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Therapist explains why people shouldn't expect kids to act like adults, sparks debate

Navigating a family with marital discord can be difficult, especially for children. Learn more about how to heal this challenging dynamic.

Therapist explains why people shouldn't expect kids to act like adults, sparks debate
Cover Image Source: Instagram/ TikTok/ whitney goodman

Whitney Goodman, an author and licensed marriage and family therapist from Florida, has gained a significant following on Instagram, with over 550,000 followers alone. Bored Panda contends that. She frequently creates content about relationships, and her recent videos on making children choose sides in a "bad marriage" and treating them like adults have gone viral. In one video, Goodman discusses how children who grow up in families with marital discord often form "teams" to cope with the instability. She explains, "If you grew up in this kind of a house, you may have noticed that your family would split off into, like, different alliances or teams to try to manage the marital discord."

Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft
Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft


According to Goodman, children in these situations are forced to choose sides and are robbed of growing up in a stable environment. She argues, "You'll never be able to achieve the same type of stability you would've felt if your parents had like that concrete, stable relationship." Goodman emphasizes that it's the children who deserve more empathy, even as they grow into adults. She notes, "People expect kids to act like adults. And then in my experience, when they become adults, parents look back at their experiences as if they were adults...And all these things can be 100% true and real, but we have to be able to hold empathy on both sides of that coin, right?"

Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft
Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft


Replying to one comment she says, “I wanna reply to this comment, not because I wanna reply to this person specifically, but because they’re bringing up something that I hear a lot and I think it’s important for us to talk about. They’re saying that once a child grows up and becomes an adult, their relationship with their parents and their trauma from their childhood is their business and their thing to heal and that the parent is not responsible anymore for healing that. And I wanna consider and reconsider why we think about child and parent relationships in this way because it’s really the only relationship that we think of in this way. There’s no other relationship that I can think of where someone would be abused, hurt, ridiculed, denied needs or rights, and we would say, ‘You know what, that’s your problem now. You need to figure out that.’ But we tend to do that with adults and their parents.

Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft
Image Source: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft


And it’s always under the guise of like, well, they did the best they could. And now if you got hurt by that, that’s your problem. And I think there’s a lot of empowerment in telling adults that your childhood is not going to dictate your life. It’s over now and you can work on it. But we also need to work on the dynamic and the healing that happens when parents are able to say, “You know what, maybe I tried my best and it wasn’t good enough. Maybe I did hurt you. Maybe there is something that I can apologize for and I can take ownership of to allow us to have a good relationship moving forward.”


Goodman's message is clear, parents have a responsibility to provide a stable and healthy environment for their children. It's not fair for children to be forced to choose sides or deal with the fallout of a bad marriage. And while it's true that adult children can work on healing their childhood traumas, parents also need to take responsibility for their actions and acknowledge the harm they may have caused.

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