Tag Archives: parentalization

What Happens To Adults Whose Parents Put Too Much Responsibility On Them As Children

Many abusive parents put too much responsibility &/or inappropriate responsibility on the shoulders of their children. Sadly children in these situations are often oblivious to just how wrong this is.  They feel responsible for their parents, even when they become adults.  They may feel anger at their parents periodically, but that anger is quickly pushed away as the feeling of responsibility takes over.  If this describes your situation, today’s post is for you.

Are you the one who takes care of everyone in your relationships?  Somehow you end up taking care of others with whom you are in a relationship.  You bend over backwards for them, giving them too much of your time & energy while receiving little or nothing in return.  This behavior comes from being forced into an adult role as a child.  It programmed you to be a caregiver in your relationships, lacking healthy boundaries.

Are you afraid to tell people you are in relationship with no?  Are you willing to compromise or give too much of yourself to appease others rather than risk upsetting people?  This survival skill stems from childhood.  It comes lacking the choice to say no as a child, from having to please your parents to prevent them from abusing you & to get them to meet your needs.

Do you continually find yourself in relationships with friends or romantic partners who are toxic & demanding?  This happens often with people who were abused as children.  They don’t know what it is like to have someone treat them well.  They naturally gravitate to toxic people because their behavior is familiar.

As you grew up, did you rush into traditional landmarks of growing up, avoid them or some combination of both?  For example, maybe you couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license & got it as soon as you legally could, yet didn’t move out of your parents’ home at an appropriate age.

Do you feel excessively protective of your parent?  If someone says something about them that is less than positive, are you quick to jump to your parent’s defense without even considering that maybe there is some truth in what this person said?  Or, if your parents have disagreements, are you quick to take the side of one parent over the other?

If any of these describe you, you probably were a victim of parentification.

Parentification is common with narcissistic parents.  It describes the situation where parents treat their children as their partners & caregivers instead of children.  They force their children into this role, which causes them to accept not only too much responsibility for a child to bear, but completely inappropriate responsibility.  The result of such behavior causes this abused child to have very skewed views of their roles in relationships.  They often become caregivers for the people with whom they are in relationships.  They can go in the other direction as well, refusing to do for others because, although they don’t realize it, they are burned out on taking care of people because of their parent.  Other people’s needs feel incredibly burdensome to them, so they quickly feel suffocated.  Either way, their relationships in adulthood are far from healthy.

If this describes you, then I would urge you today to learn all you can about parentification.  It also is known as parentalization, emotional incest & covert incest.  I’ve written a book on the topic, & it’s available on my website, http://www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com. The more you learn, the better your chances of breaking free of the bad patterns your parent taught you.  Also, learn about healthy boundaries & what healthy relationships are truly like.

Most of all, I recommend you turn to God.  Ask Him to show you the truth & to help you to be healthier.  He will be more than happy to help you & He won’t let you down!

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Subtle Signs Of Dysfunctional, Abusive Families

No family is perfect, but some families are less perfect than others.  Many of those “less perfect” families are downright dysfunctional & even abusive.  Today I’m sharing signs of the dysfunctional & abusive family.

Parentification is a big indicator of a dysfunctional & abusive family situation.  This is when the parent & child roles are reversed, & the child is supposed to care for the parent.  Children in this position are supposed to do things no child should have to do, such as being their parent’s emotional caregiver including such inappropriate things as listening to their parent’s woes about their marital problems or sex life, nurse them back to health after a hangover or overdose, or even care for younger siblings as a parent should do.  Parentified children are often described as growing up so fast because their role has forced them to behave as adults rather than allowing them to be children.  They also lack healthy boundaries, tolerate one sided relationships & continue to keep their parents as their top priority over their spouse, children & even themselves.  When they are growing up, people on the outside often think these children & their parents are close, & praise this relationship.  This leads the child to feel confused & even ashamed that they are unhappy with this role.

