Most people associate the word codependency with an abusive romantic relationship. When, in reality, some of the most common codependent relationships are with parents. Often, children are unaware that they’re enabling this toxic behavior. In the long run, this takes an enormous toll on the child and causes long-lasting effects. It can be scary at first, but for everyone’s safety, it’s paramount that children learn how to deal with codependent parents to help them and themselves.
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What is Codependency?
The term codependency is one that often is used out of context. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, codependency is a “psychological condition or relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another affected with a pathological condition.” More broadly, it refers to the “dependence on the needs of or control by another.” This is why the words codependency and addiction are so intricately related.
Signs of a Codependent Parent
Codependency looks different for everyone. Of course, there are many signs of a codependent parent and toxic relationships that we can point out. If your parent exhibits any of these signs, they’re likely to be struggling with codependency:
- Always using psychological control through emotional abuse or guilt-tripping to get their way.
- Mood and anger issues when they don’t feel in control.
- Overly emotional behavior even during the silliest arguments.
- Difficulty having any conversation without getting enraged, angry, or too impassioned.
- Almost always exhibits a victim mentality, even if they’re the ones doing wrong.
- Frequently makes threats to convince others to do what they want.
- Confuse pity with sympathy.
- Become passive-aggressive when they don’t get things their way.
- Use silent treatment and other tactics to gain control and compliance.
More than understanding the signs of codependency, you also have to learn about enabling behaviors. Most people are unaware that they’re exhibiting codependent behavior and taking the enabler’s role in their loved one’s addiction. Here are some examples of enabling behavior:
- Taking over their responsibilities.
- Making excuses or going to great lengths to cover up the errors and accidents of the parent.
- Going along with your parent’s excuses to continue their abuse.
- Helping them get out of financial, social, and legal problems related to their substance abuse.
- Cleaning up after their mess.
Recognizing a Toxic Parent
It can be challenging to recognize a codependent parent, especially if you’re the enabler. Ask yourself some of these questions about your parent’s behavior. If these behaviors seem persistent, it can be an indicator that they’re toxic parents or codependent parents.
- Over-react or create a scene about silly subjects?
- Use emotional blackmail to get their way?
- Make unreasonable and frequent demands?
- Try to control you with strict rules?
- Criticize or compare you?
- Listen to you with interest?
- Manipulate you by playing the victim?
- Attack you or blame you for their mistakes?
- Ever take responsibility and apologize?
- Respect your emotional and physical boundaries?
- Disregard your needs and feelings?
- Compete with you or feel envious of you?
How to Deal with Codependent Parents
Healing a codependent parent-child relationship requires professional help and patience. It may be difficult, particularly at first. Like the twelve-step program, Codependents Anonymous offers mutual support and accountability to help members establish healthy relationships.
- Set Healthy Boundaries: The best way to deal with codependent parents is to practice what we sometimes call “detaching with love.” Setting emotional and physical boundaries is incredibly important to protect yourself. These boundaries, rules, and expectations are there to create a shield around you. But also, expressing these boundaries to a codependent parent will show them how to start working on healing.
- Attend Therapy: When it comes to dealing with codependent parents, there isn’t a one-way solution. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we see these dysfunctional relationships all the way through. This is why we incorporate family therapy sessions within our addiction recovery treatment plans. Focusing on healing and rebuilding the family nucleus is critical to achieving long-term recovery. A marriage and family therapist can also help an adult child focus on developing a healthy parental relationship.
- Stop Enabling Them: Unfortunately, many individuals in a codependent relationship enable the abuse without realizing it. Remember to stay true and set on your boundaries and voice whenever these boundaries are violated. Take control of your environment and stop enabling their abusive behavior by becoming active in your attempt to heal the relationship.
- Find Counseling: While family therapy is part of helping your family heal as a unit, that’s not always feasible. If your codependent parent isn’t ready for treatment, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek counseling. Find a counselor that can help you develop and work on setting boundaries, deal with the situation, and proactively protect yourself with skills to prevent their toxicity from harming you.
We know it’s never easy to deal with codependent parents. If you or someone you know is struggling with this, reach out for help. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our therapists can help you set boundaries, heal from within, and more. Protecting yourself from your parent’s hurtful actions and words is vital to living a healthy and substance-free life. Reach out for help today and start enjoying life one more time.