The 'parentification' burden: when kids are forced to play parent

All too often, South African children are forced to take on the role of the parent.

This distressing experience of role reversal is referred to as ' parentification'.

Counselling psychologist Jeremy Bayer explains that parentification is when a child is made to feel responsible to fill the void of a missing or absent parent.

He says the phenomena typically occurs in 'broken homes', single-parent households or in families plagued with divorce, death, drug abuse or conflict.

The child steps in to fulfill a parent's role. The child is roped in to help out, neglecting their own feelings as a result - which has long term negative consequences.

Jeremy Bayer, counselling psychologist

These children are forced to grow up so quickly, so young. This is unfortunately a South African phenomena at the moment.

Jeremy Bayer, counselling psychologist

As a young child, the burdens of adulthood can be traumatic and leave psychological scars later on in life.

Bayer says childhoods are stolen when parents and guardians relinquish responsibility to provide physically and emotionally for their children.

Parents have a duty to care for their child's emotional and physical needs.

Jeremy Bayer, counselling psychologist

The eldest child is most likely to experience parentification because they are seen as the most "mature", Bayer explains.

He says some children are obligated to act as a parent, not only to their siblings but, to their own parent as well.

Parentification also becomes the breeding grounds for crime such as theft, in order to survive, as life becomes about meeting primary needs such as food and basic care.

According to Bayer, these are some of the negative consequences of parentification:

  • can foster feelings of fear, failure and anxiety in young children
  • lack of emotional stability later in adulthood
  • suicidal thoughts
  • may lead to teenage pregnancy
  • poor academic performance
  • interrupted psycho-social development
  • deffered dreams and ambitions
  • unstable relationships
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • over-contolling behaviour

The counselling psychologist advises that it's important for those who have been forced into parentifaction to speak about their experience and seek professional help to resolve any ongoing issues.

Several listeners called in to share their experiences of parentification growing up:

Read More
Top 10 books for your kids to sink their teeth into

Top 10 books for your kids to sink their teeth into

South African children are encouraged to read from a young age, particularly relevant and local books that stimulate the mind.

Young Entrepreneur Foundation teaches children about money

Young Entrepreneur Foundation teaches children about money

The programme proves that children can indeed learn about entreprenuership, interest, investments, currency and more...

Crushing the myths about child support grants

Crushing the myths about child support grants

Children from impoverished backgrounds benefit a great deal from grants which help improve early childhood development.

A grimmer reason why SA kids have the most tonsils removed in the world

A grimmer reason why SA kids have the most tonsils removed in the world

According to a recent UCT study, the rate of tonsillectomy operations on children in SA is twice that of elsewhere in the world.

Police hunt man who doled out drug-laced sweets to school kids

Police hunt man who doled out drug-laced sweets to school kids

60 children from three schools in south of Johannesburg were rushed to hospital after eating sweets handed out by a stranger.

How should parents educate their children about consent?

How should parents educate their children about consent?

Parents should start having conversations with kids about social justice at an early stage, teaching boundaries and how to say no.

Popular articles
Opinion:  Bishop Lekganyane is right

Opinion: Bishop Lekganyane is right

Stephen Grootes weighs in on comments made by the Zion Christian Church Bishop at the weekend.

SAB urges public to stop abusing free water at Newlands Spring

SAB urges public to stop abusing free water at Newlands Spring

There have been several reports of abuse of the facility, with a number of people tapping far more water than is allowed.

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

It's not the end of the road... Top tips to improve your matric

"Recognise that it’s not the end, it’s the beginning." Expert advise for school-leavers who want to improve their results.

Who is Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi?

Who is Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi?

The EFF lawyer stole the show during the state capture report court battle.

Meet the founder of Capitec Bank, named ‘Best Bank on Earth and Cheapest in SA’

Meet the founder of Capitec Bank, named ‘Best Bank on Earth and Cheapest in SA’

Michiel le Roux speaks about the fascinating story behind the little bank that has the Big 4 shaking in their boots.

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

3 easy questions could bag you R2000!

WIN R2000! But only if you can prove you're a whiz of the MTN Biz Quiz by answering the following three questions...

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Blesserfinder: Matching you with a sugar daddy near you

Is social trend Blesserfinder, where girls are allegedly matching up with rich 'benefactors' in exchange for sex, a real thing?