Signs of Parental Codependency
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The teen years are a crucial time in life for developing independence, self-esteem and healthy relationships. It’s important for a teen to have a supportive and secure parent-child bond. However, if a parent is struggling with codependency, this essential relationship can become warped and hinder a teen’s growth and well-being. Codependency in a parent-child relationship is an unhealthy dynamic. This relationship involves a parent relying excessively on their teen for emotional fulfillment and a sense of self-worth. This relationship allows boundaries to become blurred and can overshadow the teen’s needs with the parent’s emotional demands. It’s crucial for a parent struggling with codependency to get help. A codependent relationship can have significant negative impacts on a teen’s life, including an increased risk of being in a codependent relationship in the future

8 signs of parental codependency

A codependent parent relies on their teen for their own sense of identity and well-being. This happens instead of fostering their teen’s independence. Signs of a codependent parent aren’t always easy to spot, but can include:

  • Controlling behavior — A codependent parent may be overly involved in their teen’s life and decisions. They may make choices about everything from their teen’s everyday life, from what they wear to major life decisions concerning education and future careers. This controlling behavior can stifle their teen’s development and sense of self-confidence. 
  • Emotional manipulation — A codependent parent may use guilt trips, emotional outbursts or playing the victim card to get their teen to do what they want. This manipulation can create an unhealthy environment where the teen may feel like they’re constantly walking on eggshells and doing everything they can to keep the codependent parent happy. This unhealthy environment can keep a teen from having healthy emotional development.
  • Low self-esteem — A codependent parent may struggle with low self-esteem and rely on their teen to make them feel better about themselves. They may be excessively critical toward their teen or have a constant need for approval, which places immense pressure on the teen. 
  • Difficulty letting go — Even as their teen gets older and independence becomes more natural, a codependent parent may struggle with loosening their grip and letting this independence bloom. Difficulty letting go can lead to “helicopter parenting” behaviors like spying on their teen’s social media, insisting on helping them with tasks they can do on their own, or getting overly involved in their relationships, especially romantic relationships. 
  • Enmeshment — There is an unhealthy blurring of identities and emotions between the parent and teen in a parental codependent relationship. The parent may treat the teen like a confidant or emotional peer. They may share inappropriate information or expect the teen to take care of their emotional needs. 
  • Sacrificing other relationships — A codependent parent may neglect their own friendships, romantic relationships and hobbies. Neglecting these allows them to focus and obsess over their teen. This can cause the parent to become isolated and weigh down the teen with the parent’s emotional needs. 
  • Fear of abandonment — A codependent parent may have a deep fear of abandonment. They may fear they will be abandoned by their teen as their teen grows up and begins the next chapter of their life. They can develop clingy, possessive or smothering attentions toward the teen.
  • Inability to set boundaries — Healthy boundaries are essential in any relationship. Codependent relationships often leave the codependent parent struggling to establish healthy boundaries. The lack of boundaries, like not respecting their teen’s privacy, can create confusion and cause conflict and resentment.

How does parental codependency impact teens?

Growing up with a codependent parent can have a significant impact on a teen’s life. Some potential consequences include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty building healthy relationships 
  • Difficulty with goal-setting or decision-making
  • Codependent tendencies 
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • Identity crisis
  • Rebellious behaviors 

If you have a teen who is in a parental codependent relationship, you can help them by:

  • Validating their feelings
  • Encouraging open communication
  • Empowering their desire for independence
  • Helping them learn and set healthy boundaries
  • Encouraging healthy coping mechanisms and self-care
  • Helping them identify additional support systems
  • Helping them seek professional help

Teens are at a critical developmental stage where healthy relationships and a sense of self are essential for their future well-being. By supporting them, you’re helping them learn to cope with the present and investing in their ability to build a healthy, independent future.

How to help a codependent parent

Helping a parent struggling with codependency isn’t just about helping the teens in the relationship. It can also be beneficial for the parent to receive help and support. You can help a parent struggling with codependency by:

  • Encouraging them to get professional help
  • Helping them find a therapist
  • Emphasizing the impact their codependency can have on their teen
  • Encouraging healthy relationships
  • Encouraging healthy coping mechanisms and self-care
  • Encouraging open communication without placing blame
  • Helping them learn to respect healthy boundaries

Lightfully can help you navigate parental codependency and rebuild a healthier relationship with your teen

At Lightfully, we use a process-based therapy (PBT) framework that incorporates components of evidence-based therapy techniques that can help us provide whole-person-centered care. The core processes of PBT allow for tailored treatments to a client’s individual and specific needs. It offers a unique approach to parents or teens struggling with parental codependency. It can help you understand the dynamics of your relationship and gain a deeper understanding of the behavior patterns to begin to develop a healthier relationship. We provide a safe and supportive environment for you (and your teen) on your journey of self-discovery and recovery from a parental codependent relationship.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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