ASK THE KAV L’NOAR THERAPIST
Q: I am concerned about a friend my daughter has. I feel that their relationship is unhealthy and codependent. How do I deal with this?
When parents are confronted with this issue, they oftentimes deal with it in one of the following two ways:
-1) They directly confront their child, They tell her they don’t approve of her friend and encourage her to end the relationship.
-2) They try to go through back door channels. They may call the friend’s mom or a school counselor so that they can intervene and end the friendship.
I find that the most effective way of dealing with this issue is being open with your child. It should be done in a way that will encourage her to share with you how she is experiencing the relationship.
In my clinical practice, I have heard many teenagers express the following sentiment: “I hate when my parents go behind my back. Why aren’t they just open with me? Why are they afraid to be real?” The reason parents avoid directly dealing with certain issues is oftentimes due to a legitimate concern that it will turn into a confrontation. This may be true; however, when parents avoid their child out of fear, it only serves to increase the child’s anxiety. As a result, she sees how much power she holds over her parents. In order to feel safe and develop a healthy sense of self, a child needs to know her parents can contain her, even when she figuratively (or literally) kicks and screams. So even if your child outwardly argues and rejects your perspective, deep down she will appreciate your openness. It will resonate somewhere within her.
An independent individual within a relationship
When you approach your daughter to discuss the problematic relationship with her friend, assume a non-judgmental, interested stance. In other words, your goal is to understand why this relationship is so meaningful to your child, not to tell her how bad the relationship is for her. Keep in mind that there is something she is gaining from it that she feels she is not getting elsewhere. Maybe your daughter likes to feel needed, or perhaps she is looking for a listening ear. Possibly,she has a fragmented sense of self that doesn’t believe she deserves to function as an independent individual within a relationship.
Allowing your daughter to be open with you about the relationship and accepting her in a non-critical manner will actually undermine the sole dependency she is feeling toward her friend. With time, it will enable her to question the foundations of the relationship herself – hopefully seeking your or a professional’s guidance.
Rivkah Weiss, MSW, Family Therapist.
Ask the Kav L’Noar Therapist is a series running every fourth Monday of the month. If you would like your question considered for the series, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence will be kept in the strictest confidence.