Monday, March 5, 2007

ENMESHMENT - A New Threat To Homeschooling Parents

Parents who undertake their responsibility to instruct their own children face many challenges, and yet they do not undertake this responsibility lightly.

Most see it for the awesome responsibility that it is.
-It involves a total commitment on the part of a parent.
-It involves accepting responsibility for the child’s education, rather than surrendering that responsibility to others.
-It involves caring for the child’s entire existence.

Parents who instruct their own children often must comply with certain governmental “regulations”. Sometimes, those in government may allege that parents who do not send their children to a public school are guilty of “educational neglect”.

Parents who instruct their own children know just how false such an allegation is. Parents constantly must “educate” those who are misinformed about the nature of “homeschooling”.

Proving that parents who instruct at home are not “neglectful” may be an inconvenience, but has been relatively easy to do. The very fact that we care for, nurture, educate and engage ourselves with our children is proof that we are not neglecting them. Right?


Now, a new threat looms on the horizon. It is a threat because it will attempt to prove that a parent is neglectful when they homeschool their children.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “neglect” as “to omit, fail, or forbear to do a thing that can be done, or that is required to be done…”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “enmesh” as “to entangle in…”

The term “enmeshment” has found its way into psychological and sociological literature. While it is not yet a recognized “diagnosis”, it has gained apparent widespread popularity among the psychological and sociological community, particularly among those who are intimately involved with governmental agencies in determining whether or not children are “neglected.”

Unfortunately, the term “enmeshment” has been used, astonishingly enough, to find parents guilty of “emotional neglect”, as one judge put it, because “there is a fine line between protection and overreaction.” In that case, the parent was found to be “emotionally neglectful” due to “enmeshment” for “fostering in her child a feeling of mistrust toward school officials and teachers.” In one judicial case, the parent simply wanted the school officials and teachers to follow the instructions of the child’s physician to administer medication immediately to the child in the event of an allergic reaction. The psychologist who found that the parent and child were “enmeshed” did so by concluding that the child is “strongly aligned emotionally and intellectually with his mother, dependent upon her to a very significant degree, and relying on her views and actions to protect him and to keep him alive.” One would think that this would be considered to be the ultimate duty of a parent, the duty to protect and to keep the child alive. The court, however, found the parent and child to be “significantly enmeshed” such that the parent was deemed “emotionally neglectful” of the child.

In essence, for a parent to be aligned emotionally and intellectually with a child for the purpose of protecting the child constituted “neglect”.

This is fundamentally an oxymoron, to say the least. “Enmeshment” would appear to be the opposite of “neglect”, yet, it has proven to be the basis for a court finding of neglect!

If a parent cannot disprove neglect by protection and care, how can a parent disprove neglect?

This is a frightening and dangerous situation. Unfortunately, because of the popularity of the term, “enmeshment”, it is a situation which parents are likely to continue to see.

We must not allow the psychological community to dupe those in positions of authority into thinking that “enmeshment” equals “neglect”.

It is beyond reason to think that the involvement of parents in a child’s life for the purpose of the care, protection, and education of the child equals “neglect”. Yet, that is precisely what certain authorities do think. Be aware, and be prepared to fight this new phenomenon whenever it rears its ugly head.

(H/T Deborah Stevenson)


Irdial said...

This is one of the most absurd things that I have ever read.

I have known several children who are severely allergic, and one who is allergic to peanuts. At every school he has ever attended, the staff have been informed of his immediate need for Epinephrine via injection with an 'Epipen' should he be exposed to peanut. Not only that, he was not the only child in the school with this requirement, and many of the schools he attended already had well thought out policies in place before he joined the school.

The need to administer medication immediately to counter anaphylaxis is widely known. It is simply astonishing that this case went before a judge and that no medical professional was there to confirm that this is absolutely normal practice world-wide in cases where people who can suffer anaphylaxis are in situations where it is impossible to have 100% control the foods they are exposed to. It is also amazing that none of the societies and groups dedicated to severe allergies were consulted. A simple google search will bring up many of them. There are bracelets that sufferers with severe allergies wear...need I go on?!

This is not an oxymoron as you believe. It is in fact Orwellian doublethink; the ability to keep two contradictory thoughts in your mind simultaneously and to believe that both are true. Simply astonishing.

This whole affair reminds me of the 'W' sitting non issue that recently made the rounds in relation to toddlers and the way they sit. It is another fad, another false categorization, another reason to medicate, interfere, obstruct, disrupt, destroy and dismantle family life.

Was there an appeal?

Take a look at what the UK is facing with regard to Home Schooling:

We have not faced anything as Kafkaesque as Entanglement, but if such nonsense is codified, you can bet that the enemies of Home Schooling will be adding this garbage to their arsenal.

Dana said...

Yes, I've been reading a bit on clingy parents who don't allow their children to develop separate identities recently. (common reason for the rejection of homeschooling in Germany).

Interesting is all the stuff out there on "school phobia" if you really start thinking about it. From one site:

"Additionally the child's family often unintentionally reinforces school phobic symptoms. When a family undergoes a major stress such as moving house or a bereavement it is common for a child to express mild refusal to leave the primary caregiver (who may be anxious, distressed, depressed). This can escalate if the child is not firmly encouraged to leave the caregiver, in fact they are often inadvertently rewarded with extra attention from their parents. The child's anxiety about leaving is reinforced and the child doesn't have the opportunity to develop ways to cope with the separation."

Now, I know from experience that yes, parents can cause weird things in their children through certain extremes, including overprotection and overindulgence. But it is way too easy to look at these statements based on extremes and see it in every parent who decides that after the death of a loved one, perhaps snuggling at home is more necessary than school for the day. Or who seeks options for a bullied child. Or who chooses to homeschool for any reason whatsoever.

I never forced my children to go through the separation thing. In the church nursery or at the Y, if they did not want to be there, I did not leave them there. I did not force them to deal with their separation or whatever nonsense people with degrees say is necessary for an emotionally healthy childhood. This is purely anecdotal, but all three of my children are quite happy to be left places. Even my almost 2yo runs to Child Watch and everyone remarks how happy she is and how talkative she is (most her age just stand in the middle of the floor and stare until their parents come back).

A child who feels safe, loved, secure and KNOWS that mom/dad/etc. will always be there deals with separation in a positive rather than phobic way. I question the suggestion that a child needs to be forced away in order to deal with their latent fears of being separated.

Tamara said...

It would seem that the ones who are really guilty of 'enmeshment' are the authorities who feel it is their right to intrude on the parent/child relationship.