The Relational Dynamics of Parents Dependent on Their Adult Children

One of my clients proposed a sensitive topic, one that is very discussed nowadays. How can we better understand the relational dynamics of parents who are dependent on their adult children?

The details of the situation say, in a nutshell, that parents get emotionally attached and want far too much attention, interfere in their lives, overreact and feel abandoned. How do we tackle this delicate situation?

To remove the darkness that can burden the mind and harden the heart, I propose we explore the cycles of human evolution. I will use the example of the family of brothers Ioana and Andrei. The story is created specifically to help us understand this topic in depth. This is not a real case.

Beginning of the Story Ioana and Andrei

Hundreds of years ago, the family story of Ioana's ancestors, called Popescu, started with Camelia and Ioan. They had 6 children. Camelia had 4 brothers and sisters, each with their own children. Ioan had 5 brothers and sisters, each with their own children. Their parents, the grandparents, also had many brothers and sisters. To these were added cousins of various ranks. In total there were over 150 family members, related by blood.

They all lived in nearby villages. Many lived in the same house or houses close to each other. Help and support were always available. If one person was busy, that's okay, someone else could be found to help when needed. There were multiple trades in the family, so if someone didn't know something, that's okay, someone else did.

The Popescu name was respected and they were known as good farmers. The needs of the family came first and the individual needs of the members were met as long as they fit the family tradition.

Out of 6 children and dozens of grandchildren, as well as the children and grandchildren of brothers and sisters, it was enough for a few to make it through and have success in life. Not everyone had to be successful or recognised. Not everyone had to have children. If one was known for his craftsmanship, another for their gentleness, another for their leadership ability, another for their counseling, then the whole family profited and rejoiced.

The family's needs for success and succession were easily met.

A Dependency based System of Meeting Needs

Since the parents lived with some of their children and grandchildren in the same house, there was little time to be alone. They were always helped and received an enormous amount of attention and care. Most of the members of this family depended heavily on each other for all their needs. This dependency was natural and not considered a problem.

Dependence on others was an important part of their lifestyle at the time. Loneliness was scary, and self-help was weird, unnecessary and sometimes a sign of disrespect for everyone around you.

Camelia received attention and love from siblings, parents and grandparents, children and extended family members. She also got help in everything she did and rarely found herself alone.

John planned the work in the fields, whatever needed to be done in the household or in the services they provided for other people in the village, together with his brothers and sisters, guided by his father and the elders of the family. Responsibilities were shared and everyone helped to achieve the proposed objectives.

Most of the people in the family were successful at what they did. They each did the best they could and went for the job they felt best suited them within the family. They didn't necessarily have to excel or do much. If talent was seen in one of them, the whole family helped them to follow their path and bring joy to the whole family.

Family Evolution

Over time, from the family of hundreds, only a few remained. Apart from Ioana, her brother Andrei and their parents Adela and Daniel, the family also includes grandparents on their mother's side and several cousins, along with the godparents. Unlike before, when they were mostly all in one place, most family members are spread out in other cities and meet quite rarely.

Under these new conditions, it is very difficult to receive attention, love and affection, and help from the whole family, at any time and for anything. Before, you didn't even have to ask, a few people were always around, ready to help you and offer affection.

At the moment, Ioana and Andrei are the only ones who can bring success and ensure the Popescu family succession, in that traditional way. There are no other family members who could meet this need as before.

All the responsibilities of the family are on the shoulders of Ioana and Andrei. They are expected to offer attention, love, care, success, problem solving and everything else that helps to perpetuate the family. What it's difficult to notice is that, the support of the dozens or hundreds of family members, who helped them succeed in the past, does not exist anymore.

If one of them fails it is a tragedy. It is as if all the previous generations have fought for nothing. Ioana and Andrei feel compelled to make no mistake and do whatever it takes to meet all the family's needs. They are always under pressure to disappoint their family or bring shame on their name.

The family's needs for success and succession are now much harder to meet.

A Dream Long Gone

Ioana's parents, Adela and Daniel, still have in their blood, the dream of a place where all their needs were met. In that place they felt loved, life was easier and they lived together with many others. They carry in their hearts an unquenchable longing and a pain they can hardly understand, an indefinable lack.

That longing is for the extended family of the past, defined by the name Popescu, and their way of life based on mutual dependence. That family centre was a lively community full of human resources. There they got plenty of attention and help without asking.

Adela mourns, in her heart, the help of women in the family and well-established roles. She also lacks the love, attention and resources of that long lost family that helped her feel content and happy.

