The codependent parent trap

Parenting is hard. Being a codependent is challenging. Being a codependent parent is, well… something else. And even better, I find myself faced with the colliding specters of my own menopause and my daughter’s adolescence.

The compulsive nature of my behaviors can be frustrating. For many years, I kept falling into a codependent parent trap. My discomfort with even the idea that she might fail or be disappointed or face life’s often harsh consequences, spurred me on… doing for her what she could do for herself, if only I could step back and risk the fall. The more I over-mother, the less she does for herself. The less she does for herself, the more I over-mother.

On the good side, this has raised my awareness of my codependent behaviors as they pertain to parenting a teenager. I can see how my tendency to over-function moves her toward under-functioning. In recovery, I know I always have choices. The trap is of my own making.

Wondering if you are falling into a codependent parenting cycle with your kids? Here are some questions that you may find helpful to consider:

  • Do I encourage independence or dependence in my children?
  • Do I feel anxious, purposeless, or empty when I’m not needed or when I don’t jump in and fix things for them?
  • Do I give unsolicited advice or try to help in ways that aren’t necessary, wanted, or appreciated?
  • Do I give or help in ways that negatively affect me?
  • Do I spend a lot of time worrying about my children’s problems?
  • Am I enabling my children or helping them?

Now ask yourself: where can I step back and give them more autonomy and space to make (age-appropriate) choices?” Can I pick my battles more wisely? Can I let go of outcomes and expectations? Can I listen and ask questions instead of telling them what I think they ought to do?

Attending meetings and self-reflection in Step 10 help me. I’m reminded that when I over parent, I am actually communicating to my daughter that I don’t think she can handle things on her own. That I don’t believe in her. And that’s the opposite of what I actually want to convey to her! I want her to believe in herself and confidently go forth into the world. To know she is loved even when she fails and to know she can pick herself up and keep trying.

I also have to remember Tradition 12, to practice these principles in all my affairs… can I stay on my side of the street? Can I allow my daughter to be who she is and keep the focus on myself? When I get upset or something keeps bothering me, can I look closer at what might be underneath those feelings and behaviors? Is there something unhealed in me that gets triggered by my daughter’s behavior?

I love the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. I love it because it has given me a spiritual awakening and changed my relationships with myself and others. I think it has made me a better mother. Not a perfect one, but better than I was before I started on this road. I have more compassion now, for myself and for my kid. I can admit mistakes to myself and to her. It’s hard being a codependent parent, even a recovering one. But I’m not trapped anymore.

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