It is easy to define the roles of a parent and child. Parents take care of their children to support their physical and emotional needs. Whereas kids focus on their own growth and development. But what happens if there is a role reversal? Parentification is a role reversal that forces the child to become an emotional caregiver for the parent. In such cases, the parents, fail their responsibilities and depend on the kid for emotional and physical support.
The Impact of Parentification on Children
When parents fail at their duties and responsibilities, the kid becomes easily vulnerable. It affects the growth and development of the kid. As a result, the child deals with adult issues with little or no knowledge at all. It is a form of negligence or even abuse. It leads to relationship trauma breaking the bond between the parent and the kid. It also leads to stress and anxiety in young children. Because they do not get the support and protection they need for their age. This trauma can have both short-term and long-term impacts. The kids face both mental and physical pressure. They also struggle with relationships as they grow up.
Types of Parentification
It is the most damaging type of trauma where both parents get their emotional support from their children.
Examples of Emotional Parentification
- Parents seek the child’s advice for adult issues
- Parents discuss adult issues with their kids
- Parents take advice and support from the kids
- Parents share their adult secrets with the kids
- Parents use kids as a mediator between father and mother
- Parents complain about each other to the kid
- The child takes the role of mother or father in the event of divorce/death/absence
This is the second type of parentification where the child handles the tasks and responsibilities of a parent.
Examples of Instrumental Parentification
- The child takes care of younger siblings at home
- The child takes care of sick parents
- The child takes care of the physical and emotional well-being of the parents
- The child handles household chores, paying bills, and doing other tasks
- The child takes the role of a mother/father due to their parent’s inability.
- The child works as a translator for the parent
- The child shares household duties such as cleaning, cooking, etc.
- The child becomes in charge of responsibilities
Symptoms of Parentified Child
- Suicidal thoughts
- Social isolation
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Unrelenting worry
The Long-Term Effects of Parentification
The trauma and issues continue in adulthood. It affects both the mental and physical well-being of the child.
- They fail to trust others
- Difficulty functioning independently
- Chronic illness
- Fall into unhealthy relationships
- Violent in nature
Treatment or Solution
The treatment usually begins when the parentified child grows up and realizes their unhealthy childhood. At this point, they have to seek therapy to cope with the anxiety, insecurities, depression, and stress. The therapy will also help children to deal with parent-child relationships. You may even consider cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, family therapy, yoga and meditation to repair the damage that arises from a bad childhood.