There was a time when families tried to conceive one last daughter. She had to be a woman and, consciously or not, she was educated so that she would not form her own family and accept her role in life, which was predetermined in advance: she would be the “stick of the old age” of her parents, the person who would accompany and take care of them in their old age.
Also known as “anchor children”, within the family this phenomenon is approached as the “blessing” of being together, but if you pay more attention you can also perceive notes of resentment, frustration or even regret. Today, many parents inadvertently continue to trap their children in the web of their needs, fears, and insecurities.
When children are conceived as a possession
Children come into this world to be free. And they need freedom to build their own life. They must be able to develop their beliefs, make their mistakes, make their decisions and shape their identity. The job of parents is to help them explore the world with confidence, so that they become more and more autonomous and independent so that they travel their own path with confidence.
However, when parents emotionally bind a child, they become an obstacle to his/her development. In fact, some parents begin to conceive the destiny of their children practically from the moment they are born. In this case, they are children who have been conceived to satisfy the needs of their parents and not for life. These are children that are conceived from belonging. Children whose lives are literally appropriated by their parents.
These parents anticipate their future because they see those children only as a refuge from loneliness or caregivers for the old age. Some also hope that the anchor son will take over his/her siblings or carry on some family tradition, such as the parents’ business.
These parents often think that the child is their exclusive property, as if it were a bag. They do not realize that it is an independent person who must build his/her life and has not come into the world to meet their needs. It is as if the umbilical cord had never been cut, so that every time the child claims a little independence, the parents tie it short to prevent him/her from leaving the family home.
In reality, parents who use their children as an anchor or a stick for the old age are victims of their own fears and insecurities. Since they do not overcome them, they pass them on to their children. In a certain way, they set in motion a mechanism of emotional manipulation based on sacrifice and the sacredness of family ties to “force” them to stay with them and not form their own family. However, most are unaware of the damage caused by these responsibilities.
A son anchored to the misfortunes of his/her parents
The stick of the old age daughter or the anchor son are raised expressly to meet the expectations of their parents, so it is not surprising that they end up seeing the world through their eyes. From their early years, they are instilled in them that peace of mind and the wishes of their parents should prevail over their interests.
Phrases like “You can’t go traveling because I will suffer a lot if something happens to you” or “Don’t come late because I won’t be able to sleep thinking that something will happen to you” reflect a real concern, but also an egocentric one of the parents, who put their fears and security before to a child’s desire to explore or a teenager’s desire to have fun. That overprotection, more than protecting, ends up incapacitating their children.
From an early age, these children are learning to give in to their parents’ wishes while developing a feeling of guilt. They assume they can’t lead the life they’d like because their parents don’t approve. In the long run, they may even believe that they are not capable of building an independent life simply because they have not had occasions to test their abilities.
Children perceive these mandates and comply with them out of blind filial love, out of fidelity to their parents and the values they instilled in them. This is how a dependency relationship is built. Faithful to that kind of implicit contract that they have signed in their hearts without considering the consequences, many children give up their own life to continue living with their parents and even when they manage to form a family, the excessive demands of their parents generate conflicts, problems and disagreements in their relationship.
The mandate is to take responsibility for the well-being and happiness of their parents, whatever the cost. Obviously, that implies carrying a huge emotional burden since no one should take responsibility for the happiness of another.
Anchor children often feel guilty just thinking about leading an independent life. And if they try to fly away and cut the umbilical cord, they end up being branded as “bad children”, even though in reality they are doing nothing more than going their way.
How to get out of the loop and develop a healthy love?
In general, this type of relationship tends to generate intense feelings of love-hate towards the parents. In fact, in many cases this situation becomes a latent conflict with constant claims from both parties, who almost always feel dissatisfied with the demands/dedication of the other. When this relationship persists over time, it becomes unhealthy, generating an irrational and neurotic affection.
This relationship also results in frustrated children with low expectations in life. Insecure and dissatisfied children who have given up their own existence and happiness to please their parents. Children who ignore their needs and desires in favor of a supposed love. In fact, often after the death of their parents, the anchor children feel alone and do not know what to do with their lives since they have never experienced the freedom to decide.
To break this toxic loop, it is important that parents are aware that their words, attitudes, fears, insecurities, and expectations bind their children, placing a heavy burden on their shoulders that does not correspond to them and prevents them from living freely.
In that case, parents can tell: “Son, I release you. I set you free from taking care of my loneliness, my problems, my fears, my insecurities, my unfulfilled dreams and my shortcomings. I give you wings so that you can fly in total freedom and build the life you have always dreamed of”.
On the other hand, if you are an anchor child, you need to free yourself from the burden that your parents have imposed on you without your consent. You can help them through old age and be by their side when they need it, but their happiness is not your responsibility. You don’t have to stay anchored for life by their side. You have the right to make your own life without feeling guilty.
Let’s remember that, as parents, the best gift we can give our children is freedom. The greatness of a good father or a good mother consists in raising free, secure, independent and self-determined people. It consists of giving wings to children and teaching them to fly.