Kurdish Women Carrying Water Jars.
This is PART 5 in a series, PICTURES FOR PARENTS,"CARRYING OUR OWN WATER JARS - Parents are Parents, Children are Children."
"In a nutshell, parentification is violation of a generational line," says Bryan Robinson, professor of counselling, special education and child development at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. "It's a line that says, 'We're adults, and you're children.' "
Robinson believes that line is being crossed more often these days, and not just in clear-cut involving neglect, sexual abuse and severely troubled parents. It's happening, he says, in outwardly successful families with parents who are absorbed in work, stressed by divorce, or just plain afraid to say no to their kids. ....
Much of what Robinson and his colleagues say sounds like old-fashioned common sense: Parents owe it to their children to set limits, make tough decisions, be the caretakers and handle their own adult problems, rather than dumping them on the kids." WHEN CHILDREN TAKE ON A PARENTING ROLE : Ann Doss Helms.
The quote above is in the early paragraphs of an excellent article -
Ann Doss Helms, simply describes the problem and suggests how it expresses itself, robbing children of their childhood. She says some children have been 'parentified' or "forced into adult roles too early. And... can expect to bear emotional scars in adulthood.."
Much of her comments come from Professor Robinson, who helps us to see where the problem starts when he says that more incidence of this problem are seen today in, "outwardly successful families with parents who are absorbed in work, stress... or just plain afraid to say no to their kids." Robinson suggests that parents have become distracted from their role of parenting by becoming preoccupied by work, stress, and fear. I think he is right.
Charlotte Mason in her book School Education, also writes about this problem and then goes on to give help. She says that when parents shift their responsibilities or anxieties onto children, they 'oppress' them. The burden of caring for and raising our children, she says, "must be borne by the parents alone."
Both Charlotte and Ann identify the same two examples of parentification ~
1. When a child is looked on as a 3rd parent due to the work load of household jobs or expectations to raise younger siblings. I am an advocate of parents training their children to have household jobs and responsibilities and leadership in the family and have written many post on this. But the point here is that teenage children and even those in their twenties, if they still live at home, are not parents of the younger children of the family. They are adults or becoming adults, and are not parents at all. The responsibilities of parenting must be carried by parents alone.
2. Another way parents shift their responsibilities onto children, is when they discuss parental issues or concerns with their children. 'Running a parent idea past them', or just speaking about issues in their hearing, can involve them in a parents' domain. I know I often do this - sharing my worries about stretching the finances when minimal grocery shopping with them, or explaining why a child has to keep wearing the shoes with holes in the soles. I divulge more than I need and in doing so I cross that line that Bryan Robinson talks of. A recent result of this sort of happening was that my son said he didn't need birthday presents for his birthday last month, then he offered to pay for the milk I bought at the dairy. I had crossed that line. There is of course is a subtle path to tread in this area as I want my kids to be money-wise and care for property. But the fact remains they are not parents and I am not to tax their thinking by involving them to try to problem-solve our family financial situation. They are children and I am the parent.
Charlotte Mason ends this section about parents alone carrying the burden of raising their children, with the picture of what we are to do - "But let them bear it with easy grace and an erect carriage, as the Spanish peasant bears her water-jar." What is that? As this section follows the section I wrote on last week, I think it is connected to the points there - THE POWER OF SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS.
The three words that Bryan Robinson gives - the preoccupyers which take our attention away from our correct role of parenting - work, stress and fear, definitely need our attention. We are parents whether we chose to be or not. Choosing to be preoccupied with work at the expense of raising our children needs to be examined.
Managing parental stress also needs to be sorted with help from the abundance of books available on the subject, or may be a choice of reorienting your perspective on life, family and pursuits.
Fear of our children is a wrong mindset. For help, read THE POWER OF SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS
The photo at the top is not of Spanish women but these women are strong, even elegant, and were possibly shouldering their responsibilities "with easy grace and an erect carriage". They must have lived with stresses, not like ours, but I'm sure they were genuine stresses. In their culture and time in history they knew what is was to work very hard and were not "afraid to say no to their kids."
It can be done - many parents have lived in their families "carrying their own water jars" and being parents and letting their children be children.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ have a chat with a friend or your partner about this and be honest about what needs changing in your situation. You kids need you to be the parent so they can be children.