Signs You’re Using Your Adult Children To Fill A Void In Your Life

Signs You’re Using Your Adult Children To Fill A Void In Your Life

Sometimes parents, in a bid to love and care for their children, end up doing too much and creating a situation where their children are more than just a special part of their life. They start using them to fill the cracks in their lives and force their kids to take on responsibilities that go beyond healthy parent-child dynamics. If you find yourself engaging in the following behaviors, that’s a sign that you may be using your adult children to fill a void in your life and you need to take a step back to reevaluate your actions and the relationship you have with them.

1. You do things for them that they could easily handle on their own.

woman cleaning up after lazy husband

provided by iStock

If your adult child is mentally and physically capable but just can’t seem to get it together, you shouldn’t be always helping them manage basic life tasks. You shouldn’t be doing their laundry, helping them call in sick to work, making their doctor appointments, cleaning their apartment, or texting their crush for them because they’re too shy or nervous to do it. These may seem like the actions of a caring parent, but what you’re inadvertently doing is making your adult child dependent on you.

2. You guilt them for having their own needs and preferences.

provided by Shutterstock

Your adult child wants to go to college in another state, take a job they’ve been offered in a different city, or spend the holidays with their partner’s family for a change and you throw a tantrum. You call them selfish. You say they’re abandoning you. You remind them of how you suffered to give birth to them, how much you sacrificed raising them, or all the good things you do for them. You make them feel bad for trying to prioritize themselves rather than putting your wants and feelings first.

3. You can’t deal with separation.

provided by Shutterstock

It’s normal for kids to go off and live their lives without you. It doesn’t mean the end of your parent-child relationship, it just means the relationship dynamic will change a little. However, when you’re using your adult children to fill a void in your life, any attempt at separation can feel like your entire world is about to collapse. You see your child trying to strike out on their own as an affront, a betrayal, and a sin to be held over their heads.

4. You insert yourself into their romantic relationships.

provided by Shutterstock

You act like you’re in a competition with your child’s partner and constantly try to manufacture situations where you’re pitted against each other, forcing your child to pick a side. You use the loyalty and obligation they feel towards you to compel them to put your needs and feelings at the center of their relationship or even above it. You want to have a say in who they date, where and how they get married, where they spend the holidays, and the concessions they make in arguments with their partner.

5. You exert control over their lives.

obnoxious things

provided by iStock

Getting over-involved in your adult child’s life is a tell-tale sign that you’re using them to fill a void in yours. You want to be part of every decision they make. You get confused or feel hurt when they don’t take your suggestions or appreciate your offerings of assistance in the way you’d like. You use gifts, money, or other forms of support to control their behaviors and serve your own needs.

6. You overshare personal details about your life and demand the same.

provided by Shutterstock

Having a close-knit relationship with your adult child where you can talk about pretty much anything can be a beautiful and healthy thing. Still, you have to be conscious of boundaries and try to remember that your child is not your therapist, your diary, or your stand-in best friend and there are some things you probably shouldn’t be telling them. For example, sharing intimate details about your sex life is a no-no. You also shouldn’t try to get them to reveal every detail about their lives.

7. You enable their bad behaviors.

provided by Shutterstock

When your kids are grown, you have to let them make mistakes and navigate the consequences of their decisions on their own. Suppose you’re constantly cleaning up their messes, making excuses for their bad behaviors, or rushing to rescue them from the repercussions of their careless or unhealthy actions. In that case, you need to be honest about why you’re doing it. Maybe it’s because you feel guilty about your parenting skills or because you don’t want to cut the cord and enabling their poor habits allows you to feel a sense of importance.

8. You let them control your life.

provided by Shutterstock

You miss out on a loved one’s big day because your adult child is having some kind of meltdown about something irrelevant for the umpteenth time and you have to be there for them. You cancel vacation plans because they might need you while you’re away. You sacrifice other relationships and your freedom to take care of them even though they could do it themselves. You’re constantly worrying about them or trying to solve a problem for them and exhausted by the weight of it all. All these are signs that you have no real life outside of your relationship with your children.

9. You constantly offer them unsolicited advice.

provided by Shutterstock

You have a lot of thoughts about how your child should raise their kids, what they should do in their relationships, which career paths they should take, how they should handle money, and other facets of their life. And you certainly don’t shy away from telling them what to do. If you’re guilty of this consider that you may be too involved in your child’s life and you’re using it to escape from your own.

10. You can’t bear having conflicts or differences with your child.

daughter with arms crossed with parents

provided by iStock

Your child is not your twin, a little you, or an extension of yourself. They’re allowed to want different things than you, have opposing views on issues, and be able to talk about them freely with you. It’s okay for them to stop liking things that you both used to love. It’s fine if they need a little space—they’re still going to come back and want you in their lives as long as you haven’t been an abusive parent. So if you’re finding it difficult to accept differences it’s probably because your child is fulfilling a much bigger role in your life than simply being your child.

11. You have unrealistic expectations around their time and attention.
Happy family, portrait or bonding hug and senior parents, mother or father in nature park, home backyard or house garden. Smile, man or retirement elderly in embrace profile picture, love or support
provided by iStock

You show up at their house unannounced and expect them to drop everything they have scheduled for the day to hang out with you. You call and text them multiple times a day and throw a fit if they don’t answer. You make them cancel plans with their partner or friends to come see you whenever you miss them, which is often. You expect them to spend all their holidays or most of their free time with you. These behaviors indicate that you may have failed to cultivate romantic and platonic relationships with other people. Instead, you’re using your children to fill that role.

12. You flip out when they distance themselves or set boundaries.

provided by Shutterstock

When you’ve built your entire world around your children, it can feel like you don’t exist outside of them. You don’t know what to do with yourself if they’re not there or you’re too actively involved in their lives. You don’t even notice when you’re suffocating them with your presence and demands or crossing boundaries! You’ve become so enmeshed that you can no longer tell where their lives end and yours begins. So when they attempt to instill boundaries or enforce their independence, it feels cruel and unfair to you so you respond in negative ways.

13. You rely on them for your happiness.

provided by Shutterstock

If you don’t feel connected to your spouse, have friends or a career, or don’t know how to regulate your emotions, you may make the mistake of placing the responsibility for your emotional well-being in your children’s hands. You expect them to be there for you, fulfill your unmet emotional needs, and do whatever they can to make you happy or fix your feelings when you’re angry, sad, overwhelmed, lonely, or disappointed. This creates an unhealthy and co-dependent relationship dynamic that can have far-reaching consequences.

14. You live through your child’s achievements.

provided by Shutterstock

It’s normal to feel a sense of pride when your children accomplish something, but that doesn’t automatically make their milestones your own. Your children aren’t slates you can use to rewrite your history. You don’t get to use them to chase your abandoned dreams or live the alternate life you always wanted. It’s not their job to fill that void.

15. You don’t welcome their privacy or independence.

sad woman pink hair looking right

provided by iStock

You expect them to seek your input before making big or small decisions. You want to be carried along and be told every single detail about how your adult children are spending their time and who they’re spending it with. You get upset when they keep things from you. Rather than respecting their decisions, you do everything in your power to get them to do what you prefer or be who you want them to be. These actions suggest that you want them to stay your sweet little child forever because you don’t know how to let go.

A girl preoccupied with living her best life even when it's uncomfortable to do so. She spends a lot of time with her thoughts. She hopes you enjoy reading the results of those thoughts.
close-link
close-link
close-link
close-link