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Is your ex-spouse parentifying your children?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2021 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

Minor children often do not escape unscathed from the divorce process. They have little if any choice and control as their lives undergo major changes and upheaval.

One potential consequence your offspring may suffer is parentification, a form of role reversal where their other parent forces burdens on them. It constitutes a traumatizing experience that may affect their emotional and mental health in negative ways that follow them long into adulthood, maybe their whole life. You need to recognize parentification and take steps to mitigate its impact on your children.

Emotional parentification

After a divorce, it is not uncommon for individuals to begin treating their children as replacements for their spouses or emotional support animals. They may talk to them about adult topics such as money troubles, their sex life and work worries and then expect them to provide comfort. They place them in the position of confidant, forcing them to hear things inappropriate for their age, that they may not understand or want to know. Your spouse may even be using your children to vent about issues or negative emotions regarding you.

Instrumental parentification

This may occur when your ex-spouse expects your children to do things like pay for household bills or raise siblings. If your former significant other remarries, it may come to the point where your children essentially become free caretakers for half and step-siblings rather than fellow kids. While a certain level of responsibility is a reasonable expectation of any child, there is a line.

Emotional parentification may also qualify as parental alienation, which may be grounds for a custody modification. If you suspect your children are victims of it, discuss it with your ex-partner and consider applying to the court for a custody agreement change. Doing so may save your offspring from psychological scarring.