Avoiding Codependence in Your FamilyAuthor: Jillynn
Avoiding codependence in your family is critical for many reasons. Codependency prevents children from growing into healthy, happy adults, and it is believed to pass from generation to generation through learned behavior. Stop the proliferation of this emotionally damaging phenomenon now by learning how to recognize it in your home. Developing effective parenting strategies and modeling healthy behavior patterns are the best ways to help kids grow up to be independent, happy and capable adults and future parents.
Codependence and How to Recognize It
The National Mental Health Association describes codependency as "an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual's ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships." Unfortunately the hallmark of this condition is denial; consequently, codependent people typically fail to recognize the warning signs. Experts recommend taking an honest look inward, but also to look for the symptoms in yourself, spouse and children. Warning signs are a lack of self-esteem, an inappropriate level of caring for another (or others) and an over-reliance on the approval or love of others. The symptoms and warning signs are diverse, but may manifest in those who try to constantly attract attention to themselves, lack a basic respect for boundaries, have a compulsive quest for acceptance or are unable to spend time alone. Among the stranger manifestations, many codependent people appear to be accident-prone, are often in a hurry for no reason and may choke on food.
Risks and Damages of Codependence
This condition is sometimes referred to as a relationship addiction, leading to adult relationships that are abusive and destructive. Many abuse victims are codependent, unable to break away from their abuser despite continued perpetuation. They self-sacrifice to the point that they lose themselves, enabling the addictions or other faulty behavior patterns of others so they can be needed. Common complaints that accompany codependency include depression, anxiety, stress and anger. Victims frequently suffer ill health because, in immersing themselves in the needs of others, they disregard their own needs. Often, codependent children switch roles with a parent, internalizing the parent's problems as their own and becoming, in a manner of speaking, their parent's caretaker.
How to Raise Kids without Codependence
Dysfunction grows in the family setting when parents are unable, for whatever reason, to meet the needs of their children. This may be the result of parents' own problems (addiction or mental illness, for example) but can also stem from poverty, from parents working too much, or from trauma or loss. Even if you haven't noticed warning signs in your home, you can employ some solid strategies that can help ensure that your kids grow up emotionally healthy and independent. Start by opening communication channels and encouraging kids to freely express their thoughts and ask questions. Respect children, their boundaries and their feelings by taking them seriously. Don't use emotional manipulation or verbal abuse; instead, teach them healthy ways to express their emotions by doing so yourself. Give children responsibilities appropriate to their age and maturity level. Trust them to make decisions, but teach them that this freedom may lead to (appropriate) consequences. Establish rules, but make the punishment for breaking rules appropriate and reasonable. Above all, never withhold love and affection from your kids (or your spouse) as a means of manipulation. Doing so will teach children that this behavior is acceptable.
If you suspect that a level of dysfunction is growing in your family, or if you or your spouse came from a codependent background, seek out a trusted counselor or professional therapist. Getting your family back on a healthy, independent track is important, especially because avoiding codependence will allow you and your children to live healthy, happy and well-adjusted lives.
Jillynn Stevens, Ph.D., MSW is a writer and the Digital Marketing Content Director at Be Locally SEO where she is passionate about helping small and medium sized businesses expand their online presense and realize unprecedented success.