What is the difference between CARING Parent Relationship and CODEPENDENT parent Relationship?

The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behavior. The sign of great parenting is the parent’s behavior (Andy Smithson). All parents would like to have a good relationship with their children. A healthy parent-child relationship is crucial for a child’s overall development and well-being. When children feel loved, supported, and secure in their relationships with their parents, they are more likely to develop positive self-esteem and healthy social skills. Good communication between parents and children helps to build trust, respect, and understanding, leading to more harmonious family dynamics. Moreover, a strong bond between parents and children can provide a sense of stability and security during times of stress and upheaval. Ultimately, a healthy parent-child relationship sets the foundation for a child’s emotional, cognitive, and physical growth, and can positively impact their future relationships and life outcomes.

A CARING parent relationship is characterized by a genuine concern for the well-being of the child. The parent provides the child with emotional support, guidance, and encouragement to help them develop into independent and self-sufficient adults. The parent is supportive but also allows the child to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.

On the other hand, a CODEPENDENT parent relationship is characterized by an unhealthy reliance on the child. The parent often places the child’s needs above their own to the point of neglecting their own well-being. The parent may try to control the child’s actions and decisions, often to fulfill their own emotional needs. The child may feel responsible for the parent’s emotions and well-being and may develop a sense of guilt or obligation to take care of the parent.

The leading expert in the industry kindly agreed to share her opinion about the difference between CARING Parent Relationship and CODEPENDENT Parent Relationship.

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Tzivy Reiter LCSW

Tzivy Reiter, LCSW,

Children’s and Trauma Services Director at the Ohel Zachter Family National Trauma Center

serves as the Children’s and Trauma Services Director at the Ohel Zachter Family National Trauma Center. In this role, Tzivy leverages her decades of experience in children’s mental health, trauma, and bereavement to develop trauma-informed and resilience-based building services, including training for first responders, workplaces, synagogues, and schools grades K-12.

What is the main difference between CARING Parent Relationship and CODEPENDENT Parent Relationship?

“A Caring Parent accepts their child for who they are, while a Codependent Parent pressures their child to grow into who they want them to be.

A Caring Parent supports their child through discomfort or pain, while a Codependent parent steps in to rescue them from discomfort or pain. This may seem helpful, but in fact, robs the child of their autonomy and ability to develop coping skills.

A Codependent Parent will be threatened by their child’s emerging independence and will make subtle attempts to sabotage it.

A Caring Parent will encourage independence, even if that independence takes their child further away from them.  A caring parent may feel sadness at the separation but will understand and rejoice in their child being exactly where they need to be.

A Caring Parent has boundaries in the parent-child role, boundaries which keep the child safe and secure.  In a Codependent parent-child relationship,  those lines are blurred, resulting in confusion and enmeshment.

A Codependent parent looks at their child through a lens that says:  I see me.  This burdens them with the weight of expectations that may never be realized.

A Caring Parent looks at their child through a lens that says:  I see you.  Being seen, heard, and acknowledged allows them to grow into who they were meant to be” (Tzivy Reiter, LCSW).

But how to check if the relationship with your child is CARING or CODEPENDENT?

Answer honestly the following questions:

  1. Does your child always seek your approval before making decisions?
  2. Do you feel guilty or responsible for your child’s problems or difficulties?
  3. Does your child rely on you excessively for emotional support?
  4. Do you find yourself making sacrifices for your child’s well-being, even if it means neglecting your own needs?
  5. Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells around your child to avoid conflict?
  6. Does your child frequently criticize you or blame you for their problems?
  7. Do you feel like your child’s problems are your own problems?
  8. Do you have difficulty setting boundaries with your child?
  9. Does your child have difficulty making decisions or taking responsibility for their own actions?
  10. Do you feel like your child’s behavior is causing you to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or resentment?

If major of your answers is YES you need to improve the relationship with your child. 

Codependency is a common issue that can arise in parent-child relationships. This occurs when a parent becomes overly reliant on their child for emotional support and validation, and the child feels responsible for the parent’s well-being. This can create a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can negatively impact both parties. Codependent parents may have trouble setting boundaries, expressing their own needs, and taking care of themselves. They may rely on their child to provide emotional support, and may even view their child as a source of validation. This can create a burden on the child, who may feel responsible for the parent’s well-being and sacrifice their own needs and wants in order to fulfill the parent’s expectations. Children of codependent parents may struggle with their own emotional well-being, feeling that their own needs and feelings are not valued or considered. They may feel obligated to put their parent’s needs above their own, leading to feelings of guilt or resentment.

