Recently I received a request to dive into the topic of codependent parents. I like that request and can relate to the topic. I judge my mother has been codependent with me and my brother and I have had a long time to work on establishing a healthy and still-as-loving-as-possible connection.
As a parent to my son, at times I have also struggled to have a healthy and caring presence and support him, while also allowing him to make his own decisions and mistakes, and also holding off on giving advice when I want nothing more than share my ‘wisdom’ or experience.
I also notice codependent behaviours in my own mother – for example, giving me advice on what to eat and how to organize my cupboards in the kitchen and how to bring up my child (who’s turning 19 in a few months). I have had a hard time accepting this ongoing ‘advising’ from my mom, and often notice a tightening in my stomach when she starts to talk and give advice in a certain tone of voice. Oftentimes, she belabors the point when I am resistant or not engaging in her proposals.
So how do you know if your parent is acting in a codependent way?
Or you are a codependent parent yourself?
Here are some signs of a codependent parent:
1. They lack healthy boundaries and have difficulty enforcing boundaries.
The parent does not acknowledge or respect the child’s boundaries and/or personal space. The parent demonstrates weak or non-existent boundaries. This could be also oversharing – like a parent confiding in a child who is not an adult yet, or inviting the child to ”parent the parent”.
2. They are overprotective and exhibit controlling behaviour.
The parent is ‘protecting’ – and gets involved in the child’s business in a way that is not appropriate to the age. Some of these parents could be so-called ”curling” parents who try to smoothen everything for their child and do not give the child an opportunity to try, make mistakes, fail and learn from that.
3. They put the child’s needs and wishes before their own.
This parent does not have healthy boundaries and is not taking good care of themselves in terms of having other nourishment in their life besides the child / children.
4. They play the martyr and victim to get praise.
The codependent parent does things for the child without the child asking for it or even needing it and then often expects gratitude and praise. They may then use passive aggressive, victim and martyr type behavior to convince others to give them the appreciation they feel they deserve.
5. The parent is living through their children.
Rather than having a meaningful life and other important social connections besides the children and spouse, the codependent parent’s life is centered mostly on their child or children. The parent doesn’t really have a life of their own but lives or tries to live through the child – small or grown up. This is exhausting for everyone involved, it’s like there’s not enough air to breathe.
6. The parent manipulates the child’s emotions.
Codependent parents may unknowingly (or knowingly but not maliciously) use many psychological strategies to get their child to do what they want. This could be, for example, guilt-tripping the child, being passive-aggressive or projecting their own feelings onto the child, for example: shame, anxiousness or guilt.
A parent might try to create guilt in the child. This occurs for example when a parent attempts to make their child feel guilty about something to pressure them into behaving how they want them to behave. Often, feeling guilty, the child will reassure the parent that this isn’t a big deal and that they really want to do it.
7. The parent has low self-esteem and their self-esteem is tied to their child / children.
The parent tries to boost up their self-worth with the child’s abilities, looks, performance, school grades, studies, career, spouse, wealth – you name it. The parent gives the message to the child that they are only accepted or lovable because of their performance, appearance, etc. – not lovable just by being themselves.
8. The parent’s first reaction is immediate denial.
Codependent parents might have a really hard time in looking into, noticing and acknowledging their behavior. They rather use tactics like denial, defensiveness or turning their attention to something else, like blaming the child, spouse, other children, teacher, neighbor and so on.
For more information about this topic, watch the video I made about codependent parents here (or below).
On request I also made a video about how to navigate a romantic relationship where there are two codependent partners, and ways to establish more healthy boundaries rather than jump into helping. Watch the video here.
On another topic…
I appreciate you for the answers I got about Tuulia’s Lists of Life (if you didn’t see that post, check it out here) last week!
Kate would like to see a list about: how to stop being a victim – or my own favourite – one about dropping the blame!
What are you curious to read/hear more about from us?
Let us know if this was relevant for you, and have a good rest of your week!
Tuulia (& Pete)