If your child is anxious do you find yourself anxious too? Do you get wrapped up in trying fix it, experiencing the same emotion until their emotion changes? And then move onto their next emotion? It’s a roller coaster ride that you don’t want to be on – nor does your child need you to be.
If you generally feel as if whatever happens to your child has happened to you, this could indicate enmeshment, an unhealthy emotional relationship. This often takes place when a parent is so empathetic that it turns into crossed personal boundaries that are permeable and unclear. One consequence of this is that it prohibits the child from maturing emotionally and becoming independent. What can be a good thing quickly becomes “too much of a good thing” and ends up being harmful.
When a child is experiencing a difficult emotion, they simply need support and a healthy dose of empathy. If the parent takes on the emotion themselves and is overly involved, it can put the child in an obligatory position to extend comfort to the parent. It can create an emotionally unsafe and unstable environment for the child. And it will stunt their growth. Children need their parents as a resource for emotional stability and security. If they feel responsible for their parents well being then they cannot become developmentally independent and responsible for their own choices.
Parenting requires a fine balance of being emotionally empathetic, yet not enmeshed. This is not the only type of relationship in which enmeshment takes place. It can happen in any relationship: Romantic, friendships, etc. Sometimes it takes the lens of a third party to help identify where the enmeshment begins and ends. Innovation360 frequently helps families identify areas of unhealthy relational habits such as enmeshment and guides them in transforming those relationships into healthy interactions. This leads to better dynamics and more rewarding relationships.
Reach out to us for more information on how we can come alongside your family to help you go down the path towards a more fulfilling, healthier life.
Written by Jennifer Updike, Advocate Coordinator at i360