If you read my earlier article Parenting my parent, “I thought I was the child?” | Understanding Parentification, you are familiar with the dangers of parentification. Parentification is when a role reversal occurs when a child is forced into the role of a parent for themselves or their parent.

Many consequences occur when a child is forced into an unnatural adult role and are robbed of childhood. Some emotional consequences include feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, and anger. The responsibilities of an adult are meant for the life experiences and maturity of an adult.

When adult responsibilities are placed onto a child, the child is overwhelmed and experience stressors beyond their coping abilities. Often times, parentification occurs to a child when a parent undergoes a separation or divorce.

Here are 4 tips to preventing parentification with your child after a separation or divorce:

Reassure your child:

It is important to reassure your child during the season of transitioning from a separation or divorce. Transitioning can be difficult and at certain times financially straining. Often, children will want to take on the responsibility by helping you or the family.

Reassure your child that you are taking care of the concerns or stressors as the parent. Encourage your child to focus on their responsibilities such as school or chores or to engage in play/social activities.

Be careful not to make remarks that require your kids to grow up too soon:

Refrain from saying comments such as “You are now the man of the house … or You need to step up now…”: As the parent, it is important to give your child the freedom to be a child and not to ask them, intentionally or unintentionally, to fill an adult role.

Do not make your child your main confidant:

It is important you are receiving support during this season but your child should not be your new best friend, therapist, etc. Opening up about emotional hurts, financial issues, or daily stressors to your child can overwhelm and burden them to problem-solve your situation.

The best advice about relationship issues or financial planning should not be coming from your child. It is important to receive the right care but from appropriate people such as family, friends, or even divorce support groups.

Allow your child to be a child:

As new responsibilities build up for you especially as a single parent it is important to not pass on your duties to your child. Also, do not let your child inadvertently take on all roles either such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of your other children.

Receive support from outside sources to relieve you from overwhelming tasks. Your child can take on new responsibilities but it is important to not let those tasks overshadow their own self-care.

As a parent, the most important thing you want is for your child to flourish, succeed, and be happy. The last thing you want is to hurt your child unintentionally. It is important to be aware of your own actions especially in a difficult seasons such as a separation or divorce. It is important to not only care for your child but also for yourself.

If you identified with any of these issues then call today at 407-622-1770 to make a counseling appointment with me. Or book your first appointment here!

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Colleen headshotAbout Colleen: Colleen values the importance of a comfortable and non-judgmental atmosphere. At the heart of her work, she seeks to create a safe environment in which clients can feel at ease while working through life’s difficulties. Her specialty is working with women and adolescents struggling with anxiety, trauma or past pain, and life transitions. She also enjoys assisting those facing multicultural or race-related issues. Colleen is dedicated to equipping clients with practical skills, so they can better manage and reduce symptoms to live a happier and healthier life. See Colleen’s full bio here.

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