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Parentified children suffer later

UserPost

11:20 am
November 11, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

Robbing your children of childhood
"Parentified" Children Suffer Later
Guest Author, Anne Kass, – a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico

It is common to hear a divorced mother proudly declare that her son has become, "the man of the house." It is also common to hear a divorced father boast about how his daughter has assumed care taking duties in his home such as meal preparation and housework. Extended family members often remark about "how cute" these children's grown-up behavior is.

There is nothing wrong with giving children tasks and chores to do, but when we hear young children declare, "My mommy/daddy needs me," we worry.

Sons who are expected, encouraged or allowed to become the "man of the house" and daughters who are placed in similar grown- up roles are living up-side-down lives. They are taking care of parents when the appropriate role is for parents to take care of the children. Psychologists call these children "parentified." We worry about them because these children tend not to advance through necessary developmental stages.

The developmental tasks of children are numerous. Cognitively, they are acquiring academic knowledge which will allow them to be self-sufficient adults. Emotionally, they are learning to develop relationships and how to balance their individual needs and goals against the needs and goals of others. Socially, they are developing friendships outside the family structure.

Basically, children learn about their world through experience. When they are in a home where the parent is responsible, they are free to explore and make mistakes while having the safety net of the parents to fall back upon. If they are parentified, children feel restricted and unable to freely explore their environment. They worry that they cannot afford to make mistakes. They must be perfect.
The burden is enormous and far too heavy for a child. Children who feel responsible for their parents can become overwhelmed. This can lead to depression or frustration and self-doubt because they feel incompetent to do what is expected of them.

One primary task of childhood is socialization. Learning how to give and take in relationships with peers is critical to successful adult relationships. A parentified child often acts like the boss, so other children avoid them. The child can become isolated from age-appropriate peers and may associate with individuals who are older. This can result in the younger child being manipulated or used by the older person. Parentified children often lead lonely lives and sometimes are hurt when others take advantage of them. Their adult relationships, including marriage, often fail as well.

Perhaps the greatest danger of children assuming grown-up responsibilities is the reality that children who are not allowed to act like children when they are children start to act like children when they are grown-ups.

I can't begin to count the number of divorces I've seen in which one of the spouses seems almost driven to behave irresponsibly. They appear to be sowing wild oats that were unsown before. These grown-up children can be the cause of terrible consequences as they abandon their spouses and children. Sometimes they quit their jobs and ignore their financial responsibilities. The result is chaos.

Parents need to be the caregivers to their children, not the other way around. A parent who uses a child for support is robbing the child of his childhood.

Children need to be children.
Garfield

11:26 am
November 11, 2006


Randomwomen2

New Member

posts -1

Wow hunny that is deep and all so true thank you for posting that.

11:35 am
November 11, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

Thanks Randomwomen

I have been robbed of my childhood, but like my therapist told me. Its never too late to have a happy childhood. One you create yourself.
Thank goodness for that.

I strive everyday to be the parent to my children and NOT the child.

Love

Garfield

12:36 pm
November 11, 2006


mamacinnamon

New Member

posts -1

GARFIELD:

Good info. I didn't know there was a name for it. I grew up takin care of my siblings and the house coz mom was in bed w/ depession. I didn't even know it was wrong until I came here years ago. So, I became the overly responsible adult. Now what? Can you give more info??

1:03 pm
November 11, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

mamacinnamon

I also grew up taking care of my 2 brothers and sister. I can still remember taking care of our youngest brother when he was only 4 months old. I was filled with angiety and remember screeming at :the children:
(my siblings) for everything.

It took long therapy for me to change myself into a adult. As it says in the article.
"Perhaps the greatest danger of children assuming grown-up responsibilities is the reality that children who are not allowed to act like children when they are children start to act like children when they are grown-ups. "

Although nobody would ever say this because I am always over responcible.

You were alse robbed of your childhood it seems. But its never too late.

I will try to get you more info on this.

Just wanted to add

I used to act like the 'therapist" of the family for years. Trying to sort out my brothers and sister. I could see what was happening to them. But I stopped that and consentrated on myself. I did things children do. I took myself back to my childhood. This was very healing. Like just blowing bubbles outside. I needed to be less serious. I got my sense of humour back etc.

Eventually I started to relaxe and enjoy life more.

Garfield

1:55 pm
November 11, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

mamacinnamon

I searched overly responsible adult dhild and came upon the next article.

