It's important to remember your individual self while loving your children.

Codependent Parent-Child Relationships

by Darlena Cunha

Codependency often refers to adult romantic relationships, but many times, the birth of a child can enhance or bring out these tendencies even if you had previously been an independent person. You want the unending love and adoration of your little one, and in turn, he gives unconditional love and adoration back. Of course, that rarely happens, but for the most part, this is perfectly healthy. However, some families cannot use moderation and end up suffocating each other, or worse, losing their definitions as individuals.


When your toddler was an infant, she needed a lot of attention. She couldn't do anything for herself and you had to step into the role of primary caretaker, solely responsible for her life and well-being. Change my diaper, feed me, clothe me, help me sleep -- these unspoken demands don't stop, they just become spoken, and usually loudly. As your child grows, you may have a hard time stepping back and allowing her to explore her own capabilities. You might find you do everything together, never leave her to create or imagine something alone. You feel like an attentive parent, but in reality you could be stifling your toddler and paving the way for dependency issues throughout life. Some parents use homeschooling to aid this tendency, and while there are many reasons people keep their children home for their education, the parental fear of being alone shouldn't be one of them.

Helicopter Parenting

Out of attachment can come hovering, where you attempt to open your kid's world up a bit, allowing new experiences in, but only to a degree. At the playground or park, you're never be more than a few steps away. Should something happen -- a trip, a skinned knee, another child throwing sand -- you're right there, taking over the situation, not allowing him to attempt to work it out himself. You may not let your children participate in activities like climbing or gymnastics without your help. You want to ensure safety, but in this way, the child never learns. Eventually, your toddler could come to believe that he needs your help for everything.


As a mother gives up her life for her baby and then toddler and then preschooler, she tends not to see what she's doing as a habit she must change within herself. Your kids don't clean up after themselves, so you spend hours doing it. Hey, mom never needs a shower, right? You start to believe it. The codependency can then become a problem within the family. You may think you have an active or spirited child who simply needs more than other children, maybe losing sight of the fact that you are the one who actually started the cycle, needing to love and get love intensely for so long. As such, resentment can start to build, though it is rarely taken out on the child. Instead, you turn inward, allow yourself to get run down, may stop taking care of yourself, lack hygiene and lose your hobbies. You may think of it as part of the burden of child rearing, of a grand sacrifice you must make to have the healthiest child. However, giving up your sense of self can burn you out and leave your child with no good examples of strength to grow from.

Reciprocal Treatment

If conditioned by you from a young age, even children who would normally be independent and self-entertaining will learn to depend upon you for every decision and play time they have. Your child will require your constant attention, throwing tantrums and acting out when she feels you move on to anything else. Even without codependency issues, kids have a way of driving you to the brink, but when they're used to being number one all the time, they'll simply take over. And of course, you can't clean, or cook or take care of errands if you have to focus on your child completely all the time. What should have been a relationship full of love and understanding turns to a helpless bickering, as two individuals -- parent and child -- need each other to survive in an unhealthy way, and cannot reconcile that need with real life.

About the Author

Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.

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