My parents divorced when I was 11 years old and before that our household was really toxic, my sister and I were never heard by our parents and their main focus was fighting each other (this probably went on for two years). I feel like I’ve been throught parentification (idk if that’s how you say it) because are emotions and needs were definitely neglected and whenever they actually paid attention to us I had to be on both sides so that I didn’t offend them (specifically my dad). After they divorced my dad talked about it to me all the time: complaining about the situation, being kinda upset about it and complaining about my mum. And ever since then I feel like I’ve been the person he talks to about his emotions. He lives in another country now, but every time I come over (or talk to him on the phone) he talks to me about their divorce and his childhood trauma (his dad beating him, his mother being emotionally abusive and him being bullied) and complains to me about almost everyone in his family (both how they are now and how they treated him when he was a child) He doesn’t have any friends and the only family member he likes lives hours away from him (so I talk to him a lot more than her). He even did this when I was very young and I think the first time he told me about his father abusing him I was like eight. He does this to my sister too, but since I’m older and ”more mature” I’m the one he talks to about it the most. I even have to be the mediator between my dad and sister when we visit him because of his outburst of rage. He has been treating my like an adult for a long time, and before, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it because ”I was mature for my age” and I didn’t want to upset him but rather make him feel better. But now I’m starting to think that this was parentification
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I agree with you that what you’ve been parentified nearly your whole life. Parentification can appear in two ways: 1) emotional parentification, when the child becomes a crutch for the parent’s anxieties, or as 2) instrumental parentification, when the child is tasked with household duties such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of siblings, etc. It seems that you’ve been emotionally parentified because you typically find yourself being your dad’s go-to source of comfort when he wants to talk about his childhood and failed marriage. Although you may seem older and more mature for your age, that does not give your dad the right to burden you with his complaints and distress because it puts you into developmentally inappropriate situations at a young age. Some signs that one has been parentified as a child includes: not really remembering “being a kid,” trouble with playing or letting loose, and pulling into arguments or issues between caregivers (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-together/202001/14-signs-you-were-parentified-child).
Many victims of parentification participate in unhealthy survival mechanisms. For instance, one might blame themselves for the trauma they experienced from their parents and never feel like they are allowed to be vulnerable and talk about their own feelings. Thankfully, there are healthy survival mechanisms that can enable you to grow and heal. These include: recognizing that this is not your fault, setting boundaries between your dad, and seeking out the help of a mental health professional. Understand that everything your parents put you through is not your fault. Your parents did not give you the love and support you needed and now it is time to heal. Setting boundaries with your dad might seem extreme but he needs to learn that cannot keep burdening you with his problems. Have your dad explore seeing a therapist where he can work through his problems and issues in a healthy environment. Finally, you may also consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. You’ve been through so much, and reaching out to a guidance counselor or therapist may help you in recovering.
It is good to hear that that you recognize the trauma and distress you’ve experienced through much of your life, and I hope that you get the freedom and love you deserve. Thank you so much for coming to Asking Jude and I wish you all the best!
Here are some articles that you can read:
Hey, Emily N! I am a member, here at Asking Jude, not a peer counselor. I did not know there was a word 'parentification.' Based on your 'ask' and all of the experiences I've gone through, I think you have to find a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk to, because your family life has had a big, big impact on you -- big in a negative way. A peer counselor will give you specific information...