Why is “mothering” in the word “smothering?” Why isn’t it “sfathering?” Because, as mothers, we have a unique role in our children’s lives. However, it’s a delicate balance between smothering our children, being helicopter moms, and giving our children room to grow and be appropriately independent. We all agree that an abandoned child is not good, not healthy, and can leave the child with many emotional and mental obstacles that may manifest itself in unhealthy ways.

But can a smothered child be left with the same emotional and mental concerns as an abandoned child? That seems the total opposite of what most of us think when we think of a smothered child. Well, Deidre Wallace shares on RelationshipKnowledge.com,  that smothered children may “realize that to keep the peace, they may have to choose … not to disappoint or upset a parent.” She shares that children do this to “maintain the love, attention, and admiration of a parent.”

If you’re the mom of multiple children and one of them has found themselves in a situation that has led to legal ramifications, then a lot of your emotions and energy may be wrapped up in what is happening to that child, their needs, and your needs to survive. This may lead to smothering one or more of your other children, especially if you’re a single-parent. Ms. Wallace states that smothering a child can also be when a parent uses a child as a surrogate substitute for their spouse and leans on them for mental and emotional support. And that can negatively affect the child, who is always there, always present, always giving, always “good.”

This would be a good time to get counseling, to take a step back and look at your children through the lens of a stranger or their teacher and ask yourself if you see them honestly and as individuals who are also dealing with the change in dynamics of what their sibling is going through. They’ve been left to deal with it in the trenches of life at school and home. And while you’re doing your best not to temporarily abandon them in this time of all-consuming crisis, it’s important to recognize that we also don’t smother them or use them as surrogates for our own fears.  

Our “good” child may be crying for help in the midst of all that’s happening in their goodness. Taking a step back to observe them to really see them through someone else’s eye and create opportunities for them to be heard and seen can go a long way to ensure that we’re not smothering them but giving them the space to create their own healthy identity. Helping them to understand that what is going on and the change in the dynamic of the current family situation is not their fault; it just is and that it does not need to be a part of their identity can go a long way in them becoming the well adjusted and healthy child they’re meant to be. 

So who can you lean on? Do you have a close family member or friend that can be your emotional and/or mental support? If not, and even if so, getting counseling help from a pastor or therapist might go a long way. If you don’t have a pastoral team or a therapist, reach out to your HR Office and get connected with someone now.

Skip to content