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  • Writer's pictureDeniss Pleiner, M.A.

Being a Parentified Child: What it Means and What to Do About It

By Deniss Pleiner, M.A.


What is a Parentified Child? You were a parentified if you ever took on the role of a parent as a child. This means, taking care of yourself, siblings, or even your parent. It's a very common experience for BIPOC Adults-- and taking culture into account is so important. Your parent may not have been able to be there physically or emotionally for you growing up and so you had to do that for yourself-- and maybe even for your siblings or your parents too.

Our Experience as BIPOC: BIPOC Adults disproportionately grow up in lower income communities with less access resources and so your parents had to work harder and longer to pay the bills. The reasons you had step into the parent role may vary. It may have to do with low SES, growing up in a single parent home, being a child of immigrants, mental health issues for a parent, death, etc. As we do with all topics-- this is not to assign it as a "good" or "bad" experience but rather an important experience to take into account in your healing journey. As BIPOC, our family may have needed you to play the parent role so that you could all survive. But how does it help or hurt you now?

Effects of being a Parentified child: Parentified children grow up to be especially gifted in the art of caring. You learn how to read and meet the needs of others. You may be a nurturer who supports your loved ones. And that's amazing. But that also means that you often sacrifice your own needs to please or appease others. You are so focused on helping and caring for everyone around you that you often forget to take care of yourself. It may make it harder for you to just be a partner, a sibling, a coworker because you are so used to also being parent.

Refining Your Relationships: As you reflect on your experience of being a parentified child and start to identify how this serves you and how it may hurt you, it is up to you to explore and decide what changes need to be made. The answer is different for everyone. Some of us may need strict boundaries. Others of us may need just some slight readjustments. Only you can decide what feels right. Therapy can be a great space to do that for yourself-- to explore, experiment, process, and heal with support. If you'd like us to support you in that work, check out our clinicians and schedule a free consultation.


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