Are You A Codependent Parent? 6 Signs of Parental Codependency

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Codependency is a term that comes from the addiction and alcoholism realm. Initially, this term was used to describe an individual’s reliance on substances. While the first thing that usually comes to mind when speaking about codependency is an intimate relationship, this isn’t always the case.

Codependency can also relate to your relationship with a friend, loved one, or even your child. If you are codependent upon someone, that means you are in an unhealthy relationship where one person is the caretaker and the other is taking advantage of that care. This is commonly seen in intimate abusive relationships or among parent and child relationships.

What Does it Mean to be a Codependent Parent?

Codependent parents have unhealthy attachments to their child, causing them to display excessive control over their child and the way that their child behaves.

If you are codependent on your child, you may find yourself relying on them for your own mental health. On the other hand, you could rely on your son or daughter to care for your physical wellbeing.

When you suffer from codependency, it can be difficult to notice that there is any problem at all. To explain, the codependent person usually feels like they are in a healthy, close relationship with their child. However, this is farthest from the truth.

Being codependent upon your child can cause them to develop an array of issues, including preventing them from developing their own personality.

6 Signs of Parental Codependency

Because it is difficult to tell when you suffer from parental codependency, it is important to be aware of the signs. Let’s take a look at the top 6 signs that you are a codependent parent.

1. Difficulty Setting Boundaries

Do you find yourself having a difficult time setting boundaries with your child?

Codependent parents tend to have a hard time with discipline. This is because they are afraid that doing so will cause their child to reject them, causing them to allow their child to break the boundaries that they have set.

If you find yourself allowing your child to break boundaries or ignore rules, you may be suffering from parental codependency. Additionally, becoming resentful when your parent sets boundaries with your child is another sign to be aware of.

2. Sacrificing Outside Relationships

Do you feel like you need to be available to your child all of the time? Does this cause you to isolate yourself from your friends or does it get in the way of your social life? If you suffer from parental codependency, it is common for your social life and even your intimate life to become sacrificed.

Rather than investing your time in your partner and your friendships, you spend all of your time focused on your child. As you sacrifice outside relationships, they begin to go stagnant. This could mean that you and your partner are no longer having sex, that you are not meeting up with your best friend anymore, or that you never interact with other adults outside of your household.

3. Manipulating Emotions

If you struggle with parental codependency, you may unintentionally manipulate your child’s emotions to get what you want. The first tactic that is common among codependent parents is passive-aggressive behavior. This is when you are indirectly suggesting that something your child is doing is hurting you, suggesting to them that they should do what you want without you actually saying it.

Another way codependent parents manipulate their child’s emotions is through projection. When you cannot handle your own feelings, you begin to project them onto your child. This allows your child to take on your feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness, preventing you from having to deal with them.

Lastly, you may manipulate your child’s emotions by generating guilt. If your child says no to you and then you attempt to make them feel guilty for their refusal, you are manipulating their emotions to get what you want.

4. Playing the Victim

Do you constantly play the victim in front of your child? Maybe you tell stories in a way that twists them around to make you sound like more of a victim than you truly were? If so, this is another sign of parental codependency.

As you play the victim, your child is left to be your emotional crutch. This is how you begin to rely on them for your own emotional and mental health, rather than practicing self-care.

5. Your Self-Esteem is Tied to Your Child

If you are a codependent parent, you probably suffer from low self-esteem. Even further, your self-esteem might be completely dependent on how your child views you.

For example, if your child is happy with you, you have high self-esteem. On the other hand, if they are unhappy, your self-esteem takes a hit.

6. Always Being in Control

If you are codependent on your child, you probably attempt to control every aspect of their life. This could include being overly involved in their life, taking care of them in an age-inappropriate manner, and incorrectly shouldering responsibility.

Codependency often happens in a cycle. You need your child and your child learns to want to be needed by you. This causes them to become your caretaker, stunting their own personal growth and development as they focus on your needs instead of their own.

Finding Help for Mental Health Issues and Codependency

If you suffer from parental codependency, it is likely that you struggle with an additional mental health condition like anxiety, depression, or an attachment disorder. Struggling with mental health issues on your own can be difficult, especially if you are used to depending on your child. Rather than attempting to go at it alone, consider seeking professional help.

Contact New Jersey Interventions today for more information on how to get connected with a mental health treatment program or to find a rehab program for an addicted loved one.

Medically Reviewed: June 29, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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