The family dynamic is often different from family to family. But, sometimes, one, or both, parents will form an unhealthy attachment to another member of the family, be it a spouse or child, that can cause a great deal of undue stress to the family system, as a whole. A problem in living could arise when a single mother becomes too dependent on her children. She may use them as a crutch. As the children get older, and get jobs as teenagers, the mother uses their income as “family” income to cover the bills and family expenses. The mother does not want the children to date or have relationships outside of the home. As the children grow into adulthood and eventually do leave home, the mother becomes very bitter and grudgeful toward them. The mother tries to make her children feel guilty for leaving home, and continually expressed to them that she is struggling to make it in life because she does not have their financial support. She expresses to her children that she is depressed, the home is unkempt, her health is declining, and she lies in bed all the time. She makes suggestion to them that she just “wants to die” because she has nothing to live for since her children have “abandoned” her.
The problem with using her children as a crutch and trying to make them feel guilty for living their own lives, not only affects her, but can have an enormous strain on her children. The relationship they now have with their mother can be strained and stressful. Some of the shadow side of her thinking can include the limiting beliefs that she needs the financial support of her children to survive, or that her children have abandoned her when they have simply pursued their own adult lives.
Some of the goals that can be beneficial to her can be, finding hobbies or interests that may get her out to social situations where she can make friends, she could take an interest in dating and develop a relationship that becomes important to her so that she does not feel alone, and she could work on restructuring the relationship that she has with her children in a way that is more of a parent of adult children, rather than a mother who is dependent on them.
The outcome of achieving those goals could include a future where she no longer has a strained relationship with her children, but a healthy one in which they can progress through the future in a normal family system. She could find someone to date, and find happiness in developing a relationship with someone who could be a potential spouse and they could build a life and home together. Also, she could find things that she enjoys doing and make friendships that will get her out of her home and socialize more instead of lying in bed all the time feeling like she has no one or nothing in the world to live for. Achieving those goals can also influence her declining health. By taking an interest in having friends or dating, she may be more inclined to take an interest in herself and work on the things that are contributing to her poor health, such as taking her medications, eating properly, and being more active versus just being dormant by lying in bed when she is not at work.
This process could be achieved by being empathetic and actively listening while allowing her to set the pace, or be in the driver’s seat, and work on the problems as she is ready to tackle them. When she gets to a place where he is bogged down by her limiting beliefs or procrastination or simply stuck on one problem and does not seem to be making the effort to progress forward, she can be nudged or challenged in a way that will provide the little push she needs. A collaborative effort to work on setting the goals with her that are realistic and will produce the idea future she envisions for herself would be the next step. Then, mapping out an action plan and focusing on a reasonable time frame to put the implementation in motion to mover her along toward her goals would come next. All along, there would be a need for feedback to assess where she is in the helping process and what should be the next step to keep her moving forward.
Egan, Gerard. “The Skilled Helper: a problem-management and opportunity development” 2014. Cengage Learning.