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Parentification in students

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After class she asks if she can wipe your plate. If you accidentally bump into her in the hallway, she’ll say ‘excuse me, sir’ almost grown-up.

In class she takes care of the class book. Someone has to do that, right? She is always the first to hand in her papers and asks an intelligent question when the teacher visibly asks. And she is also a sweetheart at home. She does the shopping, cooks regularly and cleans up the mess of her siblings.

“Give me thirty such little angels,” you hear people say during the report meetings. However, the mentor is not feeling well. Because despite her exemplary behavior, he has the feeling that something is not right. Regularly haunts his head: “Help, there is an angel in my class…”

Angel parentification
Parents have come to overlook giving the parentified child

Students, they come in all shapes and sizes. The majority show ‘normal’ student behaviour. They are in full development.

During this development they are sometimes sweet, sometimes cheeky, sometimes scared, sometimes sociable, sometimes lazy and sometimes eager to learn. Without being noticeably different from the other students.

You are happy that they are sometimes angry, sometimes impulsive or sometimes naive. That’s called development.

There are also students who deviate from this standard development. These students are extremely different from the rest on certain points. They are remarkably rebellious or incredibly nice.

In the event of a revolt, we usually sound the alarm and are ready with our recovery or punitive measures. But we are inclined to set angels as a textbook example. Angels who show exemplary behavior during class,

but also angels who have remarkably few friends, who help the janitor during recession instead of chatting with classmates and angels you meet at the supermarket earlier than that to buy groceries for dinner you see them at a cozy hangout in the village.

If you have students who deviate from the ‘standard’ in this way, vigilance is required. Try to investigate in a conversation where the angelic behavior comes from. There is a chance that the behavior stems from an ultimate wish to make it as pleasant as possible for parents. The perfectionism of these angels ensures that parents can be proud.

Or to make parents forget about their own problems. In that case, angels are angels for mom and dad. They give excessively to adults to avoid tension. In all that giving, they forget their own importance as an adolescent. An unhealthy development arises, because they completely effect themselves. This often causes serious problems later in life. Adult angels say they lack ‘happiness in their hearts’.

parentification

Boszormenyi-Nagy elaborates on the concept of parentification in his contextual theory, which also includes the little angels. Parentification is understood to mean that children often unconsciously receive assignments in life from their parents that do not suit the age of the child. Children are, as it were, invited to take place in a different generational line. This can be an older generation (active parentification, children must behave as adults) or a younger generation (passive parentification, children are invited to remain children).

There is a requirement that the child has no choice but to comply with. Children are naturally inclined to help parents. Children meet their needs and are willing to sacrifice everything for it, if they feel that mom and dad can forget their own misery or problems with it. Children go so far in their sacrifices that they even want to stop their own development. This also happens with angels. They do everything they can to satisfy adults, especially their own parents.

Children not only initiate this behavior, the parents can also (unconsciously) blame it on their children. Parentification also takes various forms. The angel is just one of the recognizable behaviors in children (see box). Parentification, as described here with the angels, creates destructive behavior. Children unconsciously harm themselves. Fortunately, there are also constructive forms of parentification. In that case, the deviant behavior is seen, there is recognition for the child who gives.

Children then gain self-confidence and learn to define their boundaries. There is growth and development. In destructive parentification, development is inhibited and the child runs a high risk of depression. Destructive parentification is often seen in children whose parents have a history of setbacks. Parentification makes the life story bearable for them. Children meet the needs of their parents. Unconsciously, parents invite their children to help. The child, in turn, unconsciously gives that help, even if it has to accept damage for it.

Giving and receiving

The child gives help, even if it has to accept damage itself.

Every child is naturally adapted to giving; giving gives the feeling to be there and to matter. Angelic behavior also stems from that need to give. The mentor who sees an angel in his class should therefore prevent him from unlearning or even punishing the angelic behavior. After all, angels do what they think they should do.

They are constantly looking to keep the parental nest clean and diligently remove any debris from that nest. It is not always easy not to punish angels, because angels can irritate you immensely. After all, they do everything you say or ask. When the teacher asks someone to fetch a pile of paper from the janitor, the angel flies in front of her ‘master’. Even though the master preferred to let the ADHD person move for a while.

It is especially important for angels that they learn to experience that their efforts are seen. Angels forget what they do it all for. They do not give in order to receive, but give to see how they can give even more in another way. Making giving angels visible is mainly done by acknowledging. A mentor helps by saying that he sees so much effort. That he is so proud of her help.

Therefore, answer the giving student – ​​​​and in fact being present in the classroom is already a form of giving – with a heartfelt compliment. From there you can look for the situation at home, for example by asking the question: “What do you have to do for your parents to get a compliment?” This question is a good starting point for a first conversation with the angel’s parents. “What do you value most in your daughter?” In this conversation you will discover that the balance of giving and receiving is off balance. Parents have come to overlook giving the parentified child.

They have unconsciously exploited excessive giving for their own well-being. A mentor who succeeds in portraying the imbalance in a positive way makes a constructive contribution to the further life story of the angel. He enables little angels – together with her parents – to search for the much-needed development on the social, emotional, cognitive and physical level. You should not unlearn angelic behavior, you do have to teach angels.

Don’t forget: if you have someone next to you who is an angel from time to time, that’s wonderful (blessed?). One who is always an angel is unearthly,

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