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To wonder how common this is

(66 Posts)
thefreshcleanstart Thu 31-Dec-15 18:11:44

In the case of lone parents (or even I suppose parents in an unhappy marriage) one child providing emotional support for a parent.

In which case, how best to support the child?

I know the above is a little bit vague but a friend's son is supporting her through her marriage breakdown and it's sad to see.

WhereYouLeftIt Thu 31-Dec-15 19:18:53

Sadly I think this is horrendously common. Many posters on here have been that child sad.

If you google the terms 'emotional incest' or 'covert incest' you'll find quite a lot of information on it.


It might also be a good idea to start a thread in 'Relationships' with a more descriptive thread title, e.g. 'Friend using her son for emotional support - WWYD?' . This will allow those MNers who are best able to advise to find you.

Best wishes. I'm glad her son has you looking out for him. flowers

hiddenhome2 Thu 31-Dec-15 19:32:19

My mother did this to me. I was her 'husband substitute'. It was fucking hell and I dumped her as soon as I could gather the strength to get away, which wasn't at all easy. It was easy for me to do though as I have very few emotions.

Parents should never do this to their children.

UndramaticPause Thu 31-Dec-15 19:40:02

I know someone doing this to her boys and it's horrible to watch. I can't envisage the eldest doing anything in life other than his mother's bidding and it's so sad to watch

honeyroar Thu 31-Dec-15 19:45:54

My stepson got this on a small scale from his mum. She gets much better when she's in a relationship, but DSS has always pandered to her and was afraid to upset her or make her ill by saying what he wanted for himself.

Enjolrass Thu 31-Dec-15 20:00:13

I was that child.

Mum and dad split. Mum has mental health problems and we picked up the pieces. She moved us around to keep dad away to punish him.

I have a good relationship with both now. Mainly because both have accepted their wrong doings and we have worked through it.

I am not sure what the best way to support the child is to be honest.

May be speak to mother and get them to get some actual help. Give your support to the mother so they don't lean as heavily on the child.

hefzi Thu 31-Dec-15 20:06:34

Unfortunately, it's enormously common, as others have said. I second Enjolrass and others towards helping the mother access other more appropriate forms of help.

VintageDresses Thu 31-Dec-15 20:14:28

I don't have any need of support, but I have noticed that DS2 (12yo) has started giving the answers he thinks I want, rather than giving an honest answer when asked what he wants/likes. And it worries me.

FlatOnTheHill Thu 31-Dec-15 20:23:50

This is very common. Its sad for the child. But also the said parent is suffering too.

Heatherplant Thu 31-Dec-15 20:44:56

This is the way to go if you want to wreck a childhood, my parents did it to me. It ripped the family apart and since they both passed away the resentment between younger generations means we are all now pretty much NC with each other. The 1 sibling I still speak to has agreed to literally knock some sense into me if I ever show signs of doing this to my little ones and I would of course return the favor. Try to support your friend so she talks to other adults and doesn't offload inappropriate stuff onto her child. How does her son take it, does he have an active social life to get away from time to time?

Lurkedforever1 Thu 31-Dec-15 20:49:11

I think it's unfortunately common. Although I strongly disagree being a lone parent is a cause. More weak minded twat who decides they will make themselves feel better at the expense of their child. Some of whom just happen to be lone parents.

Personally I'd want to rip the parent a new one and get ss involved. But realistically at an early stage it's unlikely to help. I think trying to push the parent into seeking adult help, and letting the child know you are there for them is all you can do at an early stage. And contact the childs school and inform the headteacher/ school counsellor so at the least they can be on alert and ready to step in. And if it continues then you speak to services.

Micah Thu 31-Dec-15 20:52:40

Very common.

My dad died when i was 12 and very quickly i seemed to be given an adult role. I had to show mum how to use atm machines, behave generally like a grown up, help, give advice on purchases etc. I wasnt allowed the usual teenage issues. My sister was younger and had to be taken care of as she was very upset.

Tbf it wasnt just my mum. Many adults would comnent that i was old enough "to be company" for my mum. Again made me feel i had to have adult conversations and shelve my own issues and feelings.

knobblyknee Thu 31-Dec-15 20:56:06

Very common. You may be horrified to know that the Carers Federation also encompasses Action for Young Carers. Thats carers who are children aged 5 to 18, but who are also the main carer for a parent.

If you have AYC near you, they may be interested in helping him.

DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn Thu 31-Dec-15 20:57:27

Am I reading a different thread? The OP only says the child is supporting the mother, not that she is using him as an emotional crutch or as a husband substitute. With so little to go on, all the nasty comments seem somewhat premature.

knobblyknee Thu 31-Dec-15 20:57:35

Covert Incest is not the same thing. That is a parent who is emotionally abusive, insisting the child play an adult role.

MrsS182 Thu 31-Dec-15 20:58:36

I've been that child and it really messed my head up. I had counselling as an adult to try and sort out what had happened.

ClashCityRocker Thu 31-Dec-15 21:06:34

My best lad-pal at school was in this position from 12 upwards. Constantly told he had to be 'the man of the house'...he used to take his little brothers to school and used to do the weekly shop on his own.

His mum used to also tell him (and his friends, if they were there) innapropriate things about her life - her sex life, her emotional feelings, the shit she went through. As anearly teen, he didn't have the ability to cope with that shit.

The worst thing for me is he was bright as feck; could have ruled the world, if he wanted to. Now he is terrified of people's expectations of him and shies away from the first sign of responsibility. His only friends are the ones he made at school, he can't hold down a job and is a nightmare in a relationship. She fucked him good and proper.

Micah Thu 31-Dec-15 21:15:47

* Now he is terrified of people's expectations of him and shies away from the first sign of responsibility.*

This is me. Although reading your post was the first time i put it together.

lostinmiddlemarch Thu 31-Dec-15 21:24:40

I think in some cases parents should worry less about being perfectly happy in their marriages and work harder on their marriage - for this very reason. Saying 'I have a right to be as happy as I can be and my child will only be happy if I'm living as I want to' sometimes does seem to mean 'my child will be happiest living in two places, with two parents who aren't even friends and look to their children for all their 'family' time and emotional reassurance.

Muddlewitch Thu 31-Dec-15 21:29:23

* Now he is terrified of people's expectations of him and shies away from the first sign of responsibility.*

This is me. Although reading your post was the first time i put it together.

Me too. My brother was the golden boy and they didn't want to taint his view of them, but piled all sorts on me, even though I was the younger one. I was miserable, and it affected me hugely. They would deny the whole thing now, no doubt.

I agree that you need to try redirecting the mum to more appropriate support.

Muddlewitch Thu 31-Dec-15 21:31:49

Wasn't a lone parent household by the way, they were and still are married but both had affairs (that they used me as their confidant about) and split up and got back together all the time.

NoMore314 Thu 31-Dec-15 21:38:34


Janeymoo50 Thu 31-Dec-15 21:42:18

I became my mums "other half" at 16 (so not technically a child) but I was a young 16 when my dad died. At first I never realised how she leaned on me as the oldest daughter but she did. I was watering down her whisky secretly a year later.

Fairenuff Thu 31-Dec-15 21:53:20

It's called parentification. Google it OP, there is a lot of advice and support available.

ButImNotTheOnlyOne Thu 31-Dec-15 22:06:48

I was also that child.
Maybe help the child be a child. I missed out on the whole carefree someone else has it covered childhood.

Also if you dare a stern word with the parent.

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