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When children are forced to act as parents

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2018-05-26
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Laura Kiesel began to assume the “parents” of the responsibility, to take care of when she was a baby brother, she was only 6 years old. At home, the younger brother’s crib is directly on the edge of her bed. In this way, when he was crying at night, she could pick him up and sing songs to make him fall asleep. She said she is also responsible for changing diapers, and determining his brother were fed every day. She remembers that during most of her early childhood, when her mother fell into the abyss of heroin addiction, she was responsible for satisfying her younger brother's needs.

From the beginning of the note, Kiesel must take care of herself, such as prepare meals for herself, wear clothes for herself, and entertain herself. She remembers that at school she was a gloomy, lonely child, often unkempt.

This is a dark time. When her mother's violent tendency erupted, everything became worse. “During the drugs, she released a lot of anger toward me,” the 38-year-old freelance writer says, “Between her anger and my younger, less resistant brother, I became a buffer or a scapegoat.”

She said that on one occasion she learned to bring her brother and kittens into the bathroom and locked the doors to keep them safe. Kiesel recalled: “I feel shouldered with heavy responsibility, just as my brother would die without me.”

Once, she broke out for several months of severe urticaria. She believes that this is caused by “the burden of loneliness and responsibility not matched by age.” “It is costly to be responsible for a baby when you are young.” She explained, “When I was 8 years old, sometimes I was overwhelmed by the screams of a 2-year-old baby. I couldn't help but push my brother or slap him quickly.”

“For me, it's hard to think of themselves as their parents.”

Finally, when she was nine years old, Kiesel and her three-year-old brother were picked up by their grandparents. But previous life conditions and trauma brought remain in children.But previous life conditions and trauma brought remain in children. When Kiesel was 14 years old, she said she was suffering from panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression every day. She said that until she grew up, she began to realize the connection between her childhood experience and many chronic diseases.

Kiesel's story is what psychologists call destructive “parentification”. A manifestation of emotional abuse or neglect is reflected in the caregivers who become parents or siblings of a child. More and more researchers have discovered that, in addition to subverting the development of children, the reversal of this role will leave deep emotional wounds. Many people like Kiesel experienced severe anxiety, depression and psychological distress. Others may even fall into eating disorders and drug abuse.

Lisa M. Hooper, a professor at the University of Louisville and a well-known researcher on self-directed chemistry said: “These symptoms mean to some extent from cradle to grave.” She explained that some of these behaviors started as a child and became more serious in adulthood.

“One of the most devastating consequences of this process is the children’s mistrust of their interpersonal world.”Gregory Jurkovic writes in “Lost Childhoods: The Plight of the Parentified Child”.

Although there are a large number of literary works that focus on the feelings of children neglected by their parents, there is little understanding of how such neglect can cause children to act as parents and take care of each other. Moreover, almost no empirical research has focused on how this will affect the intimate relationship in later life, whether it is for siblings or other people. Scholars agree that research shows that there are differences among siblings. This is mainly due to the inability to fully understand the impact of abused family environment on these relationships and roles. Hooper pointed out, “There is very little literature in this field.”

In Kiesel’s case, take care of his brother like taking care of children, this has led to a delicate and chaotic relationship between her and her younger brother, which is full of alienation and interdependence. Although they maintained a close relationship, for some time she and her younger brother had not said a word for a few months. In an e-mail, she said, “My brother is on the verge of a crisis (healthy crisis brought about by alcoholism, homelessness, etc.), so this fear will never completely disappear.”

“Chronic, unforeseen pressures are harmful to children when there are no trusted adults.”

Kiesel's brother, Matthew Martin who 32 years old, admits that the role of the fosterer will have an impact as they grow. “She is my only protector, my mother is a drug addict the very early.” From when he was very young to more than a dozen, he said he relied on Kiesel’s emotional support, which his mother could not provide.

“For my hobby, we discussed it quite a number of times. It's hard because she wants me to live long. She wants me to be with her, just like she used to be with me.”

For fear of disrupting her family life, only willing to provide the name and not the full name of Rene said. From the age of eight until she left the house at the age of 15, she needed to pick up and send three younger brothers and sisters to a nursery, take them home to feed and bathe, tell them stories, and call them to sleep. “Basically, I play my mother's role.” The 50-year-old Oregon resident said. She remembers that when she was a child, she stood on a chair to prepare dinner for the whole family. Despite shouldering great responsibility, she still believes it is in the memories of her cherished role, “I do have very good memories, especially to tell them about the bedtime stories in the evening.”

