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Dear Therapist: I Don’t Want to Be a Controlling Mom, But I Can’t Help It

Creator:
Published:
May 27, 2024
May 27, 2024
Read this article to find out ways to stop being a controlling mother, with answers from a therapist.

Dear Therapist,

I have two boys ages 7 and 8 and I find myself constantly telling them to put on a sweater. They get annoyed often telling me, “mom I’m fine, I’m hot!” To which I respond, “put one on anyways!’ I asked myself why I am like this so fearful of them getting sick and I remembered that when I was 17 I had kidney problems. For me, catching a cold could cause a flare up so I had to be cautious. I believe this might be why I’m scared of my kids getting sick!! Please advise how I can calm down and respect their wishes regarding not wearing sweaters or how I can navigate this.

— Scared and controlling

Hello, Scared and Controlling, 

Thank you for your heartfelt question. It speaks volumes of your love for your children. I also hear about your unresolved trauma. 

When we’re constantly getting sick in our youth and know that we can easily die from our symptoms, this sends a very alarming message to our brains and bodies. We simply live in our bodies with a keen and constant threat of not being safe. 

If this threat of unsafety made you start to compare yourself to others, if you didn’t receive a lot of support to navigate the emotional challenges that come from being physically sick, if you ended up in the hospital often, if you became hyper-vigilant and hyper-aware of your changes in your body, then it would make so much sense that now as a mom, you are very scared that your boys will experience something similarly. 

So what a gift that you were able to remember that teenage girl within you and make those connections! This connection will help you have compassion for yourself and see yourself as wounded and in need of support instead of a controlling parent. 

To start healing from this trauma stored in your body and before you start further recalling that teenage girl struggling with kidney problems, you will have to learn how to regulate your own body. 

You may need to take deep breaths. You may need to begin processing your experiences as a teenager with a trauma therapist. You may need to start exercising, developing a prayer routine, or all of the above! Whatever will help you feel more calm. Then, once you start developing this safety, you can begin exploring what this teenage girl needed all along. Maybe it’s someone just to listen and hear her experience. Maybe it’s someone just to help her rest and reassure her that she will be okay. Maybe it’s more time to play and have fun because when she started dealing with health problems, all the anxiety and physical ailments stole all the fun for her. 

Once you start getting her deeper needs met, you’ll have more capacity to care for your sons in a more regulated way. You’ll be able to hear the difference between when it’s just a teenage part of you who is scared that your boys are going to get sick and therefore hurt, or when you are just a wise parent and you know that by not wearing a jacket because it’s 0 degrees outside, they truly are going to get sick. You’ll have more freedom within you to offer them more freedom to make their own decisions and potentially get hurt, within reason. This ability to discern prudently happens when we are self-aware and regulated enough to see the bigger picture and make decisions from a place of peace and confidence in our role as mothers. 

I trust that when this teenage girl within you starts to experience healing and has her deeper needs met, you’ll have more capacity to be the loving mother it sounds like you already are without the anxiety standing in your way! 

— Brya Hanan, LMFT

Creators:
Grotto, Brya Hanan
Published:
May 27, 2024
May 27, 2024
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