How do you know if your parent/child bond is healthy?

Is it time to redefine what love looks like?

Love gives us the freedom to truly be ourselves. Think of the parent who considers their child to be their best friend. Think of the child who cannot do or go anywhere without their parent.

Neither parent or child has the freedom to truly be themselves. When we talk about connection, we’re not talking about a suffocating, tethering to one another where feelings are contagious (when you’re sad, I’m sad…when you’re happy, I’m happy). We’re talking about a secure and mutually respectful bond of the ‘good enough’ parent.

Is your love supporting or hampering your child?

Sometimes parents unintentionally mistake their close bond with their child as love, when actually it’s hampering their child’s development. This is because they lack healthy boundaries. Parents in healthy families:

  • Allow individuality (they are based on love not fear).
  • Encourage dependence and autonomy.
  • Respect private thoughts and feelings.
  • Are not offended by their child’s ‘no’ or difference of opinion.
  • Don’t take their child’s behaviour personally but rather seek to understand the feelings that lie beneath it.
  • Know that discipline is not punishment.
  • That their relationship with their child is very dependent on the relationship they have with themselves.
  • Provide a loving and secure environment which is based on their child’s needs (not their own).
  • Take care of their own need by exercising good self care and have other interests outside of their children.

Here are some Smiley video highlights if you’re short of time…

1:13 How family enmeshment is a sign of weak emotional boundaries. Here are some of the signs I see in my work:

  • If you’re best friends with your child
  • If you’re obsessive about your child and their challenges occupy a lot of your headspace
  • If you’re externally focussed on other people to the detriment of yourself

2:10 How being assertive doesn’t have to be confrontational. You need to be connected to your anger to set boundaries and you can read my Facebook post (below) about why being punished for being angry as a child impacts my boundary setting even as an adult.

2:57 Why boundary setting can be overwhelming and triggering for those of us who have childhood trauma.

3:20 Where there are weak or no boundaries in families, emotions can be contagious. 

4:08 Are you overly responsible or overgiving? Are you doing things for others (including your child) that they could do and should be doing for themselves? Can you define what is your responsibility and what is the other person’s responsibility?

4:27 Enmeshed parent / child relationships mean there is no yours and mine – it’s ours. Do you find yourself speaking on behalf of your child or talking about both of you using ‘we’ as if you were one person? 

5:05 Are you triggered by your child’s push back and natural need for independence? How comfortable are you at not being needed as a parent? These are signs that you are codependent and lack healthy emotional boundaries.

5:41 Examples of poor or non existent emotional boundaries:

  • Oversharing or talking to your child about things which are not appropriate. e.g. your grown up relationships, challenges you have with their siblings, finances or stress about your job. 
  • Expecting and insisting that your child shares everything with you and not allowing them to have private thoughts and feelings.
  • Being preoccupied with your child’s problems and trying to fix them. Have you watched my Parents’ free Stress Response Training? How you respond to your child’s struggle will make a huge difference to the outcome. 
  • You’re unable to sit with (and not react to) any of your child’s negative or uncomfortable feelings like sadness, anger or anxiety.
  • You don’t prioritise self care and run yourself ragged for your family. Maybe you have a belief that self care is selfish? What you are teaching your child if you don’t prioritise self care
  • You fall into line with what everybody else is doing, don’t speak up and lack the confidence to go your own way. Honouring your needs and values is not something you’ve really considered.
  • You live with anxiety and you don’t manage stress very well. 10 Obvious Signs of A Stressed Child that Parents Often Ignore
  • You’re overly responsible for other people’s feelings and problems. You save them from themselves and do the work for them. You also stop them from learning.
  • You break your child’s emotional boundaries using guilting, shaming, ignoring or the silent treatment.
  • You make your child responsible for your feelings. Watch the language. There is a huge difference between: ‘You’re making Mummy angry / sad / worried.’ and ‘I feel angry / sad / worried when x, y and z happens.’
  • You jump on your child’s feelings to make them all better and don’t give them the space to feel their feelings.
  • You make your child or other people responsible for your happiness. If it wasn’t for so and so or if this didn’t happen, then I could be happy.
  • You’re easily triggered and get stressed out when you have to say ‘no’ to your child. 

15:10 Why children will naturally respect your boundaries when you have a good connection with them

16:19 Why overparenting isn’t helpful and is also a sign of no boundaries. 

17:10 Why children need to learn ’cause and effect’ so they can feel the natural consequences of their behaviour. 

17:49 Why healthy conflict is good for children and what it can teach them from a very young age. 

18:18 How to know when to step forward and when to back off as a parent.

19:20 How family coaching is now standard in the USA for families who have soldiers with PTSD (trauma affects the whole family system and each person needs to be treated). Read about Smiley Family Coaching

Want to strengthen your boundaries?

My boundaries course ‘No More Power Struggles’ is a practical step-by-step guide to setting boundaries in your personal life as well as with your child. It will even give you scripts of what to say until you find your own words. It gets better with practice but you have to start. Be brave and assert yourself without feeling guilty or bad.

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