The term codependency is often associated with unhealthy and abusive romantic relationships. When you hear it associated with the parent-child relationship, it is natural to feel surprised.
In fact, codependent parents are more common than we realize. They often come disguised as overly caring, loving, and adoring parents. They justify their helicopter parenting style as being attentive, thoughtful, considerate, affectionate, and concerned about their children.
But the fact remains that they are excessively involved in the lives of their children, even after they have grown up and have families of their own. Even when it is pointed out that their behavior is causing more harm in the lives of their children than good, they refuse to reconsider their actions and continue their ways.
Codependent parents can drive their adult children to the brink of sanity. They will be torn between their love and responsibility toward them and their own need for independence and mental health.
This article delves into the topic of codependent parents of adults and comes up with tips and suggestions on how to deal with them effectively without cutting ties with them.
Who is a codependent parent?
All parents love their children and want to do the best for them. They want to form a loving and lasting bond with their children that will last a lifetime. However, some parents form an unhealthy and excessive attachment with their child and use the attachment to control their child’s life.
Codependent behavior is wide and varied. The way it turns out depends on the specific parent and the child. A codependent father may set unrealistic goals for his child to achieve. And when they fail in the attempt, he will guilt-trip them or turn abusive.
A codependent mother may get too involved in the life of her child that she takes all their major and minor decisions for them. Every resistance put up by the child is met with emotional blackmailing. She may even link her happiness and well-being with their compliance.
The typical excuse of a codependent parent for their exceedingly controlling behavior is that they are a close-knit family and their close attachment with their child is a sign of a healthy relationship in a well-functioning family. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Too much involvement of parents in the lives of their children, especially adult children, can only be called obsession and it is a sign of dysfunction.
Signs of codependent parent
The first step in setting things right with your parents is to identify them as codependent. Here are some signs you can use for guidance
- They are needy and clingy.
- They want to be in control of the relationship.
- They are too involved, do more than necessary, and take on more responsibilities than they should.
- They are willing to sacrifice other relationships.
- They manipulate and engage in emotional blackmail.
- They believe firmly they are always right and refuse to apologize for their mistakes.
- They play the victim to gain sympathy.
- They ignore boundaries.
- They link their sense of self and self-esteem to their child.
- They engage in emotional abuse and guilt-tripping.
- They have mood swings, anger issues, and tantrums to get their way.
- They are overly emotional.
- They are difficult to have conversations with.
- They use silent treatment and passive-aggressive behavior to gain control.
Effects of a codependent parent on adult children
From the perspective of an adult, a codependent parent can be intrusive, critical, unkind, abusive, manipulative, and unreliable. When an adult is treated this way by their codependent parent, their sense of loyalty and love prevents them from walking out of the relationship.
This can make life extremely difficult for them. Their behavior is affected and so is their self-perception. The damages are devastating and long-lasting. The worst part is they are clueless about how to escape from this situation.
Here are some common effects that codependent parents have on you.
- You judge yourself harshly.
- You constantly seek acceptance and approval.
- You feel overwhelmed by changes over which you have no control.
- You find it difficult to enjoy life.
- You often resort to alcohol and drugs to relax.
- You find it difficult to take yourself seriously.
- You are scared of intimacy.
- You are either extremely responsible or totally irresponsible.
- You refuse to set aside your loyalty to a codependent parent even when the truth is staring you in the face.
- You feel that you are not normal but distinct from others.
- You have a hard time understanding what a normal parent-child relationship looks like.
How to deal with a codependent parent?
Growing up with a codependent mother or father can have a disastrous and destructive effect on the mind of a child. Often a child considers this as normal and never questions their parents. As they grow up, something must have happened for them to suspect that this is not the case. They will obviously ask themselves, “how to deal with a codependent mother or father?”.
The first step in setting right a codependent relationship is to recognize, accept, and acknowledge its existence.
Then it is time to look at your relationship with the toxic parent and understand the form of toxicity that exists in it. At this stage, it may seem to you that setting things right with your parents without offending them and having a mature and happy relationship with them is inconceivable. Maybe it is, maybe not. For your sake at least, you should give it a shot.
Here are some suggestions on how to deal with toxic parents.
- Learn to differentiate between support and codependency.
- Try to understand your guilty feeling and try to eliminate it through reasoning.
- Learn to say “no” emphatically.
- Accept the fact that you are responsible for your feelings alone.
- To heal yourself, practice self-care.
- Seek help from someone you can trust.
- If none of the suggestions are working, get professional help.
Correcting the mistakes and aftereffects of a codependent relationship may look like a Herculean task but in practice, it has real possibilities. As you are the one initiating the process, you need to be completely convinced of its success and willing to work hard for it. If you are willing to believe that it will happen, it will.
The toxic parents in your life can cause a lot of pain and stress. You may feel like you have to take care of them, protect them from disappointment, or be their everything. But it’s time to set boundaries with toxic parents and create healthy relationships.
The term “codependency” was earlier used to refer to addictive tendencies. However, now psychologists have included “relationship addiction” also in the list of things you can get addicted to.
Having a toxic codependent mother or father is not the end of the world. If you are willing to put in a dedicated effort, you will succeed at freeing yourself from the bondage of toxic attachment.