Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Children (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2008
The most important gift you can give your child is a healthy set of boundaries. It is the ultimate gift of love, even though in setting boundaries, your child will probably tell you that you don’t love them. They may even tell you they hate you.
But that is okay.
The problem that many parents have in parenting their children is that they try to be friends with their kids. This is not possible. Parents and children are not peers and therefore cannot be true friends. That comes later, when the child matures into an adult and the parent-child relationship changes. But that is a topic for another article.
Trying to be friends with your child is a nice-sounding way of saying what is really going on: parentifying the child. To parentify your child means that you are giving your child too much responsibility or information for that child to handle. This can come in a variety of forms, often quite surprising ones.
The typical and most well-known way of parentifying the child is to confide in your child about your adult worries. These concerns can range from inappropriate financial revelations to an out-and-out description of how dreadful the other parent is. The latter commonly occurs during separation and divorce proceedings. It is extremely detrimental to the child and exceptionally immature behavior on the part of the parent.
In discussing adult concepts with your child, you are trespassing on your child’s boundary. The younger the child is, the weaker its personal boundaries will be and the child will often willingly become the confidante of the parent. The child may often feel a sense of importance that their parent is taking them into their confidence, but emotional harm is occurring that may take years to surface.
Adults have a responsibility to set healthy boundaries between themselves and their children. Adults have a responsibility to be the mature partner in the parent-child relationship and let their children actually have a childhood.
In the next article in this series, we will continue with the many ways parents impede the maturation progress of their own children.