Why It IS Wrong,Even Abusive to Make Oldest Children Parent/Raise Children That They DIDN'T Have
The Role of the Oldest Child in the Family
The Oldest Child in the Familial Scheme of Things
Oldest children in families are viewed as the responsible, dependable, and reliable ones. After all, as the oldest in their particular families, they have a certain amount of awareness, experience, and knowledge as to what is wrong and wrong. They also possess a level of ethical cognizance. They are viewed by parents to be more mature than the other children in the family. They are considered to be trustworthy and capable of handing the more complex and difficult familial tasks which can free them to do other familial tasks.
Oldest children can be depended upon from time and time to assist their parents in everyday familial activities and tasks. They want and even enjoy exhibiting their maturity in being their parents' helpers and/or assistants. This participation makes them feel capable, good, responsible, worthwhile, and in charge. Such activities and tasks give them a level of mastery. By performing such activities, they feel like worthwhile contributors to their families and also gain a measure of independence.
Oldest children are expected to mature faster based upon the fact that they are older. They also have very high, if not exacting standards placed upon them in terms of actions and behavior. Strict parameters are established by their parents as to what and how they should be and with little or no leeway for veering off course. They are oftentimes chastised for exhibiting normal age appropriate behavior. They are expected to be grown ups although they are children physically and chronologically.
Although oldest children are seen to be mature and responsible, even dependable, they are still children. As children, they are entitled to have a normative, unencumbered childhood without being constantly inundated with excessive and age inappropriate duties and responsibilities. There are parents believing that their oldest children are mature and capable, feel that they can and/or should handle any responsibility that comes their way no matter how daunting, onerous, and overwhelming. They associate being the oldest with being insurmountable.
Many parents of oldest children even consider them to be somehow superhuman and should be able to endure almost anything that comes their way. They oftentimes push their oldest children to undertake responsibilities that they are not emotionally nor psychologically prepared for in addition to not being ready to undertake. They consider the latter to be secondary adults, sometimes even informal primary adults. Some see their oldest children actual adults like them. Many oldest children are forced to take on responsibilities that their parents should be doing.
Oldest Children-Responsibilities & Parentification
The View of the Oldest Child as Secondary/Informal Adults and Familial Responsibilities
Oldest children are considered in many families to be secondary, even informal adults. They are treated more as adults than they are children. Although they are children physically, mentally, and chronologically, in their parents' eyes, they are adults. As such, many oldest children are given responsibilities far beyond their age and capabilities. It is not unusual for many oldest children to assume the bulk of familial responsibilities. They are oftentimes overburdened with chores and other responsibilities. It is they who must constantly pick and clean up after younger siblings who are capable, depending upon their ages, to pick and clean up after themselves.
Many times parents depend upon their oldest children to do the things they ought to be doing. Some parents even go as far to abdicate all their parenting duties and relegate such duties to their oldest children. Oldest children are seen in many families as unpaid help, maids, butlers, and even nannies. There are parents who feel that it is the duty, if not obligation of their oldest children to assume the bulk, if not all of the familial responsibilities. This responsibility includes looking after younger siblings.
It is common for oldest children to look after younger siblings in some instances. A parent or parents may need to go on an errand and do not want to take the whole family with them so they ask their oldest child to look after younger sibling or siblings. A parent may be sick so the oldest sibling have to pitch in temporarily to assume the familial responsibilities until the parent is well again. Maybe parents want to go out occasionally and ask the oldest child to babysit their younger sibling or siblings. Such things occur sporadically or occasionally. Yes, oldest children look after their younger siblings once in a while and when there are cases of emergency but it is not a commonplace nor everyday occurrence. However, there are some oldest children who actually enjoy looking after their younger siblings and actually enjoy having them around. They actually become engaged and energized interacting with their younger siblings.
Parentification is a Fact of Life in Being the Oldest in Larger Families
Parentification and the Oldest Child
Most oldest children look after younger siblings occasionally unless they and the younger sibling or siblings are very close in age. While looking after younger siblings occasionally is one thing, it is different thing entirely to parent and raise younger siblings on a constant basis. In some families, there is an unspoken parental expectation that oldest siblings are to parent and raise their younger siblings. Some parents feel that it is the duty, even obligation of oldest siblings to raise their younger siblings because after all that is what oldest children do.
