The changing circumstances of parenting and the blurring of boundaries

The blurring of boundaries between parents and children also occurs through the changing circumstances of parents’ lives through divorce, separation and bereavement. Single parents may find themselves plunged into situations where it becomes difficult to protect their children from the conflicts they experience with their ex-partners. These conflicts may be enacted in such an exposed manner that the child cannot escape from them and they are brought into the conflict by either or both parents who use them as confidantes. This manifests itself differently with boys and girls. Girls may find it easier to identify with their mothers although this also leads them into a parentified relationship where they feel that they have to take on a mothering role towards their mother. Boys struggle with a situation in which their longing for closeness with their mother is entangled with their fear of too much intimacy and dependence. The absence of a male role model often leads to their idealisation of the missing father and the denigration of the mother. Helping single parents to maintain a sense of separateness and not to lose sight of the continuing need to maintain their authority is part of this process. The children involved in these struggles may have been referred for a variety of problems some of them connected with psychosomatic conditions, while others, usually boys, are referred because of the escalating conflict with their mothers. This may bring to the fore partly unresolved Oedipal issues between the boy and his parents.

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