Adults are generally aware that children are ill-equipped to deal with many circumstances. Unfortunately, some parents make a habit of asking their child to support them during tough adult-level crises.
It’s called “parentification,” and it could cause lasting emotional problems.
Evolution explains why children can become a source of emotional support for their parents even when they shouldn’t. Though children are often accused of being selfish, they’re actually naturally empathetic. A study shows that babies get stressed when they hear other babies cry, but that doesn’t mean children and babies have the tools necessary to help adults deal with their problems.
Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Aaron Anderson is quoted in the article with these choice words,
“If you teach children to be available whenever you’re having an emotional breakdown, they will be, whereas another adult wouldn’t.
It’s not a conscious effort to exploit their kids but parents think, It’s so much easier to talk to my child; they care for me and they give me a hug when I’m feeling down.”
Parents who treat their children well (i.e. don’t subject them to verbal or physical abuse) may think that asking their child to comfort them isn’t a problem. In fact, children who act as parents to their parents are actually more likely to put others’ needs before their own in future relationships.
Children may grow up to be immature emotionally because they constantly have to support their parents and face pressure to ignore their own personal growth.
Some ways to avoid parentifying include…
- Having a trusted group of adult friends to lean on.
- Being honest with your child when things aren’t going well
- Having clear boundaries about your expectations.
For example, it’s perfectly fine to clarify financial pressures, expect children to do chores, and ensure they grow up to respect others. This doesn’t mean that the family’s fate rests on them alone.
Now that we’ve gone over the different issues that this causes… what are your thoughts? Do you have useful ways parents can find support so they won’t have to resort to this type of behavior?
Share your opinion in the comments!