February 9, 2023
Parentification: What Can Happen If Someone Had To Meet Their Caregivers Needs?

Parentification is a term used to describe a child taking on an inappropriate level of responsibility for meeting the needs of others, often their care-givers, to the detriment of their own needs. It is a phenomenon seen most often in dysfunctional households, particularly those with single parents who struggle to cope with the demands of life.

When a child is parentified, they may feel obligated to fill the role of caregiver and/or parent to a parent, sibling or other family member, taking up the responsibility of not just looking after themselves, but providing emotional and sometimes physical care for another. This can be both a physical and emotional burden for the child, and can take an immense toll on their emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.

When an adult has been parentified as a child, it can have far-reaching and devastating effects on their own children. As adults, those surviving parentification may find themselves desperately wanting to protect their own children from the same emotional burden and chaos that they experienced, sometimes to the detriment of the child’s emotional health. They may become overly controlling, enforcing strict rules and standards, or they may be emotionally unavailable, never emotionally engaging in their child’s life.

It is essential that parents, who have experienced parentification in childhood, seek out professional help to heal the wounds of their own childhoods, so that they can be better able to share in the joys of parenting without passing on painful legacies. After all, a healthy, secure and open childhood should be the right of every child, and parentification should never stand in the way of that.

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