Mon | Feb 17, 2020

Mini Me | Parenting Edition

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

Parents should want the best for their children. But in their efforts, to make them into the best human beings possible, they sometimes impose upon them the life they (the parents) wanted for themselves.

Cheryl Nunes* told Outlook that she went through a phase of depression because of her overwhelming need to please her mother. They once had a close relationship and were almost inseparable, but as she got older, their ways of doing things were different and it was there that the strain began.

"It started with the little things. Like organise this, this way, do this that way, and I must admit that I did not even notice it then. So, by doing everything that she wanted me to do her way, even though my way was not incorrect, somewhat enabled her," Nunes admitted.

But it was when it came to her lifestyle choices, the impositions affected her and she realised what was happening.

"It was as if she wanted to choose my friends and who I hung out with, where I hung out what I wanted as a career, and it was overbearing," she said.

This type of parent-child dynamic is not something strange, according to associate clinical psychologist Doneisha Burke. She told Outlook, "Parents can do this for a number of reasons, one such is a chance to 'relive'. The opportunities which exist today tend to differ significantly from days gone by, so for some parents now that they have a child/children, those opportunities that the parents wish they had when they were children will not pass their children by."

In some cases, this allows the parents to live vicariously through the children which feeds their own desires for the things that they missed out on. The primary reason for this, according to Burke, is that some parents view their children as extensions of themselves as opposed to separate individuals with their own aspirations.

In Nunes' case, the reason is unclear, but its effects on her were quite real. She found herself studying subjects that she was good at, but completely hated because it was what her mother would like. She eventually changed, but still went through a severe case of depression.

"I had a meltdown. I had to get counselling. It was awful and then I had to take myself back," Nunes said.

She did and was met with a lot of resistance and conflict.

According to Burke, a character change is expected in these cases. You begin to see behaviours such as withdrawal, failing at something they once excelled at, becoming angry, and becoming hard upon themselves.

"Some may even develop the notion of 'must': 'I must score this goal or make this team, or else daddy will be upset with me', and in the pursuit to please parents, they develop feelings of unhappiness and demotivation, which can lead to an adverse psychological outcome," stated Burke.

Fortunately for Nunes, this was not the case for her, and she still tried to not have too much resentment towards her mother, knowing that she did mean her well.

"I knew that she wanted the best for me. She was a strong person and I know that there were things that she would have changed in her own life. While this is the case, she should not try fixing them through me but we have a relatively healthy relationship now after all these years. I marvel at that fact, but we can sit in a room without arguing for a while. That was not the case before," she admitted.

However, impositions do affect the parent-child relationship. It is debatable whether it is for better or worst. The worst-case scenario is that children can begin to resent their parents and start to rebel or under perform. On the positive side, it can lead to the establishment of a greater parent-child bond as they share similar interests.

Burke added, "Still yet, for parents, they are now able to bask in the glory of their children's accomplishments which could likely lead to their own feelings of regret and lost opportunities being gradually resolved and what now emerges is a sense of pride, that this is their child."