July 30, 2012 1 Comment
Parenting lesson (or life lesson) # 5. Your child is not your therapist. Families that support and encourage each other are a great thing. It’s nice to be able to vent a little bit to family members and relax and be yourself and know they still love you and that they ‘get’ you. That’s an awesome way for a family to be. But there is a big difference between supporting each other and depending on each other for your mental health. Far too many parents seem to confuse these two for some reasons and it’s incredibly unhealthy for your kids.
Step-daughter went with me to go and pick out a new rescue dog since my main guy passed away this past winter. (we got a really nice girl by the way). It gave us a chance to catch up a little bit. Step-daughter talked about her plans to move out of her mom’s place and what she felt was happening and how she was doing. Through that conversation she made reference a few times to her mom’s “meltdowns”. These are not new occurrences. Her mom is not necessarily stable but I don’t think she realizes that it’s as obvious as it is to everyone else. Regardless she is constantly freaking out and crying and venting and disclosing to her kids. There are no healthy boundaries there. Every time she freaks out and cries and collapses in a heap of stress and anxiety, step-daughter goes backwards by another small step. It’s not intentional necessarily, but that’s what happens to your kids when you put your mental health needs ahead their mental health. Kids need their parents to be stronger than them. They need them to be the ones to offer the support, to point them in the right direction when the world feels like it’s collapsing, the ones to direct them how to manage their adult responsibilities, the ones to have it together so that the kids are free and feel safe enough to get out there and try things. When you use your kids as your therapist, you take all the freedom away. They are no longer free to be kids and have to become the adults and put their own needs aside to take care of the parent.
I’m not someone that thinks kids should leave home the minute they turn 18 but I fully support step-daughter’s need to move out. The longer she stays there, the more difficult it is going to be for her to get her feet underneath her. She may not be as ready as one would hope to leave home but at least it will force her to do for herself and at the same time allow her to start taking care of herself without worrying about having to take care of her mom.