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Overly protective. Enmeshed. Helicopter parent. We’ve all heard the lingo.
What images do these terms bring to mind? Moms waiting at bus stops with their children? Parents arguing with teachers to give their kid a break on her grades? Dads living out their athletic dreams through their son’s soccer victories?
Many parents become so involved in their children’s lives that it becomes an obsession. Admittedly, it’s a tough line to toe. Parents want to show concern, care and interest in what their children do. They want to protect them. They want to teach them. These are all normal, healthy ideals. But, some take this too far. When the children, their safety and their activities are all-consuming, kids have become an addiction.
The consequences are not unlike those of substance abuse and addiction. The kids suffer. The parents suffer. Other aspects of their lives suffer. How?
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- With over-scheduled and over-supervised lives, children don’t get to enjoy “just being kids.”
- Children don’t deal with their own challenges, leaving them unable to cope with life experiences.
- Parents whose lives revolve around their children are more likely to suffer from depression.
- Intense parents sacrifice their own mental health in an effort to enhance their child’s experiences.
Ending the Obsession
It’s hard to be a good parent when you’re exhausted and depressed from intense parenting. It’s also hard to be a healthy child when you’re being smothered by a parent’s obsession.
So, how can you avoid (or end) a “kid addiction”?
- Admit the problem. Recognize that you’ve cross the line. It’s ok to care about your child. But, admit that you need to take a step back. It will be difficult and will feel unnatural. Your parental instincts are in overdrive, so it will be hard to pull them back into healthy gear. However, in order to do so, you have to first admit the need for a change.
- Refocus. As you’ve been focused on your child, what other things have you neglected? Your own emotional needs? Your physical health? Your spouse? Friendships? It’s important to realize that taking care of these needs will actually make you a better parent. Well-rounded interests and positive mental health create a good example for your child. It also keeps you in a better mindset to properly instruct and admonish them. Take the focus off your child somewhat, and you’ll be better able to focus on them when you need to.
- Pursue a hobby of your own. Make an effort to spend time with friends. Schedule date nights with your spouse. Stop yourself from fixing your child’s next problem. Ask your child how they want to handle it. It’s ok if they lose or fail sometimes. These boundaries will help establish a healthier relationship between you and your child. As you are involved in (but not obsessed with) their lives, you can better enjoy life – together.
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