There are situations in life where it becomes inevitable that as parents we make mistakes. One of the mistakes I made as a young, widowed mother was relying entirely too much on my oldest son during our time of grief. Granted, I had a lot going on at the time, including pregnancy, but I admit, I let my focus go as a parent. I allowed my emotions at the time to control my actions. Those emotions took many forms and needless to say, I relied too much on my son for my own happiness which in turn blurred the line between dependence and independence for him as he got older and co-dependence for me.
During and after divorce, many times both parents are so emotionally hung up on trying to re-evaluate their own lives that they feel it is okay to involve their children in every single aspect of their beings. For example, some parents guilty parent so exceedingly that they actually allow their children to become “spouse-like.” What do I mean by that you might ask? They base all of their decisions around what their children think, they ask their children for advice, they lean on their children for sympathy, they communicate with their children as if they are their best friends. Parents allow their own happiness to rely totally on the happiness of their children. When this occurs, this is a complete no-win situation for your child.
When going through our own emotions as parents, it is extremely important to show our children that even though circumstances happen in life that cause heartache, pain, grief or disappointment, that their presence in our lives alone makes us happy. Therefore, we are not unintentionally making them feel responsible to “fix” things for us. If we don’t make that clear, they will inevitably feel responsible for our happiness. They will feel that it is their responsibility to be our listening ear and that it is normal for them to fill the “void” that you are missing. Remember, your children are just that, your children….not your surrogate mate.
TMF Readers, if you don’t remember anything at all about us here at Today’s Modern Family, remember that what we write about, we have almost always lived through. I felt the need to write this post on my heart because during the time that I was personally experiencing this type of dependence, I was really not doing what was in my childrens’ best interest. In order for me to stop being a codependent parent, I had to get a life for myself.
Your life does not have to revolve around your children. Value yourself enough to give yourself your own time to do some of the things that make you happy and what makes you relax and renew. Find time to pursue your dreams and goals. Even after something as hard as divorce is to get through, being able to focus on the bigger picture and what might lie ahead for you if you are willing to put in the work to forge ahead will be of great benefit to you. Make time for yourself.
Instead of teaching your children the art of codependency, teach them that it’s okay to have strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay to learn from your mistakes and to deal with them on your own for the greater good. Life is full of negatives. Don’t worry them with your problems and your circumstances. If you want to do anything for your children, turn your codependency into freedom for them. Let them make their own choices about their absent parent without your feelings being at stake. They need your security, they look to you for their protection. They can’t protect us nor should they carry that burden.
Peace & Blessings,