• nataliecherrix

Is Your Child Parentified?

Parentification isn't a word that most people are familiar with. For one, it's not a word you'll find in the dictionary. It is a term created by psychologists to describe what can happen to a child when not parented appropriately. Parentification is the process of a child becoming "parentified", which is the role reversal of parent and child. The child begins to take on responsibilities that should belong to the parent, essentially because the parent is neglecting to be a parent. A parentified child takes over duties or tasks such as cooking and cleaning (beyond age appropriate chores), caring for younger siblings, or even paying bills. This type of parentification, of completing physical tasks, is called instrumental parentification. In families with more than one child, it is often the eldest child that falls into this role. Emotional parentification is the second type, and the most damaging to a child's development. It involves a child or adolescent taking on an emotionally supportive role for a parent, becoming the parent's confidant. Boundaries are crossed by the parent when too much information is shared with the child about adult matters. This is common especially when parents divorce and one parent leans on a child for support or to fill an emotional void. It is also common in families where domestic violence is taking place. In extreme cases, emotional parentification can go a step further to "spousification" - the process of a child becoming a surrogate spouse to their parent, though not necessarily in a sexual way. Both types of parentification cause a child to mature far too early and lose their childhood. Later in life, this can lead to resentment, anger, and difficulty forming healthy relationships in adulthood. Children have only 17 years to enjoy the freedoms of childhood, but the rest of their lives to experience being a parent, to their own children. Be in no hurry to parentify them!

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© 2017-2020 by Natalie A Cherrix, LCSW

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