Can you be friends with your kids?

Of course you want to feel you and your child have a special bond. But when does that bond cross the line into being more harmful than helpful? Can you be your child’s BFF and still raise her right?

Balancing friendship and parenthood
Mother and daughter

“Friendship” vs. “parenting”

Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. explains in Parenting Science that “friendship” requires that neither person has authority over the other. In a friendship, both parties are equal. But if a child is allowed to make all her own decisions, there’s a very good chance she might eat chips and ice cream for dinner every night and go to bed at 2 a.m. “Parenting,” on the other hand, requires that a mother “raise” her child, thereby requiring a certain amount of authority be used in order for the child to learn more about herself and the world in a safe and happy way.

It could leave kids stressed out

Dewar’s research also indicates that mothers relying on their daughters as confidantes can be damaging. Researchers reveal that in the case of divorce, for example, girls who were informed by their mothers of financial hardships, employment worries, personal concerns and negative feelings toward ex-husbands were more likely to experience psychological distress.

Too much information

Trend child psychologist Jennifer Hartstein explained to CBS News that though parents may think they want to know everything that’s going on in their children’s lives, when push comes to shove, it may be too much information, and they may not know what to do with it. Instead, she recommends seeking to walk the line between friend and parent rather than seeking “best friend” status. You want your child to feel she can come to you and know you are a safe space while keeping in mind you are her mother and will do what is best for her, not for your friendship.

What does friendship mean to you?

Although having a “best friend” or “confidante” relationship with your daughter may be troublesome, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. Many of the traits of a mother-daughter relationship can be seen in a friendly relationship. For instance, you both care about each other’s feelings. You trust each other, and you share different stories and experiences. But when you notice yourself trying to get information out of your daughter or sharing more than might be necessary, take a moment to ask yourself why you are doing so. Is it really in her best interest, or are there perhaps other motives behind your actions? Though you may not be able to have an egalitarian friendship with your daughter as you do with friends your age, you can certainly have a close bond based on mutual respect and affection. There will be times when you have to exercise your authority, and occasions will arise when you can’t share all you would like. And that’s OK. By caring for your child as a friendly parent, you’ll help her on her way toward a happy and successful life.

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