The rebellious child
The rebellious child takes their place. They are often perceived negatively, as a disobedient person. They don’t listen to what others say. They look for their place and take it. In general, they will do things their way and question what is expected of them. The rebellious child with a parent who has a mental health disorder will exhibit similar behaviours: They will not take on the role of a supportive parent. They will set boundaries and not accept unacceptable behaviour. They may refuse to help around the house or help very little. Over time, they may decide to distance themself from the parent, setting boundaries. They do not necessarily adhere to their parents’ beliefs and values, and they will make that clear. They don’t fit the mold.
- Do you feel like you’re doing the opposite of what people are telling you?
- Are you the type of person who questions, thinks and explores before making a decision?
- Do people tell you that you have an easy time defending yourself or that you are “pigheaded”?
- Do you feel that people don’t understand you?
- Do you feel that you are often in conflict with others, especially your parent with the mental health disorder?
Consequences of being the rebellious child:
- May feel alone, misunderstood, isolated.
- May question their choices.
- Difficulty trusting people, especially when questioned about their choices.
- On the positive side, it may be easier to identify boundaries.
- Naming boundaries can be difficult though: may tend to be defensive and critical of others’ choices.
- Identify your feelings, needs, values and beliefs.
- Use non-violent communication:
- Observe what is happening (in your body and in the situation).
- Use “I” language.
- Express your feelings, perceptions and thoughts.
- Name your needs (I need… love, to be listened to, support, etc.).
- Make a request (short, precise, action-based).
The submissive (invisible) child
The hidden or submissive child is the opposite of the rebellious child. They will do anything to please others, especially the parent with the mental health disorder. The hidden child is just that: They are the ones who do not make noise and go unnoticed. These characteristics extend to all spheres of their life, including at home, at school, with friends, etc. The hidden child will not let friends come to the house. They will wonder if their situation is normal. They will hide their personal life from their school life (for example, the hidden child will not tell their parent about parent-teacher meetings). The hidden child is introverted and withdrawn from others. They do not engage in discussion, preferring instead to remain unnoticed by others. They may be more likely to accept unacceptable behaviour from others. They do not criticize; they accept and obey.
- Do you feel uncomfortable being the centre of attention? Will you do everything you can not to be?
- Do you feel like you have to hide your family life from others? So you don’t have to answer, or because you are ashamed?
- Do you feel guilty if you say no?
- Do you feel neglected or ignored?
- Are you able to give your opinion, especially when you disagree with what others are saying?
Consequences of being the submissive child:
- The hidden child disappears into the background. They go unnoticed and do not disturb anyone.
- This is the child that people don’t question, so if there’s something wrong in their life, others won’t be able to see it.
- This child is hard to spot. They will not talk about their life and, when questioned, will say that “everything is fine.”
- The submissive child may have difficulty naming their needs.
- They may find it difficult to set boundaries, and they may accept the unacceptable.
- They may feel that they have no control over their life, that they are at the mercy of others.
- Work on self-esteem and self-acceptance: identify your needs, perceptions, values, etc.
- Be able to name your needs when things are not going well.
- Be able to ask for help.
- Allow yourself to speak up, take your place and name whatever it is you are unhappy about.
The parentified child
The parentified child takes on the role of the parent within the family, particularly with regard to the parent with the mental health disorder. They may take on family responsibilities, such as household chores, budgeting, managing other children and making family decisions. They can also take on the role of a counsellor with their parent, meaning they are the person who listens to the parent’s troubles, distress or emotions. They may look for solutions for the parent and try to support them. They may be the one who calls the parent’s workplace when the parent is not doing well, for example.
- Do you feel you are the pillar of the family? What would happen if you took a step back?
- Do you feel you have too much responsibility on your shoulders?
- Do you feel like you are responsible for your parent’s happiness?
- Do you feel like you didn’t have a childhood or adolescence?
- Do you feel like you have to hide your own emotions:
- Because you don’t want to bother anybody?
- Because you don’t want to be a burden to your parent?
- Because you rationalize your emotions so you don’t have to feel them?
Consequences of being the parentified child:
- The parentified child becomes responsible and autonomous at an early age.
- They plan, organize and manage difficult situations.
- It is often said that they are mature for their age.
- The parentified child often feels a weight on their shoulders. They must be there for others and put their needs aside. They will often feel guilty for thinking about themself or their needs.
- The parentified child may also show signs of being the hidden or rebellious child, meaning they may hide what is happening at home.
- They often participate in adult discussions, because they feel involved or because discussions with peers the same age are less interesting.
- The parentified child often puts off activities with friends. They must be responsible.
- These children are often quick to leave the family nest.
- Take part in activities with friends. Allow yourself to live your own life.
- Find someone you trust who you can talk to.
- Allow time for yourself to relax, to spend time with friends and to talk.
- Identify your needs:
- Explore the role of the child, what it means and how to respond.
Author : Nathalie Haché, T.S.