Valuable Lessons About Codependency for Kids and the Parents Who Love Them


Codependency may seem like a big topic to tackle with an elementary-schooler, but the underlying concepts are what make the difference between an independent, well-adjusted child and one who doubts that they are whole, valid, and capable all on their own. This is a lesson I wish I had gotten at an earlier age.

That’s why I was thrilled when my son and I came across Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” at the library. Not only was I pleasantly surprised to come across a book by Silverstein I hadn’t heard of–being a big fan since childhood–I was even more pleased with the profundity and value of the message therein. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; it is Shel Silverstein, after all.



“The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” is actually a sequel to “The Missing Piece,” and it begins with a lonely little “piece” sitting around waiting for “someone to come along and take it somewhere.”

The piece encounters plenty of companions who it hopes can make it into a whole. Unfortunately, it finds that some are too big, some are too small, some are too fragile.

Eventually, along comes The Big O. The missing piece asks if it can hitch a ride, and the Big O suggests perhaps the piece try moving on its own. It gets off to a bumpy start, but eventually the piece is happily rolling along on its own journey.

Whoah. I can relate.

Teaching Kids to Face Their Fears

Shel puts it in childlike, poetic terms that made my eyes well up at times, illustrating with deft simplicity the error of seeking wholeness and satisfaction outside of oneself, and the empowerment and fulfillment that comes from growth.

This stimulated a great discussion about overcoming fears and obstacles between my little guy and me. We talked about how we can’t really grow if we always rely on others to do things for us, and that in order to be strong and believe in ourselves, it takes effort, hard work, and sometimes suffering. In the end, of course, it’s worth it to become better than who we were before.

These are important lessons for a kid who catches on to most things quickly but is easily frustrated when a challenge rears its head (taking after mom). He’s certainly got the strength and intelligence, but our instant gratification society hasn’t helped him develop a sense of satisfaction in having to work for something. Quite frankly, it wasn’t until this American millennial became a mother that I–eventually and after great resistance–learned the value and gratification of hard work and reaping the fruits of my efforts.

And I haven’t got that on lock or anything.

independence in children

I’m still working on my own patterns toward co-dependency that I didn’t become privy to until long after I became a mother. It’s a subtle, sticky thing, and it’s not something I want to instill in my son. Crossing my fingers.

Not to gush but thanks again, Shel, for another masterpiece that says so much with so few words. My hope is that it can stir similar conversations among other mamas, papas, or whoever gets the privilege of sharing story time with the children they love. After all, a child can never be told too much that they are perfect, capable, and whole, all on their own.


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