Will keep in touch tomorrow. Hope you find something for yourself.

Adult Children of Alcoholics
Current research and treatment for alcoholism illustrates the extent of damage alcoholism can cause: it affects those well beyond the alcoholic individual, specifically the members of his or her family. While the majority of children of alcoholics grow up to become healthy, productive adults, a significant number will have difficulties that plague them throughout their lives.
By understanding the characteristics shared by adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs), one can take the first step toward recovery from the emotional and psychological effects of growing up in an alcoholic home.
Roles Played Children of Alcoholics
ACOAs typically have one of two reactions to their upbringing: some put the past behind them and resist the idea of being victims of their parents' addiction, while others are plagued by insecurity, relationship difficulties and substance-abuse problems of their own.
By their own reports, many ACOAs were shaped by similar emotional experiences and displayed common reactions. The anger, uncertainty and deception that can accompany alcoholism can be a galvanizing force in the development of a young child. Author Claudia Black pioneered the concept that distinct personality types develop in alcoholic families. Therapists who work with ACOAs observe that these roles in the family include:
• The family hero: These children feel responsible for maintaining order and normalcy in the home. As adults, they are often outwardly successful but carry with them the strains of growing up too fast. Therapists also use the term parentified child to describe a child who has taken on inappropriate adult responsibilities at a young age.
• The lost child: These children sometimes report an overwhelming sense of parental neglect and often deal with the tough times by disappearing. Their ability to fade into the background may help them avoid pain or mistreatment in the short run. In the long run, however, this coping skill can lead to serious problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
• The scapegoat: Family scapegoats often have trouble in school and frequently are called to the offices of guidance counselors and juvenile-probation officers, thereby drawing attention away from the alcoholic parent. Because an alcoholic uses denial ("I'm not the one with the problem") as a means of continuing destructive drinking, focusing on a family scapegoat distracts attention away from the parent's destructive alcoholic behavior.
• The peacekeeper: These children take on the age-inappropriate role of emotional referee in the battles that rage in alcoholic familes. They often develop an ability to sense trouble brewing and try to smooth things over before the situation blows up. As with the family hero, carrying adult emotional baggage can be extremely stressful for a child or teen. They often take on the burden of their parents' emotional turmoil by neglecting their own emotional needs.
Children can take on more than one of these roles or not exhibit any of these traits. However, when first reading these types, it is common for an ACOA to hear a particular one and say, "That's me!"
Page 1 of 2
Feelings Experienced by ACOAs
According to Janet Geringer Woititz's Adult Children of Alcoholics, ACOAs often:
• Guess at what "normal" behavior is rather than having a good sense of it;
• Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end;
• Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth;
• Are very hard on themselves and have a difficult time relaxing or having fun;
• Take themselves very seriously and have difficulty allowing their needs to be met;
• Have difficulty with intimate relationships and constantly seek approval and affirmation;
• Have a persistent feeling that they are somehow different from other people;
• Overact to changes over which they have no control;
• Are either overly responsible or overly irresponsible;
• Have difficulty relying on others and do not know how to follow;
• Are overly loyal even when confronted with evidence that the loyalty is undeserved; and
• Can be impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsiveness leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment.
Support for ACOAs
If you or someone you know has issues related to being raised by an alcoholic parent, there are several ways to receive help and support:
• Individual or group therapy: Individual therapy can help an ACOA recognize destructive thought patterns and behaviors and replace them with more positive ones. Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses techniques such as positive self-talk to help patients replace "old tapes" with new empowering ones. Group therapy, facilitated by a trained counselor, can have the added benefit of support from others with similar experiences. In either case, make sure your therapist has extensive experience treating the issues of family alcoholism.
• Books and other literature: There have been many important books written on ACOA. Among the classics are Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet Gerringer Woititz, and It Will Never Happen to Me, by Claudia A. Black. Additionally, the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization offers a variety of pamphlets, books and programs.
• Self-help groups for ACOAs: A common first reaction for an adult child taking the first step toward recovery by attending an ACOA meeting is, "I feel like they have been reading my mail!" Finding a good group and working the steps recommended can be a great way to resolve the issues ACOAs face. Experts advise individuals dealing with their own substance-abuse issues to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and seek treatment for their own addiction before addressing their ACOA issues. For a group in your area, contact your employee-assistance program or the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization at http://www.adultchildren.org.
Contributed in part by Dr. Janet Woititz. Permission granted by Health Communications, Inc.
©2002 ComPsych® Corporation. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only. It is always important to consult with the appropriate professional on medical, legal, behavioral or other issues. As you read this information, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facts and ideas apply to your situation.
Page 2 of 2

2:40 pm
November 11, 2006


risingfromtheashes

st regis falls, ny

Member

posts 14

wow, thanks for that.

my mom attempted suicide when I was 11, I found her in a coma on the couch right after xmas break was done.

