By: Colleen Andre, LMHC
At this point of your life it has finally dawned on you that you did not have a childhood. Instead, you suffered parentification (a process of a role reversal where a child plays the parent to themselves or to their parent). Having fun and feeling carefree as a kid was not an option for you. The question now is what do you do after you suffered parentification as a child?
Here are 4 steps on what to do after parentification:
Step #1: Acknowledge it happened.
First, it is important to recognize you were parentified. Do not deny parentification or minimize it! Being parentified is not a small thing. My previous article, “Parenting My Parent | Understanding Parentification”, mentions the negative consequences.
Essentially, you were robbed of a childhood! You had to grow up really fast and take on responsibilities and roles you were not meant to have. Take some time to let it sink in.
Step #2: Notice how parentification affects your life:
Take a closer look at your own life. Often times, parentification can lead you to play the role of compulsive caretaker for other people. Are you seeing dependent friends & family members who cannot seem to do anything without you? Or, do you constantly feel a heavy sense of responsibility/burden to help others? These are some examples of how parentification can affect your life.
Then again, maybe the situation above is not your case. Instead, take a closer look at your children. Would you describe them as very mature for their age or wise beyond their years? In addition, do you share almost everything with your kids (financial problems, relationship issues, etc), just like your parents once did with you? Maybe the cycle of parentification is occurring with your little ones. If the cycle is occurring, then take a look at “Preventing Parentification” as a way to stop it.
Step #3: Evaluate the past
Furthermore, you cannot move forward and build a new future without looking at and learning from the past. Take a look at how your parents treated you or how you ended up in the overly responsible role.
Secondly, grieve what was taken from you instead of just analyzing it. Sometimes looking at the past can be the most difficult step. Professional guidance from counselors can be incredibly helpful to support and process with you during this step.
Step #4: Learning to re-parent yourself
Lastly, re-parent your childhood self. The child within that was shoved in the corner when you were younger is still there. Their needs, wants, and desires were previously overshadowed by others.
Now is the time to care for your inner little one. Your kid self never had the opportunity to come out, but he or she was also neglected. Use this time with professionals to help re-parent the child who was parentless.
All in all, it can be shocking to learn that your experiences as a teen or child were not the norm. All the responsibilities, pressures, and burdens led to the absence of fun, inability to make mistakes, and lack of freedom. It is important to follow these steps above to help you know what to do if you suffered parentification as a child. What happened to your past can affect your present, but it does not have to dictate who you are in the present or your future.
If you are struggling with the aftermath of parentification and want additional support for change, call Life Counseling Solutions today at 407-622-1770.
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.