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Dealing with a Backseat Parent

The relationships we share with our parents is important, but they shift and change as we both grow and age. The bond we share with our caretakers as children is entirely different from the connections we cultivate as mutual adults. Sometimes this transition happens naturally. To others, however, it comes with a little more difficulty, and a lot more growing pains.

It’s challenging to see your children as the adults that they are. It’s hard to see them making their own decisions and their own mistakes too. For this reason, you can find your caretakers being overbearing, or engaging in “backseat parenting”. While it may come from a place of love, it becomes a major wall and point of contention in our relationships with them. If you want to preserve the bond you share, you need to learn how to deal with a backseat parent in the right (and mature) way.

We have a right to lead our own lives.

The love a parent holds for a child is a unique thing. We come into the world so innocent and helpless that our caretakers have to go above-and-beyond to ensure we grow up nourished, loved, and supported. After a decade or two of this behavior, they fall into a routine of seeing us as this helpless, innocent thing. That doesn’t serve our adult relationships, however, when we crave branching out on our own to explore everything that speaks to us in the world.

We have a right to lead our own lives. We have a right to love the people we want to love and work the jobs we want to work. In order to be happy, we have to live a life that is authentically aligned with our values and hopes — not our parents’. We are the only ones who have to deal with the heavy conscience that comes with a life unlived. Be who you want to be and allow your parents to lead their own journey.
You have to find the courage to stand up for yourself. You have to start setting boundaries and understand that — sometimes — space is the best thing to preserve the child-adult relationship that you and your parents share. We all thrive when we set limits for ourselves. We thrive when we know what’s expected and where the line lies. Start sticking up for yourself and believe in your divine right to lead your own life. You are not your parents. Create a life for yourself and do it before it’s too late.

How backseat parents operate

Are you living under the shadow of a backseat parent? Is your mother or father over-protective, or constantly getting in the way? It’s up to us to stand up for ourselves and do what’s right for our wellbeing. To do that, though, we need to know how a hovering parent impacts us, and understand the signs of a backseat parent in our lives.

Does your parent try to control your relationships — no matter how old you get? Do they quiz potential partners, or judge your friends as less-than-worthy? One of the most common signs of a backseat parent is relationship interference. Whether platonic or romantic, they butt in and get in the way whenever possible. This can be to drive the outsiders away (in order to keep you to themselves) or it can be to protect you from those they see as “dangerous”.

The backseat parent is an overprotective one who often seems dedicated to preventing you from experiencing life. Usually, this comes from a genuine place of care and worry. When your parents love you, they want the best for you. When you were helpless, they kept you from danger. These habits carry on into adulthood, and they often require a reality check to curtail. As you grow up, you’ll need your parents less and less, and that’s okay.

Some parents relish the experience of raising children so much that they work hard to keep their children reliant on them long after they should. This can be done both subtly and overtly, and in both instances it’s toxic. When our parents do too much for us, or cause us to lean on them for emotional, physical, or financial support — they prevent growth, and they prevent us from exploring those deeper places in our ability and skill set.

Scaremongering is another tactic the backseat parent might utilize in order to keep you close and protected by them. Does your parent or caretaker always imagine the worst in everything and everyone? Have they taught you to see fear and doubt behind every corner, behind every new relationship? This can come down to their good intentions, or their need to control what you do, who you do it with, and how you do it. While our parents should certainly teach us to be wary of the world, building us up on fear leaves us paralyzed.

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