I spent many years as the woman of the house, taking care of the household responsibilities so she wouldn't have to.

I also became a mom's helper, then babysitter for a family of 3 and took on parenting roles for those kids every weekend when their parents went away.

I see myself in this post.

the good news is, I recognize it and have worked hard to have a childhood during my adulthood – though it's tough when you are also trying to be a parent to your own children.

I think it's reasonable to believe that many of those parentified little girls go on to have children at an early age – and many think having children will solve all their problems (ever watch gerry springer?)

2:47 pm
November 11, 2006


mamacinnamon

New Member

posts -1

Garfield:

Thanks for taking the time to look things up. Hubby is home so I'll have to read later.

I did want to comment on the adult acting like a child. I love a watergun fight w/ the kids or any kind of fun playin/horsin around. Guess I am a big kid at heart. But as you also stated… overly responsible.

Wow overly responsible adult kid. Sounds scarry. Was actually just thinkin… if we could get our kids to act like that at times. (not always).

7:58 pm
November 11, 2006


gracenotes

New Member

posts -1

I am glad this subject is being discussed. It is such a burden to a child to have to take on the problems of their parent or parents and to have to also be a best friend to their parents(s) and listen to all their concerns. A child is not a best friend, a child needs a parent or parentswho care, they feel loved by, and parent(s) who set appropriate boundaries with them. They need this.

A while ago I had a conversation with an eight years old child. He was talking about his mom taking care of grandpa because she wanted title to his house. He was really concerned about the fact that grandpa had dementia, didn't understand that, but he was a little legal expert in discussing mom's legal concerns and property transfers. Scarey. And, this was just an 8 year old kid I started talking to in a school setting, asking him how he was doing.

7:25 am
November 12, 2006


bonni

New Member

posts -1

when do children stop being children and become adults? also, should I feel guilty for asking my kids to help more when i'm sick? I was in bed all day yesterday and asked both girls to bring me more water two or three times throughout the day.

Also, while my dh was in iraq, I had the flu and they had to take care of themselves for two days because I literally could not get out of bed and I had no one I could call. by the end of the week, someone from work called to check on me and brought us food when she realized how sick i was. most of the time, the girls have to be cajoled into doing anything and I'm not sick all the time, just once or twice a year.

just trying to understand where the line is and if i'm wrong for trying to get my 10yo to take on more responsibility, mainly for herself, but for the family too. I don't think its out of line for her to help with common chores. And I've asked her to help devise the budget for our next vacation, mainly to help her math skills, but is it asking too much or too little. really, she hasn't got a good concept of money now.

bonni

1:54 pm
November 12, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

mamacinnamon

I had a good laugh reading your post.

I think if children are allowed to be children they grow into responsible adults.

gracenotes

You said
"It is such a burden to a child to have to take on the problems of their parent or parents and to have to also be a best friend to their parents(s) and listen to all their concerns. A child is not a best friend, a child needs a parent or parentswho care, they feel loved by, and parent(s) who set appropriate boundaries with them. They need this."

These words of yours is a part of the story of my life. I had to parent my mother and I had to be her best friend. It was a living hell. Luckily I am not part of that anymore. Very little contact with her did it for me.

Bonni

You said
"when do children stop being children and become adults?"

Everybody has a child, teenager and adult inside him or her. But we need to know when to let the child out and under what circumstanses or the adult part of us.

Its OK for you to ask your children to help out when you are sick. Thats if they are not like very young and need a adult to help while get better.

O I see you daughter is 10. 10 year olds can be very helpfull, but as a girl she will also be going through her hormonal growth fase.

As long as they know you are the mother. You are in control so that they do not have unwanted worries about food, bills etc. They need to feel secure in that you will provide for them. They need to know you will be there for them when they are sick etc.

