I strongly believe in being vulnerable, authentic and honest with your child, and this requires a mindful attitude and communication.
For instance, if you go through a difficult situation in your life, such as divorce, grief, financial issues etc., a child will pick up on your sadness or emotional state and would want to make you smile by kissing you for example. It’s important to encourage and validate his empathetic reaction and accept his kiss, but it’s also essential to let the child know that you can take care of yourself and that you have enough support in your life right now, and it’s not his job to worry about this.
“Children should not be serving the intimate needs of a parent, or placed in the role of secret-keeper”, says Lisa M. Hooper, a researcher and professor at the University of Louisville.
She has conducted extensive studies on the effects of “parentification” — when the parent projects their role onto the child — and believes that this can be damaging to his long-term emotional health.
“Parents and caregivers ought to be at the top of the hierarchy in the family system,” says Hooper. A parent who constantly asks his child for relationship advice or complains to him about other family members, is inverting the role of adult/parent and child, relying on his kid to provide the same kind of emotional support normally sought from a trusted friend, spouse or therapist.
Ultimately, responsible parenting isn’t the same with holding back or being indifferent, but setting healthy boundaries and having the ability to differentiate between your own needs and your child’s needs.
I strongly believe in allowing a child to be a child.