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coping on their own many parents find that all their plans and energies are focused on their children; their own needs and anxieties are submerged or deflected on to their children. Overwhelmed by the uncertainties and potential dangers which seem to surround them on all sides, they find that they are unusually anxious about their children. They begin to make new and more restrictive rules about being away from home, playing with undesirable’ friends or engaging in potentially hazardous hobbies or pursuits. When their children complain or challenge them, their justification is that they now have to carry the burden of disciplining and protecting their children from harm entirely on their own. For a time at least many of their own more diffuse anxieties about learning to cope alone are focused specifically on their children.
In the radio programmes we included a very vivid example of the way children may be used as a means of communicating parents’
fears. Shortly after the birth of their son, John, Mel finally left home to go and live with Marge, whom he later married. Sue, his wife, had known about this affair throughout her pregnancy and was now desperate to get him to return permanently. On the night Mel left, Sue gave John, only nine weeks old, some of her sedatives.