I have been writing about different types of traumas and in general to bring peoples’ awareness to the fact that it can be stealthy. I have had many clients come to me initially for a specific reason and say their childhood was “normal and pretty good.” As we continue with sessions and bring more awareness to dysfunction and trauma, they all conclude that there is childhood trauma that must be healed. No one should think this reflects negatively on them but instead brings to light we are all walking traumas looking for a way to heal and navigate ourselves onto a path we choose.

This article is addressing the trauma termed parentification. Parentification is the phenomenon where children take caregiving responsibilities and assume such a role for their parents, siblings, or other family members, at the expense of their own developmental needs. This role can be emotional and/or functional that typically exceeds the child’s capacity and developmental stage and robs the child of age-appropriate opportunities, activities, and support. This can lead to insecure attachment.

Parentified children often…

  • …do not get the opportunity to understand who they truly are.
  • …feel they will never be good enough.
  • …were pulled into adult arguments.
  • …have adult feelings of anger, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and overall sense of mistrust in peer and romantic relationships.
  • …continue the role of caretaker into adulthood which includes perfectionism and catering to the needs of others in their life while often disregarding their own.
  • …see these feelings as just who they are since they were unable to form a sense of identity.
  • …suffer from shame, depression, social isolation, excessive guilt, suicidal thoughts, unrelenting worry/anxiety, and psychosomatic problems.
  • …were used by a parent as a substitute for their partner.
  • …care for younger siblings.
  • …grow up feeling responsible.
  • …do not remember having time to be a child.
  • …feel as though part of their childhood is missing.

You will hear me say often that parents are people too. They have their own trauma, unique journey, and life purpose which can influence their parenting. There is no handbook, requirements, or certification to becoming a parent and everyone usually does the best they can with the tools they possess.

Following are some ways parents negatively impact their children without realizing it.

  • Parent relies on their child for emotional support >> Child becomes caretaker and suppresses their own needs – causing depression.
  • Parent justifies their bad behavior at the expense of their child >> Child internalizes blame and feels depressed or anxious.
  • Parent jokes about child’s appearance >> Child forms low self-esteem and an inferiority complex.
  • Parent is too critical >> Can cause the child trauma and undermine self-worth.
  • Parent makes child feel guilty regularly >> Child will seek an unhealthy amount of external approval as an adult.
  • Parent creates relationship that lacks boundaries >> Child has difficulties recognizing boundaries in relationships as an adult and has a difficult time saying no.
  • Parent provides silent treatment after an argument (passive aggression) >> Child copies this behavior as an adult and develops toxic relationships.
  • Parent urges child to suppress their emotions (especially negative ones) >> Child becomes prone to depression and an inability to deal with negative situations.
  • Parent acts selfishly and wants to dominate in every situation >> Child prioritizes others needs and feelings.
  • Parent has unrealistically high expectations >> Child grows into a person who believes they are always disappointing their parents. Becomes perfectionist.

Some of the situations that parentification can arise from include:

  • Divorce
  • Parents’ Immaturity
  • Having unavailable or depressed parents
  • Parents’ attachment trauma or attachment difficulties
  • Death of a parent or sibling
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction of one or both parents or a sibling
  • Chronic disease or disability of one or both parents or a sibling
  • Mental illness in a parent/parents or sibling
  • The physically abusive relationship between parents
  • Physically or sexually abusive parent/child relationship

How to Heal

A therapist of varying types can help you work through the emotional pain and trauma associated with parentification. They can provide a safe space for you to talk about your experiences, assist you using Hypnotherapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), develop coping strategies, engage in inner child work, utilize Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) strategies, guide you through energy healing, breathwork, qigong, yoga, reiki, and more. The main process looks a bit like this:

  1. Tell your story as a parentified child.
  2. Learn to prioritize yourself. – get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
  3. Grieve the childhood you did not have.
  4. Set boundaries with your parents and others.
  5. Forgive your parents and release resentment.
  6. Cultivate self-compassion.

Perhaps you have few memories of your childhood or find yourself hitting a wall of emotional numbness when you search within or you may feel guilty for not having been a ‘happier’ person, given everything on the outside seemed ‘fine’ in your childhood. Acknowledging the reality of your lost childhood, however painful at first, is critical as you begin to grieve the childhood you deserved but never had and can make room for healthy and justified anger.

During this process, compassion is essential, and more specifically, we must learn to cultivate self-compassion. Your default response is to assume things are your fault as your inner critic constantly tells you that you are not doing enough or good enough, and that when bad things happen, it is your job to mop up the consequences. You will learn to say no to your internalized bully. Practicing Hoʻoponopono by turning our mind toward the neglected inner child and repeating in the gentlest, most compassionate whisper, again and again: ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.’ Imagine meeting your inner child and embracing them tenderly, making them feel safe and loved while repeating the prayer Hoʻoponopono.


You deserved to be unconditionally loved for who you were, not for what you did or how you looked to the outside world. This healing path leads toward liberation and allows feelings of anger, resentment, and hurt to go through but you will be liberated and rewarded with freedom in the end. Inner peace and tranquility. If we never transform our wounds, then our anger, guilt, and shame triggers will always lurk in the background, catching us off guard, sabotaging our relationships, and blocking our creativity. Only when we can walk the courageous path of seeing the truth can we get to the other side of it.  Our wounds and battle scars we acquire from birth throughout our lives do not block our path towards happiness and freedom; they are the path.

If you are ready to start your healing process, feel free to reach out via www.MindfulInnerChange.com and submit your request for consultation.