Hope this answers some of your questions

Garfield

2:17 pm
November 12, 2006


Zinnie

New Member

posts 1

Garfield,

Something to keep in mind… Judge Anne Kass has a reputation in the Albuq. Judicial system as being something of a "wild card."

She has done things in divorce and child placement hearings that were far fetched and not in the best interest of the children.

There was an investigation of her back in 2002 or 2003 causing most of her cases regarding child custody and divorces to be re-assigned.

I know this as a relative of mine was one of those cases; and in another instance she placed four children (my cousins) back with their extremely abusive father instead of letting the children stay with the grand-parents – who had the means to care for them.

Z.

2:41 pm
November 12, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

Zinnie

This is so sad to hear. Did not know.

For me this article makes sense. It has helped me see things I never realised.

This is just one of hundreds of articles on parentified children. The fundamental issues stay the same no matter who wrote it.

Thanks anyway

Garfield

3:53 pm
November 12, 2006


chelonia mydas

Member

posts 7

Garfield,

Thanks for sharing this. It definately applies to my life and has given me something to look into further.

Bonni,

I have used vurtual vacation budgets when I tutored kids in math (also vurtual Christmas/ Back to School etc. shopping trips). They have a great time planning a vacation or shopping spree and working out the details of a budget. It is a great thing to do with kids who have learned (or are learning) those math skills because it gives them real life application and practice of those skills. The key is that she works with the extra money and is not given the worries of the family's financial troubles. As long as it is a lesson in math skills and she is given only the info she needs for her project and is not given the responsibility of the family buget/bills I think she will be fine.

I took on the role of paying bills and doing the family budget when I was 11/12ish and was constantly worried that we would loose our home/car/stuff because my parents couldn't control their spending. I liked the actual math/puzzel behind the buget- but stressed over the worry that the money I thought I had in the account would be spent on stupid stuff by my parents and we wouldn't have enough to pay the basic bills. In his sober moments my Dad realized what I was doing and would teach me how to manage finances and would sign off on dozens of checks at a time so I could be sure to pay the bills on time. To this day I am still haunted by feelings of financial insecurity eventhough I have no logical reason to feel this way anymore.

I think I would have really enjoyed doing the vacation buget- while my parents handled the worries of the month to month bills.

4:07 pm
November 12, 2006


revelation

New Member

posts -1

I was my parents marriage counsellor…most saturday nights I was up late waiting for them to come home from the pub, I'd have to sort out their "fight".

this was from I was aobut 8 to 12. I don't think I'm the type who would leave a spouse or children or "sow wild oats" however, it did do damage…I felt a failure and gave up on saving their marriage at about 16 and then I became quite numb until I was about 25. It gave me the idea that I could "fix" people…it led me into a relationship with guys who needed to be "fixed" I am still struggling to not be attracted to messed-up people, and its harder than you would think. So, yeh, it does untold damage…in fact I am honestly wondering if I actually should ever have kids, because it seems that their are more wrong things you can do than right!

4:46 pm
November 12, 2006


Zinnie

New Member

posts 1

Hi Garfield,

The article has merit – that is to be sure. I'm sorry… it was just that when I saw her name attached to it – I just about fell out of the chair.

I know mine is not the only family this particular Judge has done a wonderful job of helping to ruin. Perhaps she has even learned from some of what she has seen as the outcome of her decisions and this helped in writing an article that makes sense?

Z.

8:07 pm
November 12, 2006


bonni

New Member

posts -1

Thanks Chelonia,
It will be a tight budget, but only because i'm very frugal. she doesn't worry about our bills and stuff. i've worked hard to put us in a place where I don't worry. We live far below our means most of the time. you never know what tomorrow will bring.

bonni

3:02 pm
November 14, 2006


lolli

New Member

posts -1

hi everyone… there is a name for a similar condition. it is called "enmeshment" and/or "emotional incest."

it is a particular type of the parentified syndrome where the child becomes the adult's confidante and is given emotional info that is too much for their age (along with all the external responsibilities you mentioned).

it also has grave repercussions for all the NON "chosen" children in the family too, which can explain why many "chosen" children have extremely resentful and/or troubled siblings.

the book, "the emotional incest syndrome" has helped me tremendously.

hugs everybody…

6:08 am
November 19, 2006


garfield9547

New Member

posts -1

chelonia mydas

You said

I took on the role of paying bills and doing the family budget when I was 11/12ish and was constantly worried that we would loose our home/car/stuff because my parents couldn't control their spending. I liked the actual math/puzzel behind the buget- but stressed over the worry that the money I thought I had in the account would be spent on stupid stuff by my parents and we wouldn't have enough to pay the basic bills. In his sober moments my Dad realized what I was doing and would teach me how to manage finances and would sign off on dozens of checks at a time so I could be sure to pay the bills on time. To this day I am still haunted by feelings of financial insecurity eventhough I have no logical reason to feel this way anymore.

