A co-dependent parent is usually an individual who did not get their emotional or physical needs met during childhood.
This has led them to impose their needs onto their own children. Co-dependency is a psychological concept that refers to anyone who feels extremely dependent on their loved ones. This dependency makes a co-dependent parent feel completely responsible for their loved one’s happiness and well-being.
Ten signs that show you are a co-dependent parent include:
1. An over-exaggerated feeling of responsibility for their loved ones.
2. A tendency to smother their children and molly-coddle them.
3. An over-whelming inclination to do everything for their children.
4. A constant need for validation and recognition of their efforts.
5. A tendency to feel extremely wounded when their efforts are not acknowledged.
6. A constant need for control over their children.
7. Playing the victim and expecting their children to compensate.
8. Ignores their own needs for the needs of their children.
9. Overly protective of their children.
10. Complete preoccupation with their children.
You could argue that many of the above points, in moderation, are perfectly normal traits for parents. We would hope that all parents feel responsible for their children. Likewise, we would expect parents to ignore their own needs and want to do everything for their children.
However, the line between being an engaged parent and a co-dependent parent can be particularly distorted.
To further distinguish between co-dependency and normal parenting, here are three things a co-dependent parent will do and how it affects children:
1. The co-dependent parent will act the victim
Because the co-dependent parent did not receive enough love, affection or validation from their own parents, they will use guilt to extract it from their children. This means playing the victim. As adults, when we come across obstacles we usually have the mental capacity to deal with them.
As a child growing up, the co-dependent parent would not have had that important ability.
Now as parent themselves they will use their children as recompense. Co-dependent parents will not work through the problems they faced in childhood. Instead, they’ll use guilt-tripping behaviour to elicit sympathy from their children.
Their end goal is compensation in some way from their children.
This can take many different forms. They could live vicariously through their children. For example, the teen mother who never got the chance to be a top dancer could act the victim to guilt-trip her child to take dancing lessons the child doesn’t want.
The problem with constantly acting the victim is that the child is always under pressure. The child will feel that they are always disappointing the parent, that they are never good enough. They will go through life believing that everything is their fault.
Children subject to guilt-tripping quite often turn into adults who are afraid to say no. Or they end up agreeing to scenarios they don’t really want to.
2. The co-dependent parent will never listen
One thing that is crucial for a child growing up is to have a parent that listens to them. A parent that fails to do this can never know what the child is really thinking, what their emotions are, or how they are coping. The co-dependent parent is more concerned with maintaining control over their child.
Much of this control comes from not listening. To be a little more accurate, having a conversation with the parent is like talking to a brick wall. Children do not have a conversation, the parent speaks at them, states their version of events and then walks off.
Even if the child presents indisputable facts, the parent will dismiss them.
It is the parent’s job to be open and able to communicate with their children. When a child feels it cannot connect with a parent it can lead to depression, a feeling that no one loves them, and self-esteem issues in later life.
3. The co-dependent parent will never admit they are wrong
No one is right all the time. However, for the co-dependent parent, they are always right and will never admit it even if they are wrong. This carries on to be the case even when the child has grown up. The parent will enforce their rules and opinions onto their child well into the child’s adulthood.
For the parent, the child is always a child and therefore, always wrong. They will think nothing of correcting their children in public. Whereas in normal family dynamics, once the children have grown up, if there are disagreements a discussion would typically follow.
In a co-dependent parent’s mind, the child is presumed wrong from the start.
Having a parent that refuses to admit when they are wrong leaves the child believing they have no validation or standing within the family. Children need to be able to have a dialogue with their parents. When one parent exerts total dominance in this way, the child can grow up with either very low self-esteem, or they learn to be argumentative simply for the sake of it.
There is no doubt that having a co-dependent parent can lead to serious issues later in adult life.
There are ways a co-dependent parent can start to form a more balanced relationship with their child:
- Try and get time away from your children, such as taking up a hobby or interest outside the home.
- Spend more time with other family members to break the dependency cycle.
- Find ways to express the events of your childhood that led to the co-dependency in the first place.
- Learn to recognise the specific behaviour of co-dependency and stop it before it goes too far.
Do you have experience of growing up with a co-dependent parent? Let us know in the comments section below.
By Janey D.