Parentification is a term unfamiliar to many parents. As a result, many fail to recognize when it happens to their children.
It may seem to be nothing more than the normal contribution to a household to many. This is how so many justify it. However, parentification may leave life-long scars on children.
What is parentification?
It is hardly abnormal for children to perform small chores around the house or watch their younger siblings now and then for a short period. However, there exists a line. Beyond this line lies parentification, the forcing of adult parental responsibilities upon children.
It may take the form of the child becoming effectively the “parent” by taking on all parental responsibilities full-time, including doing all household chores, ensuring the payment of bills, getting siblings ready for school, feeding them, making sure their homework is complete and forms signed, essentially raising them. It may also manifest as the parent turning the child into an emotional support outlet as if he or she is a replacement for a spouse. The parent may dump adult worries on the child frequently, making him or her mediate or act as a confidante.
What are the consequences of parentification?
Parentified children may suffer anxiety and depression, even harboring suicidal thoughts. Their troubles may carry on into adulthood, where they may experience relationship difficulties, an increased risk of developing mental illness or substance abuse issues, a need for perfection or to please others or problems in forming boundaries among other problems.
The role reversal involved in parentification robs children of their childhood and may psychologically damage them. They may be audience to subjects not appropriate for their maturity level, twisting their development. Parents who worry their ex-spouses parentify their children may need to investigate further for the sake of their children’s overall well-being.