Only in extenuating circumstances, oldest siblings in smaller families(1 to 3 younger siblings) look after younger siblings because both parents are working and they cannot afford any outside help or there is no other relative by to look after the children. They may look after younger siblings if their parents are disabled or have physical challenges. However, most of the time, oldest siblings in small and medium families do not have to parent and raise their siblings and they are allowed to be normal children and adolescents. Also, in small and medium families, parents can raise each of their children effectively and efficiently without enlisting the oldest sibling to assume parenting duties.
However, in medium large and large/very large families, it is quite daunting even overwhelming for parents to raise each of their children effectively and efficiently by themselves. Typical parents of larger families simply cannot raise a large number of children by themselves. That feat is an impossibility or next to it. That is when oldest children come in. In larger families, oldest children are expected to assume parenting duties to their younger siblings. Many parents of larger families expect that their oldest children will assume parenting duties of one kind or another regarding their younger siblings. They know that they are unable to raise many children by themselves.
Being the oldest child in a larger family and parentification goes hand in hand. The average oldest child in larger families are parentified children. They assume duties towards their younger siblings that their parents should assume but cannot, do not, and/or will not. They oftentimes assume the bulk of parenting and raising their younger siblings. Their parents can find raising a large number of children so overwhelming that they relegated the majority of their duties to their oldest children. They feel that by the fact of their oldest children's ordinal birth order their children are quite capable of assuming parenting responsibilities regarding their younger siblings.
The Ordeal of the Parentified Oldest Child
The Travails of Parentified Oldest Children
In larger families, oldest children perform functions, tasks, and duties that are far beyond their age. They assume adult duties, functions, and responsibilities quite early in life. Typical oldest children in larger families have little or no normative childhood nor adolescence like their counterparts in smaller families. Their childhoods and adolescence are consumed with parenting their younger siblings.
Typical oldest children in larger families define parentified children. They are the real parents in their families while their parents are just parents in name only. Many parents of larger families are not involved in their children's lives. They do not have that much parental responsibility. Many of them relegate the bulk if not all parenting duties to their oldest children. Oldest children are oftentimes the unsung and unheralded parents in larger families. They parent their younger siblings on a constant basis. Oftentimes, their parental duties take precedence over their academic and related duties. Many oldest children's academics suffer because they are at the beck and call of their parents and younger siblings.
If they have outside interests, hobbies, and activities, those too will fall by the wayside. The most important thing is that they raise their younger siblings. Oldest children are children just like other children. Children are not supposed to be parents. That is an activity for adults. Children are not emotionally, mentally, and psychologically suited to be parents to other children. Adults are supposed to parent children as they are more mature and suited for such responsibility. There are parents who immaturely, irresponsibly and mindlessly have children without considering the ramifications of their actions on the already existing children. But that does not matter at all to such parents. Their main concern is having as many children as THEY want regardless. They do not even concerned as to whether they can adequately take care of a growing number of children and/or if they are capable of doing such. Many of these parents do not worry about this in the least, all they have to do is to give the succedent children to their oldest children to raise.
Many oldest children are emotionally, mentally, and psychologically impacted by parenting their younger siblings. Besides, giving up their childhood and adolescence, they are oftentimes extremely exhausted to the breaking point. They are so busy tending to their siblings that they do not have any time to discover who they are and develop themselves like other children do. Many of them age prematurely because of the enormous and excessive responsibilities thrust upon them at their young ages.
There are oldest children who resent and hate their parents because of their parents selfishness of having more children than children than can be reasonably taken care of. They argue that if their parents are unable to effectively raise a large number of children, then the latter should be mature, responsible, and intelligent enough not have them and pawn them off on the former. There are oldest children who even curse their parents for having so many children that they, not the parents, have to raise. They surmise that if their parents stepped up to the plate and really raised their children, they would have sense enough not to have a large number of children. Some oldest children having more than enough, leave home at the earliest possible opportunity to escape their parentified condition never looking back. Others have been so inundated with parental responsibilities in their formative years that as adults, they do not want any children at all as they have done their parenting duties already.
Childhood and adolescence is a time for children to explore, discover, and find out who they actually are. It is a time of freedom and being as unencumbered as possible. Childhood and adolescence is definitely not a time to assume parenting duties for younger siblings. However, that is the life of many oldest children, particularly those from larger families. It is widely believed by many that it is duty, even obligation of oldest children to parent their younger siblings. To thrust parenting duties on oldest children is irresponsible, even abusive on the part of the parents. They had the children so they should man and woman up to their parental responsibilities. If they cannot raise their children then they should not have had them in the first place. Children should never have to parent children that they did not have.
© 2015 Grace Marguerite Williams
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