The Parentified Child: When Stepkids Are Forced to Grow Up Too Fast
by Brenda Snyder, LCSW
When an intact family system reorganizes by death or divorce, every family member makes adjustments to the new structure. Unfortunately for the children, the adults are often so steeped in their own emotional pain that they are oblivious— through no real fault of their own—to the unhealthy accommodations their kids wind up making. While this is certainly not optimal for the adults, it can be devastating to the emotional health of their children.
It can be quite common, in one-parent families, for a child to hear that he or she is now the man or woman of the house.
Well-meaning relatives might even encourage the child to attend to his or her own needs and to help out more around the house. Children, in this situation, can easily come to the conclusion that it is now their responsibility to fill in for the absent parent.
Yet, as is noted by Patricia K. Kerig, PhD, these situations make it difficult to tell who’s the child and who’s the parent. …To read the rest of this article, log in to your account and download the November 2016 issue. Don’t have an account? Click here to subscribe.