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)