Your child is not your
food for thought & soul
You are not your child’s client and he is not your therapist.
As parents, I imagine it’s tempting to show your vulnerability in relation to your children, which can also be healthy to some extent. But, it’s very important to become aware of the differences between being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be seen as humane, and being a victim so that your child can save you.
Becoming a client and continuously confiding in your child can be damaging to his long-term emotional well-being. As you might know from your own experience, most parents are being perceived by their children as high authority figures, heroes or even Gods. The parents have all the power – they hold the keys to the house, the key to the car, the magic paper that makes ice cream and candy appear in the house. In other words, their safety and survival in the world depends on them, so, when a caregiver falters, the child will do anything in his power to “save” him, to see him happy and “make everything better”. At a deep level this activates his creative adjustment patterns, which involves the child assuming responsibility for the situation, so that the parent can carry on with taking care of the child. It’s a deep survival instinct.
We need to become more aware of how we communicate with our children.
Discussing with your child adult matters, like you would with your spouse, friend, a parent or a therapist, will shift your child into an adult state. So, instead of worrying about things related to his developmental age and inner world, such as, playing with his favorite toy or choosing his favorite desert, this will force the child to take adult decisions, taking care of his parent’s needs and ignoring his own.
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.