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Parentification is a term used to define the role reversal between parent and child.

This means that a child is forced to act as a parent to his or her parent. A child will become the emotional support system and/ or caretaker for their parent in a parentified relationship. Obviously, this process can have significant short and long-term effects on the development and growth of a child. The reasons behind a parentified relationship will differ. The dynamics that occur in a young person’s life during adolescence greatly affect and can shape how they function as adults. It is important to the well-being of the parentified person to learn that this dynamic is detrimental to their growth and can significantly affect subsequent relationships. Young people that have endured parentification were subject to the stunting of emotional growth that is meant to occur during one’s adolescence.

Short Term Effect

There is a myriad of short-term effects that occur because of parentification. Adolescence is an overwhelming time in a young person’s life. It is a time that requires significant outside support, especially from a teen’s parents. If a young person is put into a position where he or she must support the emotional needs of his or her parent, that leaves little room for the teen to allocate time to emotionally grow and personally develop. This can result in an inability to relate to age-appropriate peers, affecting one’s social development and friendships. Additionally, it places intense pressure on a young person, forced to rise to the occasion to emotionally and in some cases physically care for their parent or parents. This can lead to poor hygiene practices, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and possibly dangerous consequences (e.g., a young person using an oven or stove incorrectly and without supervision). Parentification also robs a young person of the chance to behave and feel like a carefree child, which can create a distorted sense of self. Overcoming parentification and its effects is possible with proper assistance.

Treatment

Parentified child treatment and working with a mental health professional can help a young person navigate and overcome the effects of parentification. A customized treatment plan that is developed by the providing clinician will ensure the unique needs of the child are properly addressed. Treatment plans could include a variety of psychotherapeutic modalities, such as attachment-based therapy, family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Specifically, due to the nature of the DBT format, it is among the most included types of therapy in treatment plans for a parentified child. It offers both the ability to provide personalized therapeutic support through the individual therapy sessions, as well as peer support through the DBT skills group sessions. Working with a psychodynamic therapist who is trained in early childhood development and is knowledgeable about repeated patterns and relational identity can be advantageous. Through treatment, an individual will learn effective methods to integrate and manage difficult emotions and life challenges, skills that should have been learned during one’s adolescence. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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