the peace rather than actually believing that they are in the wrong. This can leave the apology feeling quite empty because it is not genuine.
This is not an exhaustive list but it gives you an overview of some of the challenges that codependent parents can have. In parenting there is always room for improvement, and as you learn you can continue to make changes. The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, you can only do your best. Always begin with yourself when you want to make changes, and changes should be made lovingly. Also being open to hearing what your children tell you is so important, and if you really listen they will let you know the things that they are not happy with.