Unmet needs are another sign of a dysfunctional, abusive family situation.  Children have a lot of needs that go beyond the basic food, clothing & shelter such as nurturing, teaching & caring for their emotional health.  Many abusive parents meet those basic needs, yet neglect those other important needs.  Children who grow up this way have trouble with being inappropriately clingy in relationships & overly dependent or they go the opposite way & become very cold & aloof.  Either way causes problems in their relationships.

Unrealistic expectations definitely point to a dysfunctional & abusive family.  Some parents hold their children to higher standards than adults.  Those children are never allowed to be in a bad mood or fail a test, yet their parents are allowed to yell or even hit the child just because they had a bad day at work or someone cut them off in traffic.  This puts incredible stress on the child who feels they must be perfect as a way to earn their parent’s love.

Parents who often fight in front of their child are creating a very dysfunctional & abusive situation.  I grew up this way, & can tell you from experience it is a horrible way to grow up!  I felt so insecure when my parents fought & also like I should do something to help them stop fighting.  This is so typical of how children in this situation feel.  It leads to these children feeling intense anxiety at any hint of conflict & also feeling overly responsible for the other people in their lives, as if they must take care of those people.

People who grow up in such environments grow into dysfunctional adults with a lot of relationship troubles.  They may become controlling people who will do anything or hurt anyone they deem necessary to avoid further pain.  More commonly though, they also may go the exact opposite way & become extremely submissive.  They become people pleasers who will do anything for anyone even at the expense of themselves. 

If any of this describes you, please remember some things.

You are only responsible for yourself.  You are not responsible for meeting the needs of other people.  Yes, you can help them, but doing so to the extent of harming yourself is dysfunctional. 

There is nothing wrong or bad about caring for yourself & having reasonable boundaries.  You need to take care of yourself just as much as & even more than you are willing to do for other people.

Family shouldn’t demand all of your time, energy, finances, etc.

Healthy relationships are a two way street.  Toxic relationships are not.  They take while giving nothing or almost nothing back.

Love should be unconditional, never conditional.  In other words, someone should love you based on who you are, not what you do for them.  Conditional love is one of the hallmarks of abusers.

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Feeling Burdened By Others After Growing Up With An Emotionally Incestuous/Enmeshed/Parentalizing Parent

Growing up with a parent who treats you more as their romantic partner rather than their child is extremely traumatic.  It is referred to as emotional incest, enmeshment, covert incest, parentalizing & parentification, & it’s a form of sexual abuse whether or not sexual contact is a part of this abuse.  It creates a LOT of serious problems in the lives of victims.  Today, we will focus on only one of those problems – feeling burdened by other people.

The person who grows up with an emotionally incestuous parent has spent their entire life focused on their parent.  Their parent is their top priority in childhood, & even into adulthood until they recognize this is a problem.  They listen to their parent’s woes (in particular about their marriage or relationship), they try to cheer them up when they are sad, fix their problems, protect them if the other parent is abusive, & basically anything else their parent wants them to do no matter the personal cost.  After a lifetime of this dysfunctional caregiving, it is natural to feel burned out on doing for other people.  The problem is that natural or not, it is damaging to other relationships.

No one wants to be in a relationship with another person that is totally one sided.  Whatever type of relationship this is, whether it is romantic, family or friendship, this type of relationship is miserable & dysfunctional.  Doing with receiving nothing in return is fine once in a while, but when it is the norm, it is depressing, will lead to a lot of resentment & most likely the relationship will end.

Similarly, no one wants to be married to someone knowing that their parent always will be more important to them, that the demanding parent’s needs always come first, that they are looked at as an intruder & feeling like anything they want from their spouse is a huge burden while anything the parent wants is done without complaint.  It is a miserable way to live, & the majority of people will divorce a spouse like this.

If you are a victim of emotional incest, please know that by continuing to tolerate this abuse from your parent, this is what you are doing to those people in relationships with you.  I am not telling you this to hurt you, only to open your eyes of the damage being done & the unfairness of it all.  People who love you don’t deserve to feel this way.  It’s not fair to them.  It also is not fair to you for your parent to treat you so badly & for that parent to do so much harm to you that you are damaging relationships with people you love. 

