Using children to fulfill your adult needs

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams explains how problems occur when parents use their children to fulfill inappropriate emotional needs
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Using children to fulfill your adult needs

So what are some of the problems that occurs in a family system with the kids when one of the parents is too involved or immeshed with their parent? When there aren't clean lines between generations, in other words mom, you know, and dad I'm glad you're there. I love you. I want to see you, but I can't have you running my marriage. When that line isn't there, there is a greater risk that, that son, let's say it is a son who has been over involved with his mother taking care of her because she's angry with her husband, his father, he might be more inclined because now he's going to have trouble with his wife, more inclined to turn to his daughter to comfort him, to listen to him. There's a greater likelihood that within that next family system, we have the next generation of boundaries where the parent turns to the child or maybe the wife who's involved with the man who's immeshed with the mother, maybe she turns to the son. I can't get your father to pay attention to me but I can get you to pay attention to me. So once there is a crossover between generations, it often spills into the next generation in which children are being used to fulfill the needs of a parent that really isn't their job to do and the parent is always responsible for the boundary. The child is not responsible for the boundary. Many kids are more than willing to come and come to your parents aid and there's nothing wrong with that, right? I mean, it's nice that kids, we want our children to be sensitive. We want our kids to be tuned in, right? Sometimes if they aren't, that becomes its own problem, but when the parent sort of hijacks that and uses it for their own self centered or selfish needs chronically, I don't mean one time, or occasionally, or we all fall into the trap of geez, you know, my son or daughter is paying attention to me, that feels really good. There's nothing wrong with that, but when that occurs chronically, it binds the child to the parent inappropriately through guilt and demands for loyalty.

Psychologist Kenneth M. Adams explains how problems occur when parents use their children to fulfill inappropriate emotional needs


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Kenneth M. Adams, PhD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT, is a Licensed Psychologist, the Clinical Director and Founder of Kenneth M. Adams and Associates in suburban Detroit, Michigan, as well as a faculty member at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. As previous Clinical Director for the Life Healing Center in Sante Fe, New Mexico, a residential treatment center for trauma and addiction, Dr Adams created the first inpatient program exclusively for partners of sex addicts. In addition to maintaining an active clinical practice, Dr. Adams is a national lecturer, workshop leader, and consultant in the areas of child abuse, dysfunctional family systems, and sex addiction. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications, the books Silently Seduced and When He’s Married to Mom, as well as co-editor of Clinical Management of Sex Addiction. In 2011, Dr Adams received the “Carnes Award” for “outstanding work in the field of sexual addiction and compulsivity”. He is a certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), a CSAT supervisor, and CSAT training facilitator as well as an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) practitioner. Dr. Adams is a member of the American Psychological Association, Michigan Psychological Association, Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), and International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) as well as an advisory board member to SASH and IITAP, and an editorial board member of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. For more on Dr Adams visit


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