Are you an enmeshed parent? Discover if you are, and what you can begin to do about it.
"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
Symptoms of enmeshed parenting:
- Your children's good or difficult behavior and successful or unsuccessful achievements define your worth.
- Your children are the center of your life -- your purpose in life.
- Your focus is on taking care of your children rather than taking care yourself.
- Your happiness or pain is determined 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.
Consequences for your children of you being enmeshed with them:
- 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 rather than you, becoming 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 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- They will likely have problems in their adult relationships, both work and personal - being a taker, a caretaker, withdrawn, angry, and/or resistant.
As a parent, it is vitally important that you have a sense of passion and purpose in your life separate from your children. And it is vitally important that you learn to define your own sense of worth rather than making your children's behavior responsible for this. It is way too big a burden for children to be the center of your life. There is way too much pressure on them to have to act right, perform right, and/or look right for you to 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 very important to you, then you might be making your children your purpose in life, and you might be making them responsible for your feelings of self-worth.
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 you're your work, volunteer work, and/or creative activities and hobbies. They need to feel free to be themselves and follow their own path without feeling that they will hurt or disappoint you. They need to know that 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 on 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 make your children responsible for you. As adults, they will continue to want to spend time with you if you are your own person, but 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.