Are You an Enmeshed Parent?
This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Margaret Paul.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
Enmeshed parenting describes a style of parenting that can cause problems in your child’s successful development of their own personality, ethics, and values. There are a number of signs and symptoms to look out for to determine if you may be an enmeshed parent:
- Your children’s good or difficult behavior, and successful or unsuccessful achievements, define your worth.
- Your children are the center of your life — your sole purpose in life.
- Your entire focus is on taking care of your children, rather than also taking care of yourself.
- Your happiness or pain is determined solely by your children.
- You are invasive — you need to know everything about what your children think and do.
If you identify with one or more of these symptoms, you might be enmeshed with your children.
What Enmeshed Parenting Means to Your Children
Unfortunately, being an enmeshed parent means that your children may grow up learning things from your behavior and focus that you never intended. This can include:
- They may grow up feeling responsible for others’ feelings while ignoring responsibility for their own. They might feel selfish if they take care of themselves and could become compliant and disconnected from themselves.
- They may use you as their role model — making others responsible for their feelings, rather than being self-responsible.
- They may feel invaded and controlled by you and as a result, withdraw, resist, or act out in anger. As adults, they may have a hard time taking responsibility for themselves.
- They will likely have problems in their adult relationships, both work and personal — being a taker, a caretaker, withdrawn, angry and/or resistant.
- They might feel lost and empty inside as a result of not learning how to take responsibility for their own feelings.
As a parent, it is important to have a sense of passion and purpose in your life, separate from your children. And, it is essential that you learn to define your own sense of worth, rather than making your children’s behavior responsible for this. It is too big a burden for children to be the center of your life.
Enmeshed parenting places too big a pressure on them to act right, perform right, and/or look right, in order for you feel that you are okay. Defining your worth through your children makes them feel trapped in being what you want them to be, rather than being themselves.
If you do not have work, hobbies or other interests that are important to you, then you might be making your children your sole purpose in life, and you might be making them responsible for your feelings of self-worth.
Help for the Enmeshed Parent
Your children need you to be a role model of taking loving care of yourself; of defining your own worth and taking responsibility for your own feelings of pain and joy. They need to see you as a productive member of society, whether it is through your work, volunteer work, or creative activities and hobbies. They need to feel free to be themselves and follow their own path in life, without feeling that they will hurt or disappoint you.
It’s key that they know they can come to you with their fears, questions, doubts and dilemmas, and that you will be there to help them find their way. Rather than imposing your way upon them, they need to feel your love and support for who they are, rather than who you think they should be.
You will end up with a far better relationship with your children if you learn how to make yourself happy and define your own worth, rather than making your children responsible for you. As adults, they will continue to want to spend time with you if you are your own person. However, if they feel obligated to be with you, they might resist.
If you are an enmeshed parent, do yourself and your children a huge favor and start learning to take responsibility for your own happiness and pain through your own Inner Bonding practice.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself, so that you can connect with your children and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse and receive Free Help with your parenting. Connect with Margaret on Facebook.
More related content from YourTango:
Experts, Y. (2014). Are You an Enmeshed Parent?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/07/05/are-you-an-enmeshed-parent/