Learn what to look for in a child who has taken on the little parent role
– Does the child act as a surrogate parent to the other children?
– Does the child resist any help and pride his/her self on being self sufficient?
– Does the child act as a parent to the parents? (this usually occurs when one or both parents are addicted or are mental ill)
– Does the child watch the other children rather than join in with their activities?
These are not yes or no questions. Many children will fall somewhere in the middle, at that point you need to continue collecting more information.
- Step 2
Identify if the child has any of the symptoms of being the little parent
– Is the child feeling overburdened with responsibilities?
– Is the child serious a majority of the time while other children are playing?
– Does the child appear to prefer adult like activities while looking down on childish ones?
– Is the child stressed about adult things such as money, making dinner, and paying bills?
– Does the child have elevated self-esteem?
Children who act as the little parent often not only mimic the life of an adult they literally absorb into this role and turn into an adult. Subsequently they end up missing out on most of their childhood. These children often have elevated self-esteem as a result of the love they receive from their siblings for taking the place of parent. The little parent realizes that they are making a sacrifice (although they cannot comprehend just how much of one) and gain pride from this.
- Step 3
Interview the child, you may think that you are seeing the whole picture but you may never know unless you ask just how the child is feeling. Use the questions above to guide your interview. You might try to phrase the questions in a soft way, if you ask too directly you risk putting the child into a defensive mode. Help the child to feel comfortable so that they will open up to you.
Some Extra Tips:
- Never judge or blame the child for taking the little parent role. The child has more than likely took on this role as a way of coping with a less than ideal situation.
- Many parents want to point the finger, DONT! If your child is acting out this role you need to take a serious look at you and/or your spousesparenting and spousal behaviors, it is very likely that you will find the answer within yourself.
- This is not medical advice. I am a Marriage and Family Therapy Masters Student and have not received my license