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Parent-Child Roles Reversed | Reasons Your Child May Be Rejecting You | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Hello Reader,

This newsletter is part of the Reasons Your Child May Be Rejecting You series. Children may reject a parent when they are put in charge of a co-parent’s home or their siblings to help out. These children feel a sense of responsibility to ensure everything runs smoothly at the home of the parent who needs them. They view themselves as equals to their parent. Teenagers especially want to be adults as quickly as possible, and being given extra responsibility can make them feel like adults, too.

No matter how rewarding this situation is to a child or teenager, it can cause stress. They may even stop participating in social activities or seeing their friends, which is developmentally important. Further, if the child is required to care for their parent, the roles of the parent and child could be reversed. The term for this is Parentification: when a child acts in a higher level of responsibility than is appropriate for their developmental age to care for a parent, sibling, or other family members, they replace another caretaking adult in the family at the expense of themselves being cared for.

When children are given this level of responsibility, they can feel a sense of belonging and purpose in the adult world. However, children are too young and lack the developmental or emotional maturity to handle this role.

The issue with children being thrust into adult roles too early in their development is that they don’t get a chance to be kids. They also can get lost in their role as caretakers and may be delayed or never truly discover who they are apart from being caretakers.

As unhealthy as this can be, the child may prefer to stay with the parent who needs them the most since they have an important role with that parent. This feeling of neediness in one household may make the child not want to leave. Therefore, they don’t want to spend time with their other parent, not because there is something wrong with that relationship, but because they feel they can’t leave the parent who needs them.

While no one can fully control what happens at the other parent’s house, they can try to set a good example at their own home. If you have contact with your child, ensure they are treated developmentally appropriately. Some ways may include:

  • Encouraging your child to have contact with friends, participate in activities, and do anything that lets them experience being a child.

  • Validating your child’s emotions about the situation without getting upset with them may lessen the burden of their responsibilities at the co-parent’s home.

  • When you spend time with your child, be positive and focused on what they need and how they want to spend time with you.

  • If possible, reach out to your co-parent and see if there is a way to alleviate your child’s responsibilities. For example, find help for them, like cooking meals, assisting with medical duties, or helping your co-parent connect with their support system.

Your child will encounter many outside situations you may have no control over. What you do have control over, though, are your responses and actions. If you do what you can to help make your child’s life better, you may see some subtle changes at first. Hopefully, your child will notice your efforts and feel they have someone to turn to when they need a parent rather than a friend to support them. By showing up emotionally for your child, you will move closer towards a stronger relationship with them.

-Cathy Himlin


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