Parentification is when one parent is repeatedly denied access to the child by the other parent. The child often resides with the parent who is alienating the other parent. The parent being alienated generally has access to the child, but this access has been denied by the alienating parent for one reason or the other. As such, the alienated parent is not able to exercise his access time with the child.

When a matter is in court, the courts look to the child’s best interests and how the child’s interests are best served. The child’s interests are best served by the parent who will not alienate the child from the other parent and will ensure frequent contact with the other parent. Generally, maximum contact with both parents is in the child’s best interest.

When parentification does take place, the research has shown that the child picks up the negative attitudes, sympathies, influences and emotional problems of the favored parent. Hence, the child is growing up much faster than he or she should. The parents need to understand that it is not the child’s responsibility to deal with the emotional issues of the adults.

The child will often repeat the mistakes made by one parent and may comments such as:

  • “he did this to us”
  • “you did this to my mom”
  • “you did this to my father”
  • “my father/mother suffered”

The children often are unable to provide explanation or substantiate beyond the statements.

If the child keeps hearing negative comments from the alienating parent, the child may get into a defence mode. The child uses this mechanism in an attempt to deal with the stress by being a defence for the alienating parent. Parents must remember that children are young, impressionable and innocent. Just remember that if they are acting like they are defending one parent, this is not their place, and something has gone astray. It is not your child’s job to deal with your emotional issues which have arisen due to separation or the breaking up of the family unit.

Date of Article: March 1, 2018
Prepared By: Sadaf Raja, Barrister & Solicitor