And, if you are still in this situation with your parent, please do your best to put an end to it.  Start setting limits & boundaries on what you will & won’t tolerate from your parent.  It can be intimidating to do this at first so start small.  Don’t take their call or reply to their text right away.  It’s a baby step that helps you to take back some of your power.  Do more & bigger things as you feel able to do them.  It may take some time, but you will become able to stop tolerating their behavior.  The more you do this, the less burdened you will feel in general, which means the more you will be able to give back in your relationships.

Get to know yourself better.  Chances are, you didn’t have much time for that because caring for your parent took up too much of your time.  It’s long overdue.  Get to know the real you, not the person your parent wants you to be.  It’ll help you in many ways, including learning what you are willing & unwilling to tolerate in the relationship with your parent.

Get angry about what your parent has done to you.  You have every reason to be angry, because treating anyone this way is simply cruel & wrong!  You never deserved it!  Allow yourself to feel that anger & vent it in healthy ways like prayer, talking to someone close to you, journaling, or even talking to a therapist.

And never forget that you do have one loving parent.  God is the most loving parent you could hope to have.  Talk to Him about what is going on.  Lean on him to help you heal, figure out the best way to handle this relationship with your abusive parent, & to help heal damaged relationships.  He absolutely will do it.

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No Child’s Job Is To Heal The Parent(s)

Emotional incest, covert incest, parentification & parentalizing.  All describe the same abusive behavior & a topic I’ve written about before.  When a parent treats their child as an equal rather than their child, expecting that child to listen to their woes, tales of marital discord, details of their sex life, &/or expecting their child to care for them in ways such as cooking & cleaning for them well beyond what is age appropriate, it damages the child psychologically.  The child in this situation often grows up anxious, depressed, lacking healthy relationship skills, feels guilt for things they aren’t responsible for & may even have issues with addiction.  Often at the very least, they choose very poorly suited romantic partners.

Sadly, parentalizing is barely discussed in a negative light.  Many people see a child & her parent behaving in this way & praise their “close” or “loving” relationship.  They even tell the child how lucky she is to have a mom who loves her so much, how she has to be strong for her mom or other similar comments.  And, when the child, no matter the age, does something that upsets her parent or *gasp* thinks of herself first, she is labeled unappreciative, selfish, a spoiled brat & more.  This lays even more unnecessary guilt on that child, & it is absolutely unfair!

Let’s get one thing straight.  No one is responsible for anyone else’s emotions.  Yes, someone you love can make you feel happy, sad, angry, etc. sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they are in control of your emotions.  YOU ARE!  This is especially true for children.  Children need to be children, not their parent’s emotional caregiver!

When a parent is abandoned by someone they love, & the only person close to them is their child, it can be understandable they reach out to their child for comfort & companionship.  That doesn’t make it right, though!  Children are growing up – that is enough responsibility on their little shoulders!

Children also didn’t ask to be born.  It’s not their fault if the parents couldn’t maintain a healthy & loving relationship.  Making the child feel that they must step into the role of that other parent is cruel, abusive & unfair!

If you grew up in this sort of situation, my heart goes out to you.  I am so sorry for the pain & suffering you have been through.  Having been there myself I know it is a miserable situation.

If it is still happening, you’re going to have to set some serious boundaries with your parent.  Change the subject as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable.  Tell your parent you’re leaving or hanging up the phone if she insists on talking about your other parent that way, then follow through with your threat if need be.

Whether the abuse is still happening or not, you’re going to need to heal from the damage done.  Pray.  Get angry.  Cry.  Remind yourself what was done to you was unfair & undeserved.  Write in a journal.  Talk to a trusted friend or therapist.  Do whatever helps you to heal!

You can heal from the effects of emotional incest.  It takes time & work, but it can be done.  xoxo

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Emotional Incest, Covert Incest, Parentification, Parentalization

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Parentalizing & The Shame It Causes

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