Daniel laments his lack of strength to make it through life, the lack of help and resources to achieve his goals. And he also lacks attention, love and sharing responsibilities with everyone else.

They both lament the lack of trust in others and the difficulties of life. Their circle of friends and acquaintances is very small, in contrast to the long lost family, living in their memories. They still want most of their needs to be fulfilled by their family and in this case by their two children, Ioana and Andrei. Everything is expected of them.

Ioana cannot provide the attention, help and love that used to be offered by dozens/hundreds of people. Andrei can't fulfil responsibilities that were previously shared between dozens/hundreds of people. As much as parents would like to, their children cannot meet all their needs, needs that used to be met by a large family.

Parents also find it difficult to meet their children's needs for a healthy growth and development. They too have considerable difficulty making ends meet without the support of a large family.

I can sympathetically understand these desires and dreams, it's just that they can no longer be fulfilled in the same way as before. It doesn't mean that everything was rosy in the past, just that we may tend to think it was.

The Current Process of Evolution

Ioana and Andrei are stimulated, by humanity's evolutionary cycles, to seek to learn how to take care of themselves more than their family of origin. They are pushed towards individualisation and self-sufficiency, learning how to create new kinds of bonds and friendships outside of the family. Their circle of friends will contain people who are able to help them meet their needs, but without being dependent on each other to a high degree.

For Ioana and Andrei, success is not necessarily about the Popescu family. Ensuring succession by blood children is not seen as absolutely necessary for their fulfilment. They understand parents' wishes but don't think that fulfilling them will necessarily lead to what they now understand as success.

Adela and Daniel, their parents, are faced with the need to find new definitions for family success. They are also faced with the necessity to find other ways of meeting their needs than being dependent on their children.

Adela believes, with unwavering conviction, that if she fulfills her needs in any other way than through dependence on her family, then she is betraying her family. She feels she betrays her family because she thinks they are not enough for her. Blood family is no longer enough for her, this is a painful and hard truth to accept. She has the impression that this means she is judging them negatively as incapable, less human, evil or wicked. So Adela is stuck in her own guilt, suffering continuously.

Daniel doesn't yet have the skills to create relationships that aren't based on high-level mutual dependency, so he runs into friends who also have other harmful dependencies. These friends can't help him evolve beneficially, they only deepen his pain. Daniel feels powerless, uses alcohol to soothe himself, and judges himself by saying he should be able to do more. He doesn't realise what he needs and doesn't yet know how to look for beneficial people to help him fulfil his needs without so much dependence. Daniel is stuck in helplessness, suffering continuously.

The children, Ioana and Andrei, see their parents' suffering and may feel that they are to blame for not succeeding in the way their parents wanted. But the success was an empty chase. As soon as they succeeded at something, they were asked to do something else. Satisfaction was impossible to achieve. They can suffer because they don't understand how to help their parents and themselves.

These sufferings can be removed by accepting the cycles of evolution and adapting beneficially to them. Adapting to the new demands of life can be extremely hard at times, especially if we find it difficult to let go of strong attachments to long-ago dreams.

Today's family and the communities of the future are evolving to contain people who consciously want to be together because they accept their individuality or fit together. The family will be created less and less on the basis of blood ties. Responsibilities will be divided differently and the experience itself is different.

As hard as it is, we can hardly fight these natural forces of evolution. They are essentially beneficial. What we can do is to accept to go with them, learn to adapt and thus grow in all respects.

Knowing better what is happening, we can share love more easily and help each other through these transformations.

How I Can Help You More

Specific cases bring their own nuances. Parents may have a certain personality type, their own and trans-generational traumas, habits and expectations, and so do children.

In the case mentioned by the person who suggested this topic, the adult child needs to set healthy boundaries for communication and interaction, as well as understand the dynamics that perpetuate the current situation.

Often, parents may think their children are ignoring them or that they no longer care about them. And adult children may think their parents don't see them as capable of living their lives, or want to control them, or all sorts of other things. These are not necessarily true beliefs.

In a reading, I can analyze the dynamics that are going on there and so you can get a better understanding of what is happening. Depending on the case and need, I can indicate practical steps or offer exercises.

Example of aspects to analyze: the needs of parents and children, what would help you the most in that situation, what is your beneficial focus, what is there for you to learn, what are the blind spots and other details specific to your case.

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Mystic Seer, passionate and ardent for deep understanding of self and the world. My favorite tools are contemplation, listening to the divine, Tarot, visions, sound meditations and art. May we meet in the space between words, where love expands into experience.

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