Friday, 20 July 2018

101 Ways to F*ck Up Your Kid

#29: Parentification
Parentification - sometimes known as ‘emotional incest’ - occurs when a child under the age of 18 is compelled to assume the physical and/or emotional care-taking of a parent or younger siblings at the expense of their own developmental needs.  It can range from an older child being told to help the family by taking care of a younger sibling, to becoming the pseudo partner and confidant of a parent.
No matter which end of the scale this may fall on, forcing a child to assume any adult role is a hidden form of child abuse and exploitation.
Parentification most often occurs after a divorce; during family unpredictability; with parental alcohol or drug abuse; with parents who are chronically emotionally or physically unavailable; with parents struggling with mental or physical health issues; and within rigid cultural and religious practices.
Having our children take some responsibility in the family home is a healthy part of childrearing; ‘you help make the mess, therefore you help clean it up’, yet parents must be ever mindful of a child’s capabilities at their current age and stage and not exceed them.  There is a vast difference between parentification and teaching children responsibility and many parents blur that line.
Dr Alice Miller in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self highlighted the cultural and religious based form of this form of abuse;
“Child abuse is still sanctioned - indeed, held in high regard - in our society as long as it is defined as child-rearing.” Miller said.
Through the abuse of parentification, Miller gives examples of the inner dialogue that may arise in such a child;
  • "If I'm a really, really, good girl then mother will finally see me and take care of me"
  • "If I stay strong and protect mother, she will see me”
  • "If I give mother what she wants, she will stop abusing me."
At the age of six, one woman became the principal caregiver of her drug addicted mother and her infant brother simultaneously.  Her baby brother’s crib was placed next to her own bed so she could assume the role of surrogate mother and forced her to become his parent and protector to the detriment of her own emotional health.
“During dope sickness, she would unleash a lot of fury onto me,” she said of her mother, “I became the buffer or scapegoat of her rage to divert it from my younger brother.”
Eventually, at age nine, her grandparents took in her and her then 3-year-old brother, but the trauma of their former living situation stayed with both children. By the time she was 14, she was suffering from daily panic attacks, OCD, and depression. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she began to understand the connection between her childhood experiences and numerous chronic illnesses.  Her brother went on to become addicted to drugs and his relationship with his older sister shattered.
Parentification can become a matter of life and death for children navigating their teenage years.  When an adolescent should be resolving Erikson’s crisis stage of ‘Identity vs Identity Diffusion’, but find themselves cast in the role of principal care-giver to their younger sibling(s), they can often feel stuck and unsure of who they really are.  Their reactions to this false identity being thrust upon them can swing two ways; resentment of their young sibling(s) accompanied by the guilt and shame they experience from the resentment; to feeling conflicted and trapped in a life that is not their own, resulting in suicidal ideation or even completing suicide.
“I began to hate my little sister, then I’d feel guilty for that because it wasn’t her fault” one such adolescent girl said, “I couldn’t make my mom understand that I just wanted to love my little sister, not raise her.”
This teen girl developed an emotional urgency to care-take those around her; frantically trying to resolve the interpersonal clashes between her friends, and when she was unable to do so, feeling a crushing sense of failure that drove her to the brink of suicide.  She was measuring her sense of worth against a role she’d been cast into that she was ill prepared for.
Survivors of childhood parentification can carry that artificial sense of self throughout their lifetimes and become life-long caregivers to those around them, even  choosing spouses who they believe need ‘parenting and protection’ and never experience the unfettered joy of genuine love.

Children need to be left to be children; to navigate their developmental stages with the support and nurturing of loving parents.  Anything less than that is at best exploitation and at most child abuse.
Aaron D. McClelland, MPCC-S -

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Shameless Self Promotion

I know you come to this blog for enlightenment on mental health issues from a science-based perspective. This post will be a bit of departure from that ...

As those of you who follow my personal social media presence already know, I have completed and published three novels about the evolution of a gangster from 12 years of age to 52, all three stories told in the voice of the protagonist; Denny. They are ;

Little Gangsters

Bigger Gangsters

Millennial Gangsters

I’m currently working on a fourth book in the series titled;
Gangster’s Girl
... told in the voice of Jessie, Denny’s adopted daughter who is on the verge of becoming a psychologist but is forced to take a little detour.

For those who know me personally, the first book - Little Gangsters - is semi-autobiographical and based on my childhood in East Vancouver.  Yes, my grandmother was a bootlegger; yes, we were connected to one of three powerful crime organizations in Vancouver; and yes, I grew up not knowing that most of the adults in my life were career criminals. Even when I grew old enough to understand these things I couldn’t reconcile other people’s opinions about the gangsters I knew - I only saw men who lived, laughed, and loved large, and were devoted husbands and fathers, not the criminal reprobates so many labeled them as.

All three novels are published online as ebooks, and I have done my best to ensure each one can stand on its own and doesn’t require you to read the book that precedes it, although you may have more insight into Denny’s evolution and life-long search for love and belonging if you do.

So, dear reader, this is where you come in, and here is where I make my ask;

I need help to build interest in the books, and the best way to build interest is to sell copies and to have people rate and critique them in the comments section of the online stores that carry them.

I promise you; the books are entertaining; they will tell you stories about being a gangster you’ve never heard before; and - going by the responses of the few friends who have read them - they will make you laugh, make you cry, and hopefully help you come to the realization that gangsters are just like the rest of us; human beings who love and mourn, who have aspirations and self-doubt, who question their abilities and their morality, and have a burning desire to keep the people they love safe.

The characters you will meet are not free of mental health issues either, and the stories explore addiction, dissociation, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, unresolved grief and all the human conditions that sometimes plague each of us.

I encourage you to visit the website; GangsterStory and read the synopsis for each book, and if you like what you see, to read the sample chapters provided there, and if it seems like a good investment (each book costs less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks) then click on the links at the bottom of website that will lead you to a page where you can visit your preferred online ebook store where you can buy one or all of my books.  Or you can click on any of the book titles below for the same options;

You’ll notice that different retailers charge different amounts for my books despite me setting a low price, and for those of you without a credit card, Kobo will accept PayPal for purchases.

So, please have a look at GangsterStory and if it leads you to purchase one or all the books in this saga, please know it will mean the world to me.

Best regards,
Aaron D McClelland