What is Enmeshed Parenting - a blog post by Mommyshravmusings

What is Enmeshed Parenting? Top Signs of Enmeshed Parenting

A strong family is the one that bonds well together. A family that loves to spend time with each other, relax in each other’s company, and share things together is a loving family. But too much good can also become bitter if there are no proper boundaries between the family members. In that case, you might be under the enmeshed parenting style.

What is Enmeshed Parenting?

Blurred boundaries and excessive emotional closeness between parent and child characterize enmeshed parenting. In enmeshed families, the lines between parent and child become fuzzy, and the child may struggle to establish a sense of autonomy and personal identity. This dynamic often arises from a place of love and concern but can lead to challenges as the child grows and seeks independence.

Though that’s the definition of Enmeshed Parenting, we can understand it better by seeing the example below.

Recently, one client came to me with issues about her son. Saying that his tween daughter is skipping most of her extra-curricular activities as she wants to stay with her mom. The father told me that the daughter is close to the mother and likes to be with her continuously.

What is Enmeshed Parenting? - a blog post by Mommyshravmusings

On the outside, it seemed that the family was a very loving one and had close ties with each other. But when I dug a little deeper, I understood that her father spends a lot of time away on business trips, and while in town, too, he spends a lot of time at the office. The mother managed the house, the kids, and their studies singlehandedly.

In this process, she started using her firstborn daughter as her emotional backfill, the void that her husband couldn’t fulfill due to work demands. As a result, the mother started treating the daughter as her closest buddy and developed a deep bond. The strong bond between mom and daughter is acceptable, as long as there are specific boundaries about the different roles and situations. When those boundaries become blurred, and the daughter starts playing the role of mother to her own mother, that’s the perfect example of an enmeshed family.

The mother has become an enmeshed parent, which might have resulted due to either the mental health-related disorders in the mother or the mother could have been a victim of an enmeshed family earlier.

Related Read: Why more focus is needed on Family’s Emotional Health?

Signs of Enmeshed Family

Now that you heard about my client’s case, you might start wondering what tell-tale signs of an enmeshed family are. Of course, most families want to build a close-knit bond among themselves, whether they go into the enmeshed family route or not. So here are those tell-tale signs of an enmeshed family.

  1. Blurred Boundaries: In enmeshed families, boundaries between family members are often unclear or nonexistent. There may be a lack of respect for personal space, privacy, and individual autonomy. As a result, family members may feel intruded upon or have difficulty asserting their boundaries.
  2. Emotional Fusion: Emotions are heavily intertwined in enmeshed families. Family members may struggle to differentiate their emotions from others, leading to emotional enmeshment. In addition, there may be an excessive reliance on one another for emotional support, with emotions becoming shared and interconnected.
  3. Lack of Individuality: There is a tendency to prioritize the family unit over individuality in enmeshed families. Family members may feel pressure to conform to the family’s values, beliefs, and interests, suppressing their desires and goals. The focus is on maintaining a collective identity rather than fostering individual growth.
  4. Overdependence: Enmeshed families often exhibit high levels of dependency on one another. Family members may rely excessively on each other for emotional support, validation, and decision-making. As a result, there may be a lack of encouragement for individual problem-solving and self-reliance.
  5. Lack of Autonomy: Enmeshed families may limit or discourage individual autonomy. Family members may struggle to make independent decisions without seeking approval or guidance from others, especially from the primary enmeshed figure. As a result, decision-making power may be concentrated within one or a few family members.
  6. Emotional Manipulation: Enmeshed families may manipulate emotionally to maintain control or closeness. Family members may use guilt, emotional blackmail, or manipulation tactics to ensure compliance or prevent separation. Manipulative behaviors can undermine healthy boundaries and personal growth.
  7. Difficulty with Separation: Enmeshed families often experience challenges regarding separation and independence. Family members may have trouble tolerating physical or emotional distance and expressing fear or anxiety when attempting to establish separate identities or pursue individual interests.

