Enmeshed Parenting

The Truth About Enmeshed Parenting – How to Avoid It and 3 ways to deal with enmeshment

As a child, do you remember feeling as though your parents were almost always watching you, monitoring your behavior and keeping tabs on where you were going? Coined as an “over-identification with their child”, enmeshed parenting is when a parent feels so connected with their child that they begin acting like a part of the same person. This type of interaction can be unhealthy for both the parent and the enmeshed child. Let’s explore about such parent child relationships and how we can avoid it in our own lives.

What is Enmeshed Parenting?

Enmeshed parenting is a style of parenting in which a child’s individual identity becomes intertwined with their parent’s own identity. It is an extreme form of codependency and is often seen in parents who have mental illness such as anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. Enmeshed parents have very low self-esteem and tend to be overly dependent on their child for own needs.

They often worry about being “good enough” parents, which is why they try to control every aspect of their child’s life to a ridiculous degree. They micromanage every aspect of their child’s life and have difficulty allowing their child to make even their own decisions.

Signs of enmeshed parenting

Enmeshed parenting is a term that describes the parent-child dynamic in which a parent’s complete involvement in their child’s life is perceived as necessary and desirable. It can occur in any type of healthier relationships, but it is particularly common when the parent is insecure and feels threatened by the separation from their child, or when the family dynamics itself is unstable. The fear of fear of abandonment, nonexistent boundaries and dysfunctional relationship pattern lead are major signs of enmeshed family system

As a result, the parent becomes more involved in their children’s lives, often taking on all the responsibilities they should be sharing with the other parent, and this can lead to resentment and conflict with the other parent, who then may feel obligated to stay involved and work harder than they would if they felt supported. This can also lead to a feeling of isolation for the parents who aren’t involved—both physically and emotionally—and can cause them to become less engaged or even disengaged altogether.

Signs of enmeshment also shows up in many other ways: over-controlling behavior, unrealistic expectations of what kids “should” be able to do at certain ages, lack of boundaries between adults and children (which can lead to inappropriate behavior like sexual contact or substance use), lack of quality time together as a couple, resentful emotions between parents towards each other (such as anger or resentment), and so on.

Why is Enmeshed Parenting Harmful?

Enmeshed relationship tend to over-parent and micromanage every aspect of their child’s life. They’re also overly protective and codependent at the same time. Enmeshment is a form of codependent relationships that exists when parents are unable to see their child as an independent adult instead viewing them as a smaller version of themselves. If you’re reading this and thinking “yeah, that sounds just like me!” then keep reading for some helpful tips on how to avoid becoming enmeshed with your child.

The unspoken rules of enmeshment results in lack of independence. Enmeshed parents also tend to exhibit what’s known as “negative over-identification”. This means that they view their child as a replica of themselves and their negative characteristics. For example, enmeshed parents who are workaholics might expect their child to follow in their footsteps and become workaholics as well. This is obviously a very harmful thing for the child to inherit and can negatively affect them for the rest of their life.

How to Avoid Becoming an Enmeshed Parent

Enmeshment is a form of codependency and requires both parties to take action to break the cycle. If only one of you makes changes and doesn’t try to help the other break free, it won’t work. Here are a few tips to help you avoid becoming enmeshed with your child –

Be aware of your actions and triggers. Before you know it, you might find yourself enmeshed with your child. If so, take a step back, evaluate the situation and ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Are you enmeshed with your child because you’re afraid of losing them, or because you genuinely want what’s best for them? If you’re over-parenting due to fear, try to work through it.

Keep communication open and honest between you and your child. If you find that you’re over-parenting, have an honest conversation with your child. Be open and honest about your fears and admit your mistakes.

Set clear personal boundaries and enforce them. Even if you have a very extroverted child who likes to talk a lot, they need emotional boundaries. You also need to set boundaries for yourself.

Let go of perfectionism and control. In order to break the cycle of enmeshment, you need to be willing to let go of certain things you may be holding onto tightly. Let go of the desire to be “perfect” and allow your child to be themselves.

3 Tips to Help You Avoid Enmeshment with Your Child

  • Let them make their own mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, and if you try to protect your child from everything, they won’t ever learn how to deal with failure or disappointment.
  • Give children some personal space. Avoid constantly hovering over them, checking up on them, or asking too many questions. Let them have some privacy and space to be on their own and make their own mistakes.
  • Let them see you living your own life. Your child doesn’t need to be your whole world and they don’t need to know everything about you. Let them see you living your own life and making your own mistakes. That way, when they grow up, they’ll know how to handle things on their own.

2 Alternatives to Enmeshment- Co-operative Co- parenting and Independent Co- parenting

Good news is that there are alternatives to enmeshed parenting. Following are two alternatives –

Co-operative parenting is an alternative to enmeshment and the “tough love” parenting style. It focuses on the parents’ strengths and interests, without relying on the child for their self-esteem. Co-operative parents are supportive, loving parents who lay down the law, set clear relational boundaries, and encourage their child to be independent. Co-operative parents are structured and organized but are flexible enough to be spontaneous and let their child learn from their own mistakes.

Independent co- parenting is another alternative to enmeshment. It focuses on the child’s strengths and interests, while the parents provide emotional support and structure. The goal is for the child to have a healthy boundaries, but also to have enough guidance to prevent them from making too many mistakes. Young adults need emotional space and should be allowed to pursue their own interests.

Enmeshed Parenting
Signs of enmeshed parenting

Conclusion

Enmeshed parents tend to over-parent and micromanage every aspect of their child’s life. They’re also overly protective and codependent at the same time. Enmeshment is a form of codependency that exists when parents are unable to see their child as an independent adult instead viewing them as a smaller version of themselves.

Enmeshment tends to be a pattern of behavior that is passed down through generations. Here is podcast on enmeshed parenting by Rupin Rach and Dr. Kate Balestrieri on concept of enmeshment. It is important to identify when parents’ wishes and own feelings start impacting next generation.

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13 thoughts on “The Truth About Enmeshed Parenting – How to Avoid It and 3 ways to deal with enmeshment”

  1. I’ll never understand this type of behavior. As a parent, I take great pride in knowing that I am teaching my kids to be independent and self sufficient. It doesn’t take away from me being their mother.

  2. I’ve never heard of the term enmeshed parenting. It makes sense though… and nope, we don’t want to be enmeshed. Kids need to be able to have increasing levels of independence. The world throws some things at you, we want them as ready as possible when they fly the nest.

  3. Aaaahhhh…haven’t we all had a taste of enmeshed parenting? Personally, I dislike it since I feel suffocated. I like to adventure out on my own, make mistakes by myself and learn from them.

  4. I didn’t know about this, and I have learned a lot by reading your article. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. That is some great information you have there. There is no manual for Parenting, but there are definitely certain things that should be watched out for.

  6. I’ve not heard that term before. It is good to be aware and to be able to identify this behaviour. It’s something we need to avoid where we can.

  7. I hadn’t heard the term before, but now that you describe it I’ve seen it in action. I’m probably the opposite, giving my kids more independence than many do for their ages.

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