God created us to have a healthy reliance on our spouses, friends, and even authority figures (like a pastor or spiritual leader). These respectful relationships help us live in the fullness of Christ.
But sometimes individuals may fall into an unhealthy reliance on others which violates God’s design for dependency.
One of these unhealthy scenarios is parent-to-child dependency.
By God’s design, children rely on their parents. Parents meet the needs of the child. But when a parent becomes dependent upon a child, God’s plan gets perverted. I’ve seen this kind of family structure create enormous problems.
First, please understand I’m not referring to an older parent who becomes incapacitated and must rely on assistance from an adult child. This kind of care from a grown child toward a parent is not only compassionate, but perfectly appropriate.
What I’m referring to is a dangerous scenario where school-aged children—or even younger!—are relied upon to meet a parent’s emotional needs.
For example, these days we often hear of teenagers getting pregnant simply because they want someone to love them. So a young girl will bring a baby into the world, expecting this child to make her feel special and always be there for her.
This is a corruption of God’s plan. It stunts a child’s emotional development, because it often forces children to parent their mom or dad before the child is equipped physically, psychologically, or spiritually to do so.
It makes kids bear responsibility for maintaining a peaceful house or keeping their parents on the right track. When these efforts fail, the kids take the blame.
When children leave a home in which they’ve been an emotional prop for their parents, the parents lose a sense of security. They then pursue their children into adulthood and marriage. Dependent parents can become adversarial with their child’s spouse. They can compete for love and attention.
It goes without saying that this makes a relationship with a future spouse very difficult. Problem in-laws begin with unhealthy dependencies on children.
When an adult tries to fill a void in his or her life through children or grandchildren, families can be damaged. We need to find our primary fulfillment in God. We need to find our secondary fulfillment in our spouses and our friends.
Please understand this: You cannot expect your children to fix what is wrong with you! Attempting to do so prohibits your kids from properly developing as children.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Cor. 13:11). The distinction is clear. Kids need to be kids, and adults need to be adults.
God has put us in our children’s lives to be role models for them, to train them properly according to God’s design. This means loving them and serving them—but not depending upon them to meet our needs. Let them depend on you, then show them what a healthy marriage and relationship with God looks like.