"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us, Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you."--Philippians 3:13-15(NIV)
Many of us are hindered from moving forward because we cannot forget our past, or we are tormented by our past. Some of the things that keep us from moving forward are our childhood experiences. For some of us, the childhood experience was emotional incest.
What is emotional incest/parentification? When we speak of emotional incest, we are not speaking of a sexual relationship between related individuals. It does not involve sex acts.
Two types of parentification 1. Physical/Instrumental This form of parentification involves completing physical tasks/household duties like cooking, cleaning, getting siblings ready for school, paying bills, etc. Statistics suggest that in 2000, there were over 1 million US households in which children ages 15-17 maintained a household completely on their own.
2. Emotional Incest or Parentification This form of parentification is defined as a role reversal between a parent and child. There is a clear distortion of boundaries. Children and adolescents assume levels of responsibility within the family. that are developmentally inappropriate due to their age. These responsibilities go unrecognized, unsupported, and unrewarded.
Children are fulfilling adult emotional roles,
yet the needs of the child are being ignored
A child gives up his/her own need for comfort,
attention, and guidance in order to accommodate the logistical and emotional
needs of the parent(s).
The parent abdicates their role as parent and
transfers that responsibility to the child.
Parentification occurs when a parent begins to
confide ina child and discusses adult problems and issues—essentially using the
child as a surrogate spouse.
The child becomes the confidant and is therefore
exposed to adult issues before he/she is emotionally ready
Children are robbed of their childhood and set
up for a series of challenges as adults
Parentified children have to suppress their own
in an attempt to meet the needs of the parent
Children take on the responsibility and role of
being confidant, secret-keeper, or emotional healer.
Alcoholism, substance abuse, physical illness,
mental illness, incarceration, and military tours are some of the instances in
which emotional parentification may occur.
Emotional Parentification—a Trick of the Enemy
The enemy uses the formative childhood years to
attack and attempt to thwart a child’s destiny
Parentified children take their responsibility
Parentified children may even feel honored by
being treated as an adult and having adult responsibilities
This is a trick and a snare of the enemy, as
roles are being distorted and critical developmental stages missed.These stages of development serve to cultivate
emotional health as well as healthy adult relationships.
Children do not get a clear sense of self, and
therefore may struggle later with feelings of insecurity, inferiority, and
Problems of Adults Parentified as Children
Anger—explosive or passive
Difficulty with attachments(relating to others)
Feeling disconnected from self
Feelings of incompetence
Underestimation of own intelligence
Overestimation of the importance of others
Feeling like a child who cannot cope with being
Taking on the role of caregiver
Co-dependency/acceptance of too much
Prayer for Overcoming the Effects of Emotional
Unfortunately, no one gets to “do over” childhood.However, God can “undo” all that has
afflicted us (Zephaniah 3:19).When we take the pain of
our past and our present manner of coping to the Father, He gives us a much
greater return. If you were an emotionally parentified child, ask God to reveal his original plan and purpose for your life. He will heal every soul wound.
Prayer for Overcoming Emotional Incest/Parentification Father, I thank you for the promise that you have given me. Thank you that you promise to undo all that has troubled me and brought distress to my soul. I give you the pain of my childhood. For every time as a child I felt fear, hurt, stress, worry, anger, shame, or embarrassment but could not talk about it to my parent(s) because I was taking care of her/him. For every time that my parent shared something that brought distress to my soul because it was too much for me to handle. For every time I had to "be there" for a sibling, yet had no one there for me--I give all of that to you. I pray that you would heal my heart. I pray that you would bring me to a place of wholeness and security, in you. In Jesus' name, Amen.