How Dysfunctional Families Affect Children Part 4

A child naturally feels wants and has needs. This is built into them as babies- we are helpless, therefore we need and want things from our caretakers. In a dysfunctional family, a child can become too dependent on their family or even anti-dependent (meaning they are without needs or wants).

When a family is enmeshed (overly-close or each member does not have their own sense of self), a child can become too dependent on their parents or siblings to tell them decide how to think, feel, act, or even what they like. They become overly needy to others and struggle with independence and having a healthy sense of self.

Sometimes. a child can also go to the other extreme and become anti-dependent. Maybe their parents have enough problems of their own so the child feels they can't have any needs (to take care of their parents needs). Or sometimes, if there is an addiction or other challenges within the family, the child's needs aren't met, so they learn to meet their own needs. Their attitude becomes, "I don't need anyone else- I'll take care of myself!"

Both of these create challenges in adult relationships.

The person who is needy has challenges in their relationships because it often feels one-sided and their partner or friend may feel drained. They also struggle with understanding who they really are without someone telling them how to think, feel, act, or telling them what they like. This type of neediness is a set up for codependency as well. 

The person who doesn't need anything or anyone creates challenges as well. Their partners or friends feel the relationship is one-sided. They never need anything so their friends don't have an opportunity to reciprocate. It also can create a person to become counterdependent where the person doesn't even consider someone else's thoughts or feelings in the relationship because they are so independent.  

Both types can create a lack of balance in regards to needs. We all have needs but also don't want to become a burden for others. It's important to find a middle ground.

It's important for parents to meet children's needs and when they are old enough, to help them identify and voice their needs to others. It is also important to teach them balance in taking care of their appropriate needs as well as helping others but with good boundaries and limitations.

Thank you for reading. Tomorrow Joleen will finish out this blog series with one more thing to think about. Have a great day!

Written by Natalie Chandler

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville