Why Is It So Difficult to Stop Obsessing About Your Child?

Three simple steps can help shake up and maybe break the cycle.

Posted Feb 21, 2017

Most parents—even those who are mindful and aware—worry about their kids. Or rather, obsess.

The age of the child makes no difference. Parents obsess equally about young children and adult children.

Obsessing is most clearly a sign that there is something outside of the obsessional object (the child) that the parent doesn't want to look at. It might be the realization that they don't have control. Or that their child is, actually (and always way), a separate person, meant to make their own choices. That the child's choices are embarrassing to the parent—because they are different than what the parent wants for the child. Even a very young child has a mind of his/her own, and is a separate human being. Parents must  

Three simple steps can help shake up and maybe even break the obsession cycle. Warning: Practice may be necessary.

Recognize. It’s natural to care about your child; it’s not realistic to think that’s enough to make your child care about himself. Recognize that the obsession with your child as something you have grown accustomed to; and understand that removing it will be uncomfortable and feel unnatural.

Regroup. Bring the focus back to you, your life, and your needs. Ask: What do I need to do to take care of myself just for today?

Replace. Make a short-term commitment to focus on yourself instead of your child. Trust the belief that modeling good self care is the greatest gift you can give your teen.

It's not narcissistic to focus on yourself in a kind and loving way. (It's more "narcissistic" and parasitic to try to control someone else to reduce your own anxiety!) Kind and gentle self-focus can give you more of your real self to share with your children. By this I mean an authentic way of being in the world, revealing yourself as someone who is trying to take care of themselves. This is the best kind of modeling.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the next time your child asks you for help, ask your child what he or she thinks would be best—for him or her. What a kind way to show your child you trust them, and by extension, that they can trust themselves.