Enmeshment is based on fear and it attempts to control all relational outcomes at all costs


It’s important to note that these signs do not necessarily mean a family is completely enmeshed. Enmeshment exists on a spectrum, and families may exhibit varying degrees of enmeshment. Nevertheless, most families show one or the other of the above signs, and hence it’s all the more important to understand how the parent or child behaves in the enmeshed families.

Related Read: Why it‘s OK Not to be OK

Am I an Enmeshed Parent?

If you are exhibiting these signs continuously and are having a constant hold on your child’s life, then you might be an enmeshed parent.

  1. You have a powerful need/urge to be present and involved in your child’s life.
  2. Your emotional well-being may depend heavily on your child’s emotional state.
  3. You may have difficulty recognizing and respecting your child’s need for independence and separate identity.
  4. You treat your child more like a friend or a confidant than independent individual.
  5. You don’t recognize the need for your child’s personal space, privacy, and autonomy.
  6. You tend to use guilt as a means of control or to maintain closeness with your child.
  7. You struggle to recognize and foster your child’s individuality.
  8. You don’t even dream of your child separating from you and becoming independent.
  9. You tend to reward your child when they behave in ways that strengthen the enmeshment.
  10. You think your child is your trophy to display, and your self-worth depends on your child’s achievements.
  11. You share all your personal information with your child, which should remain private only with you and your partner.
  12. You disapprove of other friends or people’s presence in your child’s life.
What is Enmeshed Parenting? - a blog post by Mommyshravmusings

How to put an end to Enmeshed Parenting?

Now that you understand the symptoms of an enmeshed family, you might wonder how to end this enmeshment. Here are a few ideas that you can use to put an end to enmeshed parenting.

Related Read: Summer Self-care Tips for Parents

Establish clear boundaries: Encourage the development of healthy boundaries between family members. This involves clearly defining and respecting personal space, privacy, and individual autonomy. Have a healthy discussion with the family members so everyone is on the same page.

Encourage individuality and autonomy: Foster the development of each family member’s individual identity. Start this process by encouraging the child to explore their own interests, goals, and values separate from the parent’s desires.

Promote emotional independence: Encourage emotional independence by teaching the child coping skills, problem-solving abilities, and emotional regulation techniques. Let the parent and child seek support from peers or professionals rather than relying solely on the other for emotional fulfillment.

Practice self-care: Encourage the enmeshed parent to prioritize self-care and personal growth. This includes engaging in activities that promote individual well-being, exploring personal interests, and developing a support system outside of the parent-child relationship.

Seek professional help: Consider involving a therapist or counselor specializing in family dynamics or attachment issues.

We must remember that ending enmeshed parenting is a long process that will take time and patience. It is essential to be aware that change may not happen overnight. It’s a journey filled with self-reflection, courage, and commitment to personal growth and changes in the family structure. We need to have patience and determination to make things happen. We can celebrate the small baby steps and progress regularly for further motivation.

Parting Thoughts:

With its blurred boundaries and emotional fusion, enmeshed parenting can profoundly affect both parents and children. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the signs and consequences of enmeshed parenting to foster healthier and more balanced relationships within the family.

By acknowledging the presence of enmeshment and taking proactive steps toward change, parents can create a more supportive and empowering environment for their children. We also should remember that we are all works in progress, and no one is perfect in this world. Therapists and counselors are always available to help and guide us in the right direction when needed. All we have to do is to approach them. Hence we should take the proactive step of consulting them when required.

QOTD: Discuss with your child what is the best quality they like in you and what is one trait of yours that they don’t like.

Suhasini, IP, is the Author of the book “Practical Tips for Kids Mental Health.” As a certified kids and parents life coach, she helps/guides you toward a happy family life for your kids. She firmly believes that “Emotionally Happy Kids of today are the Mentally Strong and Happy Citizens of tomorrow.” Let’s make the world a happy and beautiful place for our kids to thrive.


  1. […] overly strict or inconsistent boundaries, or having no boundaries at all, can contribute to an enmeshed family structure, which can become […]

  2. […] might want to read more about Enmeshed Parenting and how it affects […]

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