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Codependency and Parenting: An Ongoing Journey


Parenting is a challenging journey in and of itself. When you have codependency, there is a whole other layer of challenges others might not understand or appreciate. First, you need to be healthy and stable enough to do your best to not pass on your codependency to your children. There is nothing like parenting to force you to grow up and confront your own issues head on for the sake of giving your children something better.


Your ultimate goal with parenting as a codependent is to develop a healthy relationship with your child such that neither you nor the child is codependent or enmeshed within the relationship. During the early stages of a child's life, they are dependent on their parents for care and attunement; however, this should not translate into codependency. Evidence of a codependent relationship in parenting, which can very easily happen, can be seen when parents are unable to separate their emotions from their child's, when parents and children are overly reactive to each other's emotions and reactions, when a child is 'managing' the emotions and reactions of a parent (this may occur when the parent has alcoholism, chronic illness, depression, etc.).


Some parents may experience codependency as an inability or unwillingness to set boundaries with their children. While they may be very loving parents, the lack of consequences for their children as well as lack of normal boundaries for how to function within friend, family, work, and typical adult relationships, can lead to a codependent that is not able to adequately care for themselves.


As a parent with codependency myself, my mission everyday is to recognize my own triggers, work on my recovery, and set a good example for my son. I subscribe to respectful parenting and look to my own triggers as my frustrations rise, rather than blaming him for my frustration and anger. To (hopefully) prevent codependency popping up for him later in life, I frequently use the following guidelines in my life to help me:

  • I refrain from statements like "You are making me mad/sad/angry." I may say a situation is upsetting or makes me angry, but I do not want him to feel responsible for my feelings. I also talk to him frequently about his own feelings and his responsibility for his feelings, thoughts, and actions.

  • I also don't like to imply that my son is responsible other kid's upset feelings about situations. For instance, if my son and another kid are struggling to share, I am not going to guilt him into sharing by making statements about how he might be hurting the other kid's feelings. Instead, I will probably tell him I know it is hard to share. I would let him know that sharing is kind, but that if he isn't ready to share that toy, he needs to find another way for him and his friend to play nicely together. He is usually good a problem solving and will come up with a unique way for him and his friend to still have fun together even if he doesn't want to share a particular toy.

  • My son and I have a rule that we talk nice to each other. If we mess up, we apologize. I want him to know how to treat his friends, family, and future partners with respect.

  • Kids often like to cling to their parents. Climb on them, jump on them, cuddle with them. My son is like this too. And he has a hard time sitting still on top of it. Most of the time I don't mind, but I do need time without being constantly touched sometimes. At the age of 5, he is now able to respect my space when I need it and I respect his when he needs it.


What are some things you do as a parent to prevent instilling codependency in your children?

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