Overprotective parenting brings fear and worry without teaching kids to overcome obstacles on their own. It is a form of control that does not allow children to grow into independent adults.
But when it comes to co-dependence, there are many ways to overstep your boundaries and form bonds that are suffocating. Here are 7 examples:
1. Helicopter mom
If you can't seem to go very long without making some kind of contact with your kids, you've got a co-dependence problem. Even if you're physically separated for long periods, you might need hourly updates on your kids when you know they're in good hands. You'll likely get pushback from your kiddos and sense exasperation with your inability to detach and allow some breathing room.
2. Clingy kids
Sometimes having a constant sidekick is a sign you haven't taught your child proper independence. If you find your kids can't cope with the world around them without being right by your side, you've likely had them rely on you too much for their feelings of comfort and safety. This could even leave you stuck with a full nest after your kids have grown up but not moved out.
3. Friendly fire
Being your kid's friend over his parent is a surefire sign of co-dependents. Trying to be the fun mom and cool dad means you're more worried about how much your kids like you than the kind of people they'll grow into. Don't focus on what they think of you, so much as what they learn from you.
4. Sense of self
Getting your sense of self from your child is evidence of an unhealthy attachment. Having parenting being a purpose in life is one thing, but it cannot be everything you are. Likewise, your child's sense of self-being entwined with your approval, pride or acceptance of him, makes him unable to make life decisions for his own benefit and happiness.
5. Problem solver
Problem solving between parent and child is dangerous, i.e., co-dependent territory. It is natural to try to solve your child's problems to prevent them from struggling or suffering. But it mustn't become an excuse for reckless behavior or constant underachieving. Furthermore, if you go to your child with your adult issues, you are creating a sense of stress and helplessness by presenting a child with a problem they can't really solve.
6. No privacy
Parents with poor boundaries may not appear classically co-dependent, but if you feel comfortable invading your children's privacy, or having them up in your business, you're looking at an unhealthy relationship at the least.
Children and adolescents need some sense of privacy to feel safe, secure, and build trust in the world. If they have no place to retreat and regroup, they are left feeling exposed and raw all of the time. This can also encourage dishonest behavior in an attempt to escape your scrutiny or intrusion.
7. Love on the rocks
More classic co-dependence comes in the form of running interference in relationships. Keeping a close eye on adolescent friendships and teen love affairs can feel invading, but serves a purpose. But if you are heavily involved in your adult child's love life, or allow him to dictate yours, you're pulling a third wheel into the situation. Being a couple is harder with three people.
Be sure to guide your children into adulthood instead of keeping them kids or making them friends. Co-dependence can come with spouses, friends and family, and the rules are different for each. So keep your relationships healthy, and make sure everyone is happy with healthy boundaries and separation.