‘Obsession’ with Children’s Happiness = Unhappy Adult Lives? Yes, Says a Therapist in The Atlantic.
Therapist Lori Gottlieb, also a mother, wrote in the July/August issue of The Atlantic that she’s seen a growing number of twentysomething and young thirtysomething patients who praise their parents but have had trouble “choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, struggled with relationships and just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose.”
Gottlieb quoted a psychologist and author as saying that parents who try to make their children happy all the time and try to protect them from everything aren’t doing their offspring any favors because when they reach college-age, they are unprepared for adult life. “Well-intentioned parents have been metabolizing [children’s] anxiety for them their entire childhoods so they don’t know how to deal with it when they grow up,” Wendy Mogel told Gottlieb.
As for the parents, the hovering over one’s children and softening life’s disappointments for them often winds up being more about them than the children, Gottlieb wrote. A Los Angeles family psychologist told her: “We’re confusing our own needs with our kids’ needs and calling it good parenting . . . I can’t tell you how often I have to say to parents that they’re putting too much emphasis on their kids’ feelings because of their own issues. If a therapist is telling you to pay less attention to your kid’s feelings, you know something has gone way out of whack.”
She quoted two therapists as saying, “whatever form it takes—whether the fixation is happiness or success—parental overinvestment is contributing to a burgeoning generational narcissism that’s hurting our kids.” (June 2011)