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4/28/16 at 09:01 AM 0 Comments

Don’t Use Your Kids As Your Emotional Outlet!

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Susie’s mom was depressed again. Her dad’s bosses were upset at him, but he wouldn’t smooth things over. He was standing on principle, he said. But meanwhile, where was the paycheck going to come from?

As soon as Susie came home from school she could sense that her mom was itching to unload on her. So she took the lunchboxes away from her sisters and said to them, “let’s play dressup! Why don’t you both run and find all of my fun dresses and shoes and some of Mommy’s old makeup, and we’ll have a fashion show?” Her little sisters ran off, and she hoped they’d be gone for enough time that she could calm her mother down.

As her mom prepared the after-school snack she started moaning about her dad. And little Susan listened, like she always did, hoping that spilling everything to Susie would stop her mom from worrying her little sisters.

Susie grew up. She got used to running interference for her siblings. She got used to judging her mother’s moods and trying to manage her mother’s emotions. And she started to really dislike her father, who was always so irresponsible and got her mother so upset in the first place.

Susie’s story isn’t rare. We women often love to talk, and when there’s no one around to talk to except our children, we often turn to them. There’s nothing wrong with levelling with kids about the financial situation, the work situation, or other difficulties you are having. Kids can sense when something’s wrong, and naming the source of stress can actually be a relief to kids.

But sharing insight into what is happening is quite different than expecting your child to be your confidante. Using your child for emotional connection, or using your child as your outlet for physical affection, can be stifling. It places them in an adult role. And it often forces them, like Susan, to try to protect other siblings.

When you’re geographically isolated or socially isolated (because your husband’s in ministry and you can’t share what’s going on in your family, or because you homeschool, for instance), it can be tempting to use our children as an emotional dumping ground.


Deal with the issues in your marriage head on, even if it’s hard. Speak the truth to your husband and work through things. But don’t rely on your kids. It isn’t fair to them, and in the long run, it will do much damage to your relationship.

Written by Sheila Wray Gregiore

Originally posted at

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