Expert Author Cassandra Mack
Evelyn and her daughter, Tina, are sixteen years apart. They look like sisters. Dress like girlfriends. Hang out at some of the same places. And once quite by accident, they dated the same guy, though not at the same time. Evelyn gets a kick out of hanging around her daughter's friends and having them look up to her as the cool, hip mom. They talk to her about everything. Once in a while she'll indulge them with a love tryst of her own.
Evelyn is in the midst of transition. She is coming out of one relationship and trying to start another. She just started a new job. She is relocating to a new city. And she's turning thirty-five at the end of the month. Tina is going through her own transition. She is getting used to the idea of living in a new city with new friends and a new school. There's so much she wants to talk about, so many things to work through. Tina really needs a mother right now, but instead she has a sister-friend. Evelyn is too caught up in her own world to notice that her daughter needs her.
When we place unfair expectations on our children or use them to validate our needs, we set them up to take on more than they can handle. Not to mention we're blurring the boundaries. While one of the nice things about having older children is their ability to handle more complex issues. It's important that you do not confuse an older child's ability to behave maturely with being one of your peers. Children of all ages want and need limits. Our children need us to be their parents not one of their homies.
Evelyn made the mistake of placing inappropriate expectations on her daughter. As a result her daughter is confused and overexposed.
Sometimes when it's just you and the kids and you haven't created enough of a life for yourself, you start to rely on your children for companionship and emotional support. You don't mean to blur the boundaries, but as time passes and your life takes on a predictable routine, it happens. But the downside of this is you place so much emotional weight on your children, that you rob them of their right to just be kids - to develop their own sense of identity, to understand age appropriate behavior and expand their social world.
The key to relating to your children in an age appropriate way is balance. It is not about losing your sense of closeness to your child. It's about remembering that no matter how mature your child or adolescent seems, they still need you to be the parent.
Here are some practical tips:
1. Sometimes it can be difficult to see your blind spots as a parent so it might be helpful for you to talk to friends and family who have seen you interact with your children. Ask for their feedback. If they offer constructive suggestions take them into consideration.
2. The next time you find yourself blurring the boundaries, look at the situation objectively and keep your child's best interest in the forefront of your mind.
3. Do some deep reflective thinking and try to find out what's causing you to place so much emotional weight on your children. Are you satisfied with your own relationships and the life you've created for yourself? If not, consider what you need to do to create a more satisfying life - Develop new interests? Meet new people? Spend more time with people your own age? If you need to, seek professional counseling to help you sort out these issues.