How close is too close in parent - child relationships?

What you need to know:

  • Having your son or daughter as your best or only friend is a warning sign that you’re too involved.
  • Some argue that this closeness many often mistake it for Oedipus complex for the case of the boy child favouring the mother to the father or Electra complex.

Susan Naigaga, a 26-year-old receptionist, proudly tells of how her deceased father was the best father in the world. She tells her friends how she slept in the same bed with him for years following her mother’s death.
To her, that was love having lost motherly love, her father was there as a fall back. Even at his deathbed, she held his hand.
A father’s love for his children, especially daughters, is a unique bond. They take daughters as precious and delicate that they cannot bear to see them miserable. And because of this, most fathers and mothers too, will do anything possible to make their life comfortable. This in itself is not a bad thing but sometimes it can go overboard.
Such closeness is meant to showcase a parent’s love but experts warn that when dealing with children of the opposite sex, a line needs to be drawn.
Some argue that this closeness many often mistake it for Oedipus complex for the case of the boy child favouring the mother to the father or Electra complex. This is when a girl child favours the father more but it seems to grow with the more attention one of the parents gives the child compared to the other.
Chrispus Odokonyero, a 35-year-old single father of a 13-year-old daughter says the mother of his child left him when their girl was four years. As such, he had to learn to bathe, feed and tuck his girl in bed. Odokonyero says at times he would end up sleeping in the same bed with her.

When do you draw the boundary?
Since he was not ready to remarry and none of his relatives was willing to help, he had to double as a mother as well. He says he stopped bathing his daughter when she was 11 years old and was in Primary Seven.
He says most times people would look on in astonishment.
“People would see me bathe her and exchange looks. At first I did not pay keen attention to it until friends said it was weird for a father to bathe his grown up daughter. I noted the observation and slowly “weaned” her off,” he says.
On one social media page, a picture of a gentleman in a bathtub with a three-year-old girl, perhaps his daughter was shared. The group comprising mostly women had nothing but negative comments about the picture. Some called it incest.
Some threatened to divorce or separate from their husbands if they ever found them in such an act while others threatened to involve the police and sue their husbands for child molestation.

Mothers incriminated too
Though society mainly terms men as sexually weak and perverted to the extent of sexually abusing their own flesh and blood, there is also a distinctive category of mothers or women who go out of their way and do things with their children that raise eyebrows.
Acts of kissing on a child’s lips were never heard of in African society but because of modernity and western culture influence, this vice has caught up with Africans particularly Ugandans as many proudly share photos on different social media platforms only to be rebuked by viewers.

Counsellor’s take
Evelyn Kharono Lufafa a counselling psychologist at Ssubi Medical Center advises parents to exercise restraint. She says when a father-daughter affection is taken overboard, then there is trouble.
“Everything has to be done age appropriately. Sleeping with your child on the same bed should probably be stopped at the age of two to create not only an independent mind but also not to send mixed signals,” she advises.

Lufafa says children are young adults who can tell the difference between right and wrong. She observes that education and society is teaching them about sexuality so being that close to your child will be communicating mixed signals.
She adds, “Such scenarios are the reason we have many child molestation cases because of the many intimate situations parents find themselves in with their children.”

According to Lufafa, if a father wants to show love to his child, there are other ways such as taking her out for lunch or buying clothes. These, she believes, will show her that this is the only sign of respect she should expect from any gentleman be it her father or her boyfriend and then the husband.
That said, a parent being overly attached to a child can put the child’s development on hold and can stunt emotional and psychological growth.
If you find yourself acting out any of these warning signs, please consider ways that you can loosen the reins a bit. Find a more healthy way to meet your emotional needs, instead of leaning on your child for that kind of support.

Signs you are too close

Here are some warning signs that you are too close to your child and may need to take a step back.
One of the first things to be wary of is confiding in your son or daughter about private matters.
It is not their role to be your secret keeper; they should not know things like the problems you are having with your spouse or the financial difficulties you have run into, and they certainly should not be put into a position where they are expected to carry a secret for one parent and hide it from the other.

Another parenting problem with regard to this topic is using a child as an emotional sounding board. It is good to share ideas and be creative together, but when it comes to problem solving, remember that you are the adult, while he/she is the child.
Additionally, it’s very harmful to the well-being of a young person to be held accountable for the responsibilities of an adult.
Having your son or daughter as your best or only friend is a warning sign that you’re too involved.

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