Signs of a Codependent Parent: How to Heal

Codependency is often thought of in the form of substance use disorders and alcohol addictions. This is actually where the whole concept of codependency was born.

The word is so encompassing and appropriate that it has expanded to include relationships, though it is sometimes connected to other forms of codependency. Codependency shares some traits with narcissism personality disorder, though they are completely different. Left untreated and unresolved, codependency tendencies can be passed on from parent to child, generation after generation, in a never-ending cycle.

Below is everything you need to know about being codependent, how it affects your child, and how you can begin to heal properly. Paradigm Treatment Center is a resource for teens and young adults, but we also help parents along the way. If you have questions, please give us a call today.

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What Is a Codependent Parent?

A codependent parent is a person who forms a very deep and unhealthy attachment to their child and uses this attachment as a base to exert total control over their child’s life.

Codependent tendencies can be present within the full scope of parental relationships. For example, a codependent mother can heavily rely on her son or daughter to maintain her mental stability and emotional happiness, and a codependent father can rely on his daughter or son to take full responsibility for his physical health and well-being.

Codependent parents may try to claim that their close relationships with their children are signs of a family that is well-functioning. This preoccupation with each other is a sign of familial dysfunction.

What Are Some Possible Causes of Codependency?

Codependency can be hard to spot and recognize, with psychological, biological, and social elements contributing to its manifestation and growth.

A few possible causes of parent codependency are:

  • Being raised in a dysfunctional family rife with excessive control, criticism, rigidity, or perfectionism from one or both of the parents. There could also have been a lack of safety, a non-existent support system, and a stunted emotional connection.
  • Having a parental figure who was emotionally or physically abusive, absent, neglectful, or suffering from addictions.
  • Experiences and feelings of pain, anger, fear, shame, or pain that were not resolved or acknowledged in the family.

What Are Signs That a Parent Is Expressing Codependent Tendencies?

If you suspect that you or another person may be a codependent parent, here are a few signs to look out for:

Codependent relationships are fed through neediness cycles. Occasionally, this is a two-way street, and the other person wants to be needed as well. This makes the other person an enabler.

Codependent parents almost always try to control their child’s life. This control may manifest itself in various ways:

  • Over-involvement. A child’s pain is a parent’s pain, when a parent sees their child suffering or hurt they may try to step in and get involved to the extreme to stop the hurting.
  • Inappropriate caretaking. Codependent parents will go above and beyond age-appropriate activities with their children. For example, an 8-year-old chooses their own clothing every morning. A 16-year-old should be handling their own homework and class schedules.
  • Incorrect shouldering of responsibility. Codependent parents shoulder the blame for all of their child’s mood swings and emotional outbursts.

Codependent parents feel they need to be on call and available 24/7 for their child. This can directly cause the relationships with their partner to suffer. This can cause their sexual relationships to suffer as well as make them isolate themselves from other friends and family.

Codependent parents may unconsciously (or consciously, but not maliciously) use many psychological strategies to get what they want from their children:

  • Passive-aggressive behavior. This is indirect aggressiveness towards their child or other people.
  • When a parent is incapable of handling or processing their feelings, usually feelings of regret, shame, or guilt, they project them onto their child instead.
  • Generating guilt. This is where a parent attempts to “guilt trip” their child about certain situations to make them do what they want.

Codependent parents often feel that no matter what, they’re right, and feel attacked when someone questions their decisions or behaviors. These parents feel that any sign of disagreement is insurrection or rebellion, and feel that this threatens their sense of control and authority.

Note that some of these signs are also symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder, which is completely different from, but can occur alongside a codependent parent disorder.

Sharing childhood memories and personal stories healthily can teach them life skills. This could be sharing stories about a problem that you encountered, and the positive steps you took towards rectifying the problem.

Twisting the stories you tell so that everyone else is at fault and you’re always the victim can force sympathy out of your child. Codependent parents, instead of giving to their children, rely on their children giving to them. This process is known as parentification.

Codependent parents often find great difficulties with disciplining their children. They can let the fear of rejection from their child allow them to sit back and watch their child break the disciplinary boundaries they’ve set up.

Certain situations see one codependent parent become resentful if their partner attempts to step in and reinforce boundaries and make their child follow the rules.

Codependent parents almost always suffer from low self-esteem, which is dependent on their child: If their child is pleased with them, they’re pleased with themselves. But if their child is disturbed, they’re disturbed in turn.

It is quite normal for a parent to have dreams and aspirations for their children, but codependent parents take this to great extremes. They struggle to relive their life and accomplish the goals they missed out on through their children.

Someone suggesting to you that you may be a codependent parent, or that the relationship between you and your child is unhealthy making you immediately burst a blood vessel is a danger sign. But why? Denial is a defense mechanism that many people use to protect themselves from threatening or disapproving thoughts, feelings, and information.

What Are the Risks of Codependent Parenting Regarding Children?

Parent-child codependency may appear benign, but it can be emotionally abusive. Children growing up in such scenarios learn that their needs, emotions, and feelings are irrelevant and thus never have the chance to develop their independent personalities.

A teen’s sense of self and identity is developed through the commitments and decisions that they make as they transition from childhood to adulthood. When codependent, a parent exerts excessive and unwanted control over their child’s life, they inadvertently smother their child’s ability to develop and commit to their chosen values and beliefs. These adolescents then remain with a “thinned-out” identity, like watery stew, and never form their own.

Parents are major role models in children’s lives, and these children naturally pick up on their parent’s behavioral tendencies. This includes codependency traits. These children are at high risk of becoming controlling parents in their own right.

How Can Parents Stop Codependency and Heal the Relationship With Their Children?

Amitting the presence of codependency is the first step down the road to halting it in its tracks.

Parents who have codependent behaviors and have used them for years to control and stunt the mental growth of their children should be extra sensitive and respectful towards their children. It is not uncommon to see depression symptoms in teens of codependent parents. Moreso when the pent-up anger that their children have been holding back starts to burst forth.

Below are some pointers to help you get started.

  • Practice self-care. Start taking steps to meet and fulfill your own needs rather than relying on your child to do it for you. Learning to help and give to yourself will help you begin to give to your child.
  • Step back. Allow your child to work their way through age-appropriate challenges independently. This will instill self-confidence in them and allow them to trust themselves and push further in life.
  • Listen actively. Pay full attention to your child when they speak to you. Reflect on what you heard, then ask them if you correctly heard and interpreted what they wanted to say. Almost nothing can heal relationships quicker than someone feeling like they are heard and have a voice.

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How Can Paradigm Treatment Help Overcome Parental Codependency?

Where does someone reach out for help if they suspect that they are a codependent parent? There are licensed therapists who are experienced with family therapy and dealing with codependency or addiction.

Paradigm Treatment can help you or a loved one overcome parental codependency. We offer a variety of individual, group, and variety therapies that can help you and your family heal and progress to maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries.

Contact us today to start your journey.


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