By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Welcome to our final blog in this series! In this blog series, we discussed what it means to be an over-functioning parent, the impact on your children, and how to work to correct this dynamic. What I plan to discuss today is possibly the most important, how to manage your feelings in this whole process.
As mentioned previously, parents are not engaging in this pattern of doing too much for their kids because they want to teach the kids that they are incapable. They want their children to be capable, often desperately, but generally fear the potential negative consequences of failure for their children or even themself. Parents might also sometimes believe it is their job or responsibility to do so much for their kids. So it makes perfect sense that this is an emotional situation for the parents and the kids. As parents, we often manage our fears about our child’s uncertain future by doing things for them and making sure they are “on top of it.” Children can come to rely on others doing things for them and engage more passively with life to avoid challenges.
So, how can you manage your feelings while you engage in this process of reducing over-involvement as a parent? Again, this is not an easy task, but it is imperative in terms of helping your child and yourself.
Keep in mind that we are parenting in a time that is just wild. The expectations of us and our children are astronomically high and honestly, most of us will do some things well and others poorly. That is okay. The more we have realistic expectations for ourselves and our kids, the more they can have more realistic expectations of themselves and their lives as well.
While it can be hard to manage our emotional reactions to shifting our involvement with our kids, it is also often hard for our children initially. They usually become upset, possibly anxious, dysregulated, or say all kinds of things such as “Why aren’t you helping me? Don’t you love me?” For a parent, this is challenging as it often indicates that their child is not ready for the task. Usually, this is actually not the case; it is just their reaction to change and an expression of their own fear, frustration, or panic.
It is crucial for a parent to not only manage their fears internally about changing patterns but to believe in the plan of change so much that they can manage their response effectively to their child’s upset and possible outbursts.
The best way to do this is by using the information shared in the second blog in this series. We need to communicate to our children that we believe in them and their ability to overcome the challenges in their way. Remind them that we are here to help, but only after they try themselves and if they truly need it.
Practice the following phrases to use in these times when you or your child are distressed:
I hope you enjoyed this blog series and digging a bit deeper into the patterns around over-functioning. If you are a parent identifying with this pattern, please know there is no judgment here. I know it comes from a place of care, love for your child, and desire for them to be okay. It’s a beautiful expression of love, though it is unhelpful. I believe you can learn to respond differently to your child and that they can handle everything in their way! If you need further support around these kinds of parenting shifts or your child’s challenges, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Thrive! We are here to help!
If you are interested in learning more about connecting with your child, please make sure to sign up for our newsletter! Dr. Wollerman will be launching a parenting course all about this topic later this summer or early fall! You don’t want to miss it!
At Thrive, we take a positive, client-centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy we offer in person and telehealth via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
Blogs from the Thrive Family!
Musings from Erica, Jennifer, Maria, Kim, Andrea, Molly, Abbey, and Ying-Ying