A Crocodile Story for Adult Children of Alcoholics

By Anna Kuyumcuoglu | parenting
Posted: April 22, 2024

Marc and the Troublesome Crocodiles

Marc was a happy young boy who loved swimming in the sunny creek near his home. His parents always reminded him, “Be careful of the crocodiles, Marc! They may look harmless, but they can cause big troubles.”

One summer day, Marc was splashing in the creek when he saw his first crocodile. It was a small one at first – just a little disagreement with his friend over whose turn it was with the bucket. Marc didn’t think much of it and ignored the little crocodile. But before long, that tiny disagreement grew into an even bigger argument between him and his friend. The little crocodile multiplied into a snapping pair of huge crocodiles, thrashing angrily in the creek.

Marc felt overwhelmed and started crying from the hurt feelings and anger. But his parents were busy that day and didn’t notice the crocodile troubles he was struggling with. The powerful crocodiles remained, lurking in Marc’s heart even after he went home.

Over time, Marc encountered more and more crocodiles – troubles with schoolwork, conflicts with siblings, fears and worries. Each time, his parents overlooked the crocodiles or told Marc to simply ignore them, just like they were ignoring their internal challenges.. But the crocodiles only grew bigger and fiercer, making Marc more anxious, angry and sad.

Marc’s friend Jake also faced many crocodiles in his life. But unlike Marc, Jake’s parents took his crocodile troubles very seriously. Whenever Jake encountered a crocodile challenge, his parents stopped what they were doing to listen and help him figure out how to tame the crocodile.

Sometimes they helped Jake avoid situations that raised the crocodiles. Other times, they gently guided him through problems using proven techniques to calm the crocodiles. Whenever a big crocodile arose, his parents reassured and comforted Jake and faced it head-on alongside him until the crocodile finally became peaceful again.

While Marc became more and more overwhelmed by his jungle of crocodile troubles, Jake blossomed with confidence from learning to tame and overcome each new crocodile challenge with his parents’ support. The crocodiles may have still appeared, but facing them became easier with practiced tools.

For parents like Marc’s, who neglected and denied the crocodile troubles, avoiding them altogether, there were many unspoken expectations placed on their children. They expected Marc to always be happy, successful, to never struggle. But they soon realized the crocodiles of challenges their son faced were far more complicated and difficult than they wanted to acknowledge.

By turning a blind eye and refusing to help Marc work through his troubles head-on, more crocodiles kept multiplying. Resentments grew between them as the untamed crocodiles created emotional distance and misunderstandings in their relationship. The more Marc’s parents avoided the crocodiles and expected him to ignore them too, the larger the divide became.

In contrast, parents like Jake’s who rolled up their sleeves and patiently guided him through taming each new crocodile challenge were able to nurture trust, bonding and resilience. There were no unrealistic expectations for Jake to never experience troubles. Instead, his parents empowered him with the tools to work through problems as they arose, allowing Jake to take healthy risks and keep evolving with their support.

While no child can realistically be shielded from all crocodiles in life, how parents choose to help their children perceive and handle troubles makes a profound difference. 

Compassionate guidance through challenges fosters resilience, healthy attachment and helps children regulate their emotions. But avoidant parents who deny inevitable crocodiles often become barriers to their child’s coping abilities, struggle with attachment issues, trust, eroding self-confidence and straining the relationship itself over time. The crocodiles remain, only growing larger in the silence.

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