But Rene's family life is not calm. She said that her mother’s alcoholism prevented her from properly taking care of her five children and placed the responsibility of raising children on the shoulders of Rene and her brother. But just like Rene took care of her younger brother and sister, she and her brother depended on each other for emotional support.

“I think it's very important to realize that many parenting relationships are interdependent.” She said, “Maybe one of the brothers and sisters is responsible for washing dishes, cleaning the house and taking care of sick or drunk mothers.” She explained that perhaps one of the other brothers and sisters would provide more emotional support by listening to questions or exhorting relief.

As in “Peter Pan,” Wendy is considered to be the “mother” of the Lost Boys. Familiarized siblings also often establish symbiotic relationships and meet each other’s needs for guardians in different ways.

“If you play the role of a parent but leave your younger brother and sister, it seems to them like being abandoned by their parents.”

Amy K. Nuttall, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Michigan State University, said: “We know that in a tense relationship with parents, siblings can buffer each other.” This may explain why some kind of siblings from abusive families eventually can maintain a complex but still close relationship after they grow up. Some people even “continue to sacrifice themselves to meet the need for parental care.”

Despite this, Nuttall added that other people may be completely away from their families in order to evade the role of family roles. After she was forced out of the house by her mother at the age of 15, Rene discovered that she had become homeless. She said her brothers and sisters still blame her for leaving them. “You can think about it. If you play the role of your parents but you leave the younger brother and sister, it seems to them like being abandoned by their parents.” Rene said. Many years later, she was plagued by feelings of guilt – this is a common experience of people who have experienced personalities. The relationship between brothers and sisters usually becomes a lifelong bond.

However, for Rene, it is costly to withdraw from the responsibility for taking care of children – to lose her family. “I no longer have contact with my brothers and sisters.”

Unpredictable childhood trauma can have lasting effects on the brain. Studies have shown that people who have unpleasant experiences during childhood are more likely to suffer from mental or physical illnesses, leaving people in a state of chronic high-pressure reactions. One study found that children exposed to continuous stress release a hormone that causes the hippocampus, a management area in the brain that manages memory, emotion, and stress, to shrink. People who have experienced parental emotions or physical negligence will also have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases as adults. “In the absence of a reliable adult, chronic, unpredictable stress is harmful to children.”

In summary, the harm caused to children by their long-term role as parents is huge. However, in daily life, we need to train children to play their roles. Educating children to play his own role.

Psychologists have done an interesting experiment:

They invited some impolite children to attend an unusual dinner. At dinner, they turned their backs on their own, and under the influence of refined atmosphere, they realized that they were educated. The guest "plays a role and constrains himself according to this social role and quickly becomes polite. This experiment shows that if the child is given an appropriate role, and when he understands the character, the child can easily request himself according to the rules of the character, thus resulting in some changes in personality psychology or behavior. This phenomenon is called “role effect.”

The formation of role effects first began with the expectations of society and others. Now a widespread bias in education, teachers often use “good student good at learning,” “bad student achievement gap” to judge a child, which makes their role has gone wrong concept of the social role they play can not be correct perception. They will feel that they are not good at learning bad and will be tired of their “role”. And those “good student” may be complacent, self-expansion. Based on this misperception, they started their own different behaviors. “Bad students” began to really get tired of learning, and starting to self-defense, good students just focused on learning and neglected their own all-round development. This initial error expectation has led to a vicious circle of children's cognitive behavior.

According to the role effect, parents can be targeted to the children arrange some role in the game, let the children play, allowing him to learn some knowledge or specification.

For example, let the child play the role of a “hygiene officer”, responsible for checking the hygiene at home to cultivate children's hygiene habits. Learn to be strong, resourceful and problem-solving in the role of “police”. In the role of “scientist”, learn to study and discover the joy of learning. It is also possible to formulate rules, such as allowing children to obtain corresponding “salaries” in games and rewards such as cakes, fruits, drinks, and stationery. I think it is best for children to reward educational toys, like leather toys.

In this way, while guiding children’s role-playing, we let them examine themselves from another angle. Dialogue with yourself, dialogue with the mind, deeper and more thorough thought baptism in active experience and self-operation. At the same time, children can also use their earned wages to enjoy the consumption process, thus exercising their ability to choose and judge.

In addition, through some roles that require cooperation, you can also cultivate the importance of children learning to cooperate and participate in knowing love, trust, and responsibility. And gradually understand and follow the rules of social behavior, cultivate and improve their social capabilities, so that children in the process of hard work to gain self-confidence.

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