Con­tin­u­ously con­fid­ing in your child ‘dam­ag­ing’ for their well-be­ing

The Borneo Post - - PARENTING - By Cindy Lamothe

MANY w ell-mean­ing pa rents tend to over share what’ s go­ing on in their per­sonal lives with their kids - whether it’s by telling them about their most re­cent con­flict at work or com­plain­ing about is­sues at home with their part­ner.

But ac­cord­ing to psy­chol­o­gists, con­tin­u­ously con­fid­ing in your child can be dam­ag­ing to their long-term emo­tional well-be­ing. And while an iso­lated in­ci­dent of re­hash­ing a bad day at work won’t cause harm, reg­u­larly dis­cussing adult prob­lems the way you would with a peer, forces chil­dren into in­ap­pro­pri­ate par­ent­ing roles sim­i­lar to that of proxy ther­a­pists or sur­ro­gate spouses.

“Chil­dren should not be serv­ing the in­ti­mate needs of a par­ent, or placed in the role of se­cret-keeper ,” says Lisa M. Hoop er, a re­searcher and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Louisville, who has con­ducted ex­ten­sive stud­ies on the ef­fects of par­ent ifi cation-when the par­ent projects their role onto the child. In di­vorced fam­i­lies, for in­stance, par­ents can fall into the trap of re­ly­ing on their kid as a“con­fi­dant ”- by re­veal­ing

Many well-mean­ing par­ents tend to over­share what’s go­ing on in their per­sonal lives with their kids - whether it’s by telling them about their most re­cent con­flict at work or com­plain­ing about is­sues at home with their part­ner. Ac­cord­ing to psy­chol­o­gists, con­tin­u­ously con­fid­ing in your child can be dam­ag­ing to their long-term emo­tional well­be­ing.

pri­vate in­for­ma­tion in the way of vent­ing about the fa­ther/mother, or by hav­ing them me­dia te con­flicts.

For in­stance, it’ s not ap­pro­pri­ate for am other to say“Your fa­ther never fol­lows through on any­thing, he’ s al­ways dis­ap­point­ing me-I’ m so fed up with him ,” says Juli Fraga, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist in San Fran­cisco. Ex­perts be­lieve this kind of be­hav­iour cre­ates an at­mos­phere of ne­glect, be­cause chil­dren are made re­spon­si­ble for look­ing af­ter the emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing of the par­ent while sup press­ing their nor­mal child­hood needs, such as play or friend­ships with kids their own age.

Hooper not es t hat “when a child starts serv­ing asa friend to the par­ent, and the par­ent is get­ting his or her needs met through the child - that be­comes prob­lem­atic.”

Her re­search has shown that the ef­fects of child­hood par­en­tifi­ca­tion can be­long last­ing and multi gen­er­a­tion al. In one study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Fam­ily Ther­apy, data was taken from 783 univer­sity stu­dents to eval­u­ate the link be­tween their child­hood roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with their later adult psy­cho­log­i­cal func­tion­ing. The re­searchers found that peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­enced early par­en­tifi­ca­tion area tan in­creased risk for anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, eat­ing dis­or­ders, and sub­stance mis­use as an adult.

“Par­ents and care­givers ought to be at the top of the hi­er­ar­chy in the fam­ily sys­tem ,” says Hooper. A fa­ther who con­stantly asks his son for re­la­tion­ship ad­vice or com­plains to him about other fam­ily mem­bers, for in­stance, is in­vert­ing the role of adult and child, be­cause he’s re­ly­ing on his kid to pro­vide the same kind of emo­tional sup­port nor­mally sought from a trusted friend or spouse.

And while it’ s true that chil­dren who take on more adult­like roles can have pos­i­tive out­comes, such as a strong work ethic, re­siliency, and self- ef­fi­cacy -when taken to the ex­treme, you’ll start to see kids anx­iously car­ing for oth­ers, com­pul­sively over­work­ing, and striv­ing to jug­gle their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at school with their role of con­fi­dant at home.

“A child im­bued with a very early sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity may carry that trait for­ward with them for­ever ,” says Gretchen Kubacky, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and re­la­tion­ship ex­pert in Los An­ge­les.

De­spite good in­ten­tions, learn­ing where to draw the line can be espe­cially tricky for par­ents who want to be seen as their child’ s“best friend .” In many cases, it’s be­cause they have their own his­tory of at­tach­ment is­sues caused by grow­ing up with dis­tant, rigid, or ne­glect­ful care­givers-and now tend to over­com­pen­sate by be­com­ing overly in­volved in their kid’s life.

“Friend­ship is re­cip­ro­cal, based on a mu­tual shar­ing of equa­nim­ity and equal­ity ,” says Fraga. And chil­dren sim­ply don’t pos­sess the same emo­tional ma­tu­rity and un­der­stand­ing that adults do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be lov­ing and car­ing - but that you dis­tin­guish be­tween be­ing hon­est and sup­port­ive with also main­tain­ing ap­pro­pri­ate bound­aries.

“Some peo­ple tend to see their chil­dren not as sep­a­rate be­ings, but merely as ex­ten­sions of them­selves ,” she adds .“They don’t have the fil­ter to un­der­stand that their kid is seven, not 37.”

Fraga be­lieves that line is be­ing crossed more and more th­ese days with our cul­ture of over shar­ing on so­cial me­dia and in­flu­ence sin pop cul­ture. An ex­am­ple of th­ese blur red bound­aries can be see non the hit TV se­ries“Gil­more Girls” -where them other-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween Rory and Lo rel ai has long been char­ac­ter is ed by an en vi­able qual­ity of close­ness. But as with many par­ent-child friend ships, the un­fore­seen con­se­quences don’t show up un­til af­ter ado­les­cence.

In pre­vi­ous sea­sons, Lo rel ai comes across asa mother with a pen­chant for over shar­ing with her teen daugh­ter-of­ten blur­ring the line be­tween par­ent and bud.

This light form of par­en­tifi­ca­tion can seem harm­less, but fast-for­ward to a now 32- year-old Rory, and the lax bound­aries she shared with her mom come back to haunt her. The new sea­son re­boot, “A Year in the Life,” of­fers a por­trait of a Rory who strug­gles with bouts of anx­i­ety, and dif­fi­culty trust­ing in her own de­ci­sions re­gard­ing her ca­reer and love in­ter­ests.

“As adults, chil­dren who have been par­ent ifiedt end to lack con­fi­dence and[ have] an in­abil­ity to be­lieve that they can think their way through the sim­plest of life’s prob­lems,” notes F raga .“It can re­ally eclipse a per­son’s abil­ity to re­ceive and to beloved as adults, be­cause it’ s too dan­ger­ous to let some­one in when you’ve been crashed into.”

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