Parenting: Understanding Emotional Incest

What is emotional incest, and how can you heal?

All parents need to be aware of emotional incest, sometimes known as covert incest. If emotional incest is evident, the parent seeks emotional support through their child. This should be done in a mature relationship. It is not to be confused or abused with sexual incest. What is emotional incest, how does it affect children, and how can the whole family recover from it? These are the questions we're going to answer.

What does emotional incest look and feel like?

Dr. Kenneth Adams aptly described many children's feelings from emotional incest as " icky." While they might initially feel special, knowing their parents trust them, these feelings can quickly change.

Dr. Adams gives the example of a mother taking her son to the movies. She tells him that she has the most handsome date there. Another example is when one parent confides in the other about their relationship issues, and the child acts as their listening ear. The child is uncomfortable with the dynamic of their relationship, regardless of the circumstances.

What impact does emotional incest have on children?

Although it may seem harmless to the parent and child, emotional incest can profoundly impact their development and life.

Dr. Adams explained that the victim might take on the role of a "surrogate parent," becoming the parent's caregiver. This could lead to anger, frustration, and bitter obligation. Emotional incest can also impact the victim's ability later on in life to have healthy romantic relationships. You might feel restricted in your freedom or feel obligated to take care of your parent. They might avoid intimate, deep relationships in an attempt to avoid feeling burdened.

How to heal from emotional incest

Emotional incest traumas don't disappear when the child leaves home or the parent moves. However, emotional incest can be healed.

It is recommended that you learn more about emotional incest yourself, whether you are the parent or the children. Parents and children can benefit from working with an experienced therapist to help them deal with emotional incest. Individual therapy can be very beneficial because it allows you to explore your past and how it has impacted the present in a non-judgmental environment.

Journaling can help deal with stressors in your life. It can also help you heal from emotional incest. Do not "self-edit" your writing. Write what you think and feel. Sometimes it can be very healing to simply put our raw emotions on a page.

Foundations can help you, whether you're a victim of emotional incest and need family counseling. Get in touch