I think I would have really enjoyed doing the vacation buget- while my parents handled the worries of the month to month bills."

Paying bills and doing a FAMILY budget as a 11 or 12 year old is sooooo parentified. This is definately too much emotional responsibility for such a young child.The constant worry you had because your parents could not control their spending. Parentified.
So your dad signed the cheques and you made sure the bills got paid.

You were the parent in the house. Your parents were the children.

Sorry to hear this. So sad this happens to so many children. Its good to get knowledge on the subject. Knowledge is power and it helps us to not to this to our children. Break the circle.

Zinnie

Thanks for your reply. I get you.

Bonni

"she doesn't worry about our bills and stuff. i've worked hard to put us in a place where I don't worry. "

Your child does not worry about bills and stuff. Then you have your answer. Well done on working hard so your children can emotionally be children.

Lolli

"hi everyone… there is a name for a similar condition. it is called "enmeshment" and/or "emotional incest."

it is a particular type of the parentified syndrome where the child becomes the adult's confidante and is given emotional info that is too much for their age (along with all the external responsibilities you mentioned)."

Thanks for mentioning this. It gives me chills to read your words on – becomes the adult's confidante and is given emotional info that is too much for their age. WOW that takes me back some years as a child when that happened.

Thanks to everybody

Garfield

6:26 am
December 20, 2013


chrisrayholmes

New Member

posts 0

Hi everyone,

This is all very revealing and relatible, I'm 23, and still going though this, my mum constantly needs help with money, someone to talk to and other general stuff, recently come across this while studying my child psychology degree. It great to read this thread as I don't feel like I'm the only one going through this and finding it difficult to 'cut the ties'

 

Didn't know if anyone on here had anymore advice, I'm a male nanny so my job, which I love helps me to 'be a child' so I have that part covered, the biggest problem is saying no or putting my foot down and staying consistent as I feel guilty and ashamed of myself for doing it to my family, but I want my own life,

I'm aware of the issues and I'm getting much better at dealing with it but any advice is much appreciated

 

Thanks everyone above for sharing,

 

Chrisrayholmes

3:09 am
December 21, 2013


onedaythiswillpass

Member

posts 1065

I have raised many people & children in my life thus far.  At times I wanted to, at times I felt I had no choice.  When I could no longer do it, I tried to let go, sometimes with success, sometimes with failure.  Mine was not of a financial advisor or bill payer.  I have always been the emotional advisor/responsible parent.

Today I single parent three teenagers and have pretty much raised them since the youngest was born.  My ex husband is an adult child of an A.  He has pieces within himself that are still a teenager, but he tries once in a while to be more than just a friend to his children.  It's very hard for him to discipline.  When we became separated he never paid his own bills & spiraled into banckruptcy by mismanaging his money and turning to addictions.  I remember seeing stacks of bills unopened in his home.  Often I see him as a scared little boy with whom I created three sons.

With my children I am overly responsible on purpose.  My eldest sometimes takes the role of being a mini friend/dad to his youngest brother, but he never assumes the role of father of the house.  I am the Mother & the Father, but they still acknowledge that they have a Father who is trying to grow up.  He works, but he does not want to.  He refuses to settle down I think because real life is overwhelming for him both financially and emotionally.  My Mother passed away a few years ago & she was my parent on some issues & I was hers on others.  Perhaps we were just friends.  I don't really know what a parent represents for myself except for the parent I have tried to be to my children and to myself.  My Father is elderly and has never ever been a parent nor was he much of a husband to my Mother.

This is a terribly sad cycle & I pray that my children have enough time to be children before they have children.  Perhaps some will decide not to have children at all.

Because I always assume the role of the parent, rarely have I achieved my goals for myself & I have always made romantic relationship choices to be with men who are adult children.  At least now I am aware of this.

For the most part, I like to be the caregiver, but sometimes I crave someone to take care of me.

 

One day


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