According to Maggie Olivares, a social worker who’s dealt with many parentified kids, anger is another byproduct that comes from missing out on a carefree childhood. When they’re adults, they look back on all the years when they had too much responsibility and too little fun and are resentful. They struggle to maintain a relationship with the mom or dad who parentified them and may even choose to end it.
To this day, I have tremendous anger toward my mother for using me as her marital therapist. It turned out that my father was never having an affair and it was all in my mom’s head, triggered by her deep insecurity. When my dad and she grew closer again after years of being distant, she unceremoniously dumped me. I was no longer needed as her confidant and ally. My relationship with my father had been annihilated years before that so I was left with nobody.
Fortunately, I’ve forgiven my mother and moved on with my life, but I still find it difficult to trust people. In the back of my mind, I’m worried about being used again. I often see friendships as depleting rather than energizing. While my mother has apologized for talking badly to me about my dad, she certainly hasn’t owned up to how she turned me into a parentified child and caused disastrous effects in my life.
Continue reading “The Parentified Child and Anger”
Parentification occurs when a child is forced to switch roles with their mom or dad, taking on the job of caretaker in the relationship. They may do this in an emotional way: listening to the parent’s problems, giving them comfort, and offering advice. They may also do it in a physical way: cleaning the house, taking care of siblings, making meals, and even paying bills. Youngsters often become parentified when their mom or dad is an alcoholic, a drug user, disabled, divorced, or mentally ill. Continue reading “What Does Parentified Mean?”
Parentification is when a child is forced to take on the role of an adult. Many children get pushed into the role of caretaker for their younger siblings or become the referee in their parent’s arguments. When caregivers aren’t able to fully show up for themselves, children get put into developmentally inappropriate situations.
Parentification occurs across a spectrum and there are different levels of hurt that may develop. There are also qualities that arise through parentification that may benefit you in certain areas of your life, like being responsible or a great caregiver. It’s not all bad, but it has the potential to become catastrophic for a child and their adult self. We have to find the right balance between responsibility and structure, play and fun.
Kids that were parentified often need inner child work. They usually struggle with having fun and are easily pulled into the caretaker role. Their worth is often tied directly to what they can provide to others and how “good” they are. Structure typically feels safer to them than play or improvisation.
Signs that you were parentified as a child
- Grew up feeling like you had to be responsible
- Trouble with play or “letting loose”
- Like to feel in control
- Pulled into arguments or issues between caregivers
- Felt like you were given responsibilities that were not appropriate for someone your age
- Often compliments for being “so good” and “so responsible”
- May feel that being self-reliant is better than trying to trust others
- Don’t really remember “being a kid”
- Parents had trouble caring for themselves or others and placed the responsibility on you
- Often find yourself becoming a caregiver for others
- Being a caretaker feels good, even when you are sacrificing parts of yourself
- Heightened sense of empathy and an ability to more closely connect with others
- Feel like you need to be the peacemaker
- Feel like your efforts aren’t appreciated
If you relate to any of the signs on this list, it might be helpful to get in touch with your inner child and allow yourself to experience that part of you. The playful part of the inner child is usually the part that gets crushed through parentification. This part wants to have spontaneous fun and live free from guilt or anxiety. Continue reading “How to heal your “inner child.””
Trainee Prize Award Winner
Psychopathology and theconceptualisation of mental disorder:The debate around the inclusion of Parental Alienation in DSM-5
Content and Focus:
This paper will briefly consider the general conceptualisation of mental disorder before focusing on the specific case of Parental Alienation (PA), variously termed a disorder or a syndrome.By virtue of the recent debate surrounding its potential inclusion in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this is a topical example. A critical analysis of the petition for its inclusion within DSM-5 will both highlight the range of professionals’ views, and also consider ethical and practical issues inherent in the conceptualisation of a mental disorder and its classification within the evolving DSM. Following this general and specific conceptualisation of mental disorder, the tensions that diagnosis raises for counselling psychology will be briefly deliberated. The positive aspects of classification and diagnosis will be acknowledged, whilst highlighting the focus on the subjective experience of individual clients.
Despite the controversy about the concept, validity and reliability of PA, the evidence suggests that there is more agreement than disagreement among practitioners and professionals in the field. Whilst there is a general consensus that alienation exists within a distinct population who would benefit from intervention, there is no consensus on its inclusion in DSM-5. Irrespective of its inclusion in any nosology,the recent debate has highlighted the need for further research. A greater understanding of the processes,symptoms and behaviours involved in PA will enable the needs of children and families involved in high- conflict separation to be better addressed.
Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap infringe upon the rights of the child to know of its parentage and also exposes the child to potential emotional difficulties in later life, if the child is ever reconciled with the truth. Parental Alienation and Parental Kidnap serves only the emotional desires and wishes [not needs] of the custodial spouse, over the rights, needs and well-being of both the child and of the absent spouse and so, this is not prioritising the protection and the well-being of the child and is therefore in our opinion, a direct form of legalised child abuse.
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When caregivers conflict, systemic alliances shift and healthy parent-child roles can be corrupted. The present paper describes three forms of role corruption which can occur within the enmeshed dyad and as the common complement of alienation and estrangement. These include the child who is prematurely promoted to serve as a parent’s ally and partner, the child who is inducted into service as the parent’s caregiver, and the child whose development is inhibited by a parent who needs to be needed. These dynamics—adultification, parentification and infantilization, respectively—are each illustrated with brief case material. Family law professionals and clinicians alike are encouraged to conceptualize these dynamics as they occur within an imbalanced family system and thereby to craft interventions which intend to re-establish healthy roles. Some such interventions are reviewed and presented as one part of the constellation of services necessary for the triangulated child.
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