These Are The Things Adults Are Talking About In Therapy
I don’t work with children, but I do work with many older teens and adults who are processing childhood issues. These are four major topics that I see parents involving their children in that tend to impact kids the most as adults.
1. Negative opinions about other family members or people that the child has a good relationship with
2. Marital problems, especially those that have nothing to do with the child or their world
3. Financial issues, especially when the child is completely helpless and cannot contribute or understand the situation
4. Your weight, diet, or negative complaints about your body
Using your child as a sounding board or confidant can be tempting, especially when you trust them and they know the family dynamics well. But these issues are too large for even the most “mature” kid to understand.
A child’s world is small. They also tend to see everything through their world. If you are talking about your body negatively, they will likely start applying that logic to themselves.
If you are discussing financial struggles in a very doom and gloom, we’re on the edge kind of way; the child is going to feel pressure to fix that and take it on. They may also assume that they’re going to lose things that are important to them.
Marital problems are a huge one. Even if the child or young adult understands what is happening or the reason behind it, they will likely take on some responsibility for causing it or fixing it. The threat of divorce or a change in family dynamics is also always looming for them.
If the parent speaks negatively about a spouse, teacher, other family member, etc., who has a good relationship with the child, it can be confusing. (If your child is being abused or harmed by someone, that’s an entirely different conversation).
Look, everyone is going to mess up from time to time. It’s not as simple as: my parent discussed these things with me three times, and it ruined my life. The consistent conversation around these topics can lead to blurred boundaries as adults and trouble differentiating between the role of the child and the parent’s confidant or friend. If you do bring these topics up, address them. Process it with your kid (depending on their age) and try to do better next time.
Remember, There Is A Big Difference Between:
- Teaching about healthy marital conflict and using your child as your couple’s therapist
- Teaching about financial wellness and burdening your child with paying the rent that month
- Teaching about safe relationships and talking bad about your spouse’s entire family because you don’t like them.
- Teaching about health and talking negatively about your body/what diet you’re going on.
In my work with adult clients who were burdened with many of these issues as kids, we often talk about ways they can transform these parts of their childhood with their own children and do it differently.
You can discuss healthy relationships, finances, marriage, and health with your kids. But it’s all about how you do it, keeping the communication open, making it developmentally appropriate, and ensuring the child understands what is happening.