Do Your Parents Dictate Your Holidays?

Ephesians 5:31 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Enmeshment occurs when a child is so consumed with their family that they cannot differentiate, become an adult, leave their father and mother, and move on with plans for their own life because their life is too intertwined with their family of origin, which is unhealthy. Enmeshment also occurs when parents do not differentiate from their children. 

Enmeshment only gets worse as new generations marry and add children to the family system. Imagine a scenario where a couple has four children, and all of the parents and grandparents on both sides want to be in the decision making process for everyone in that new family – where dad works, whether or not mom stays home with the kids, where the family attends church or if they attend church at all, how close they live to relatives, what they do on days off as well as holidays and vacations, how the children are educated, if the children are vaccinated, etc. 

Now, imagine that the younger married couple has siblings as well as other extended family members who also feel that they have the right to know what everyone is doing and voice their opinion on any family matters. This will result in a completely dysfunctional, enmeshed, and anxiety-filled family system headed toward cutoff with that younger family moving across the country to get a boundary unless wise changes are made. 

Differentiation is often more difficult for the mother than the father because the child literally started as part of her, completely enmeshed, without differentiation, as the baby grew in her womb, until she births the baby and spends countless hours giving her life energy to feed, bathe, change, hold, and care for the child. 

The emerging field of brain science reports that, during pregnancy, the mother’s brain is permanently altered with the rewiring of neurons. Just as there are significant changes to the mothers’ body, research is discovering that the changes are much deeper and encompassing than expected. Dr. Jonny Kohl, researcher at London’s Francis Crick Institute, said: “We know that the female body changes during pregnancy to prepare for bringing up young. One example is the production of milk, which starts long before giving birth. Our research shows that such preparations are taking place in the brain, too.” (1)

The bond between a mother and a child is, at the deepest level, permanent, and created by God for bonding and nurturing of life. There are at least two main reasons why overparenting occurs, leading to enmeshment.

  1. Habit. The parent(s) get so used to parenting the child at one phase that they fail to make the transition into the new and next phase of parenting. A parent that loves their child, makes sacrifices for them, and would do anything for them can become a creature of habit and keep doing for the child what the child should be doing for themselves.
  1. Immaturity. The child does not want to take on the anxiety and responsibility that comes with maturing into the next phase of life. Some people have decided that if they are irresponsible, then a parent (usually mom), will become overly responsible and spend her time making their life easy, picking up their messes, fixing their mistakes, and paying their bills. 

While the motive of overparenting is often love, the results are damaging. 

What is the Holy Spirit impressing upon you that you’ve learned so far through this series? What should your response be? 


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