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Parents and Children and the Role Reversal

Updated on May 13, 2018
kerrinicoles profile image

Im a homemaker who is finding her way through life much differently than most. Im from washington parish. Im also a mother and wife.

Are you a child that feels like a Parent to your Parent

 Did you wake up one morning and realize that you were no longer that child that you were the mother of your mother or father? This can be a very complicated thing, that is brought about for many different reasons. This can also be a situation that is extremely hard to deal with, and emotionally exhausting for some. It can take a lot out of you when you have to parent your parent. Especially when you do not understand why it is happening or how to fix the problem.

Most parents when you are young parent you, they teach you right from wrong, offer emotional support when needed, and look after your needs. But what happens when they decide that you need to parent them back, they start coming to you for emotional support that you really have no business knowing about, especially if it starts as a teenager.

I will start by telling you a story about a particular relationship between a parent and a child, because of the sensativity of the story I am going to change the names of the people involved, because even though I have permission to write this story I think it is only fair to respect their privacy.

The parent was named Ann and the daughter was named Liz. Now the role reversal started when Liz was around 15, but I will give you a little background first just so you understand. Liz had lived with her grandmother for most of her life, because her mother was never really a parent, she was more like a best friend. Once Ann had gotten married for the third time, she seemed to be finally settling down and so Liz went to live with her mother and step-father. Things could not have been better for Liz for the first time in her life she had someone that she could call dad, and he loved her just like she was his own child. Now once Liz got into highschool some things at home started changing, which she is still unsure of exactly what happened, but her mother came to her and gave her a phone number and told her that whatever her stepfather asked, that Liz was to tell him that her mother was over at a friends house for the weekend. Being a child still and looking for that approval Liz did what she was told. What she did not know at the time was she was covering up an affair for her mother. Once Liz found out she did the best she could to deal with what was happening which was a broken home once again. So her mother Ann started a relationship with the man that she had cheated on her step father with and things went from there. Liz got pregnant and had her first child before she graduated high school, she moved out and lived on her own for years until finally moving back in with her mother. At that point everything changed for the worse.

Her mother started by trying to control everything that happened in Liz's life, and then would blame Liz when things were not going right in her life. She interfered in everyone of Liz's relationships and friendships. She would also lay out guilt trips on Liz whenever Liz did not abide by every whim of her mothers. Then there came a time when Liz was done with all of her mothers issues and decided that she wanted to move out. Her mother kept replying what about me, what am I going to do...I simply selfish question. So Liz stayed with her mother because she worried about her as if she was one of her children. The relationship between her and her mother also damaged the relationship between Liz and her children, she seemed to be tending more to her mother, than her own kids and she did not want them to grow up like that.

This is a story I can not complete because the ending has not happened yet, Liz is currently seeking help to get over the issues she has with her mother.

Liz is not alone there are others with the same problem

 There are others out there besides Liz who face these problems daily and do not know how to cope with them. Parenting your parent can be hard, you love your parents with all of your heart and you feel a sense of guilt because in most cases they loved you and parented you, your whole life. In some cases you have to parent your parent especially if they are elderly, but that is a different subject. This is about parents who are young so to speak who just rely on their children way to much. To a point it becomes stressful for the child, and in a way it is nothing more than another way of controlling there childs life. They want you to go through what they are going through.

What causes the shift....and how to deal with it

 There are many different things that can cause this shift in who is parenting who. Depression is one of the main causes, if the parent is going through something that has caused a major life change then they may feel like they have no one but their children to lean on..what the parent does not realize is that they are actually driving the child or children away with this behavior. Most people out there idolize their parents', and when their parents become weak and needy it makes you think twice about them as a person. They stay on the pity pot, for days, weeks, even years and is always the victim. The severity of this I believe depends on how bad you allow it to be. If you are upfront about the problem from the get go the parent may realize that they can not be a victim, that everyone has things that happen in their lives and you just have to cope with them and move on. If you continue to let your parents treat you as a parent then the problem will only persist, you have to stand up and say okay enough is enough. You have to deal with the fact they are going to make you feel guilty and figure out how to deal with those feelings before you talk to your parent. You have to be able to live your life as an adult just like your own parent did before the shift. You are allowed to tell them no and not to give in to everything that they want.

It is a very unfortunate event, that takes place in way to many lives. The role reversal can be damaging to you as a person, you may feel overwhelmed by the shift. All you can do is look for social support from your other siblings or friends who understand your situation. If it persist think about talking to someone who may be able to give you the strength to start to say no. You never want to think about disappointing your parents, but in cases like this you have to look at like you are actually helping them get over whatever issue that may have caused this change.

© 2009 Kerri Nicole Singletary-Davis


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      6 years ago

      I too found this story comforting,

      i am currently experiencing this situation with my mother and dont know how much more i can take. I find it hard to say no to her because she will start crying.

      Can anyone give me advice on how to educate my mother on our situation without upsetting her.

      She is goinh through a break up and im scared what she will do if her depression gets worse.


      Warm regards


    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I found the article/ story comforting. Thank you.

      I am an adult child who is parenting my parent due to an unfortunate event that took place in her life.

      It is comforting to hear that my feeling overwhelmed and stressed is not CRAZY... but indeed normal.

      I wish I had support from my other sibling, but I don't. However, i find strength sometimes in therapy, and also from reading things like this to continue to stand my ground and say enough is enough.

      right now I am working on getting on with my life in hopes that it will be an alarm to my mother to stop with her pitty party, and to get on with her life.

      Right now, my greatest struggle is to be unattached... as my wires tend to get crossed a LOT in this parenting my parent thing. I am learning what support is NOT... and what is indeed enabling...

      I at least can see a little light at the end of this tunnel... So thank you (again) for the article/ story.




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