6.     What can a mother do to prevent getting too entangled in her children’s lives?

A mother can help her self to not become too entangled in her child’s life if she is able to keep in mind these circles that I speak of representing the child and her self. Healthy development overall involves each person’s circle growing strong and clear and being able then to interact with others in ways that respect both the other person and our self.

Much of what I have spoken of above is about helping to foster the development of the child’s individual self. Being aware that that is part of our task as a mother over the lifetime of the mother-child relationships can help to reduce entanglements which can come from not acknowledging that the mother and child are, in fact, separate and different people.
And preventing entanglements is helped equally by us mothers remembering to foster our own self-development as we are raising our children. Even when the child is very young and very dependent on us, how can we get a little time for our self? How can we pause and listen to our self and find out what we need for us? How can we assert our needs to others who may need to help us? Losing our self in our mothering is ultimately no help to any of us

And as our child gets older and our circles are sliding further apart, there is even more space in our circle of self for our own strengthening and growth. As you move into this new, open, and perhaps empty space, know that your learning to listen and respond to your self, creating your own life, is one of the best things you can do to keep your relationship with your growing child well and strong.
5.     What should a grown child do when Mom is too entangled in their life?

The words love and limits comes to my mind here. When a grown child is feeling that their mother is too involved in their life – whether that be physically, emotionally, or financially, for example – that grown child will be helped by explaining to their mother the ways the mother can and can not be helpful to them now.
This is really what we call setting boundaries. Those boundaries can include stating what they do not want as well as what they do want from the mother: “You are welcome to come by and visit us on Wednesday nights, but please do not clean my house while you are here. I want to visit with you. Thank you for your help, but I want to take care of the house in my own time and way.”
4.     How does “too much mothering” impact a child?

The above list in Part 5 gives us a glimpse of the effects on the mother when bonding may be getting too tight and an entanglement is developing.

For the child, our over-functioning on their behalf can create a wide variety of responses from them including:

-           A belief that they are not capable of doing things on their own.
-          A belief that who they are as a person is not okay.
-          A dependency on the mother that keeps them from growing into a healthy, individuated person capable of school, work, and independent living.
-          Angry conflicts that results in the child distancing them self.
-          Worry and guilt as the child separates despite messages that they should not.
-          Not getting to learn from the natural consequences of their actions.
3.     What are some warning signs that the bonding has become entanglement?

Entanglements have to be identified by the individual(s) within a relationship. Each relationship has its own levels of separateness and closeness that can work for the individuals in that relationship. With that said, we may be becoming entangled with our child if we:

-          Are very preoccupied with them.
-          Are constantly dropping things we need to do, places to be, opportunities of our own to help or manage them.
-          Protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions.
-          Driving them away by our controllingness.
-          Are feeling extra depressed or anxious because of our relationship with them.
-          Feel over-powered by the relationship.
-          Feel afraid in the relationship.
-          Are unable to listen to and respond to our self in the relationship.
-          Have no time for self.
-          Think about them all the time and wonder/worry what they are doing.
-          Have no idea what to do when our child is not available to us.
2.     How old should a child be when a mother begins to loosen her bonds with that   child?

Each child and mother is an individual, and therefore, the answer to this question does not involve naming an age to start loosening bonds. I will say that this loosening of bonds is an on-going process over many years and has many different forms depending on the developmental level of the child.

Even as children are very young, they may start to say things like, “I can do that.” “Let me do that.” We want to notice this and honor it if reasonable. This is an early form of the child establishing their autonomy.

As our children ask to pick out their own clothes, decorate their own room, and make their own friends, each of these behaviors is about the child trying to healthily separate their identity from their mother. They mean no harm by this. This is a natural process of growing up and out.

As we parent our teenage children, the loosening of bonds becomes even more complex. The developmental task of a teen is to develop identity and autonomy. As they do this, we want to both keep them safe by enforcing rules and guidelines and give them freedom to make their own decisions and experience the natural consequences of those decisions.

And as we continue our relationships with our adult children, we want to remember that they are adults, not children, and we want to honor the independence and autonomy that is theirs and continue to speak and act in ways that leaves them responsible for themselves and us responsible for our self.