In order to break the cycle of codependency in parent-child relationships, it’s important for both parties to recognize and address the issue. Here are 10 steps on how to do it:

  1. Set boundaries: One of the key steps in changing a codependent relationship is setting boundaries. Children should establish clear boundaries with their parents, such as stating their needs and preferences, and parents should respect these boundaries. Boundaries may include setting limits on the amount of time spent together, not providing emotional support for the parent’s problems, and avoiding enabling the parent’s behavior.
  2. Communicate openly: It’s important for both parents and children to communicate openly and honestly with each other. This involves expressing feelings and needs in a respectful manner, listening actively, and avoiding blaming or criticizing each other. When communication is open and honest, it helps to build trust and understanding in the relationship.
  3. Focus on individual self-care: Both parents and children should focus on their own self-care and well-being. This includes taking care of physical health, managing stress, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment. When each person is focused on their own well-being, it helps to create a more balanced relationship.
  4. Seek outside support: Changing a codependent relationship can be challenging, and seeking outside support from a therapist or counselor can be beneficial. A therapist can provide guidance on how to set healthy boundaries, communicate effectively, and build stronger relationships.
  5. Celebrate successes: Celebrating successes, no matter how small, is an important part of changing a codependent relationship to a caring one.
  6. Don’t be afraid to embarrass your kids: Embarrassment is a time-honored tradition in parenting. Whether it’s breaking out your best dance moves in public or telling their friends about their potty training mishaps, embarrassing your kids is a great way to keep them humble.
  7. Be a good listener: When your kids talk to you, really listen. Nod your head, make eye contact, and give them your full attention. And if you don’t understand what they’re saying, just smile and nod anyway. That’s what parents do.
  8. Don’t take yourself too seriously: Parenting can be stressful, but it’s important to keep a sense of humor. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself, laugh at your mistakes, and admit when you’re wrong. Your kids will appreciate your humility and honesty.
  9. Be consistent: Kids need structure and routine to feel secure. So, be consistent in your rules and expectations. But also be flexible and willing to compromise when necessary. And remember, parenting is all about finding that delicate balance between being firm and being fun.
  10. Show them love: Finally, don’t forget to show your kids how much you love them. Hug them, kiss them, and tell them how proud you are of them. And when they roll their eyes and tell you to stop, just keep doing it anyway. Because deep down, they really do love it.

Parents can benefit from learning how to take care of themselves and seeking out other sources of emotional support. This can help them to become less reliant on their child and create a more balanced relationship. Children can benefit from setting boundaries and learning to prioritize their own needs and well-being.

Overall, a CARING parent relationship fosters healthy emotional development, independence, and self-esteem in the child, while a CODEPENDENT parent relationship can lead to emotional dependence, low self-esteem, and difficulty establishing healthy relationships in the child’s adulthood.

However, there is an alternative opinion about very popular nowadays terms in psychology such as CARING parent relationship and CODEPENDENT parent relationship.

According to Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D.

The licensed psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine, and served on the faculty at Chapman University, specializing in adolescent and child development:

“There is so much misinformation in popular psychology that it is almost impossible to sort through. First of all “co-dependency” is not the correct term as far as I am concerned. There is a lot of psychological jargon that people think is true. These are not technical, scientific terms. Ignore them. I guess the key concept here is …..whether or not the parent is helping the child or harming them. There are lots of cases where a perfectly loving parent impedes the independence of the child by doing too much for them. Why is the parent doing so much for the child? Who is it serving? The parent or the child? Often, adult children who have been financially supported by their parents their whole lives never learn to earn a living and never become fully functioning adults. Other kids become substance abusers. At some point, parents have to kick their kids out of the nest and the kids have to fly on their own. In some circles, this is called tough love” (Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D.).

In the end no matter what terminology you are using to build a healthy relationship with your children, the most important is the result, as a famous proverb said: “The road will be mastered by walking”. Just do it.

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