A common form of dysfunctional behavior exhibited by parents is one where they take advantage of the child(ren) who has a tendency to be helpful. These child(ren) have fallen victim to the Helpful Child Syndrome (HCS). This is where a particular child, regardless of their age, realizes that he or she has to step up and become the adult and take on the role of parent because their parents are not behaving as adults and as parents.

This “helpful child” will see to it that the house is cleaned, dinner is cooked, their brothers and sisters have done their homework, the laundry is done then late at night or even at school, they get some spare time to do there homework. While it is essential for a child to learn to be responsible, if that child is constantly taking care of the house and the parents are not doing anything and they are not allowing their other children to share some of the responsibilities then that is not a healthy environment. This leads to resentment among the children. The “helpful child” will feel that the other siblings are spoilt and lazy and the siblings will feel that the “helpful child” is acting as if s/he is their parent.

Knowing that parents do take advantage of their children may seem implausible to some, inconceivable to others, or completely normal to others. However there are those individuals who will feel that it is expected of a child to be responsible for their parents. For those that have that response, chances are they fall under the category of being the “helpful child”.

Unfortunately, the “helpful child” syndrome will follow into adulthood. The other siblings will be “allowed” to go off and live their wonderful lives while the “helpful child” will still feel a sense of duty to continue being helpful to the point where they may feel extreme guilt if they decide or even have an inkling to pursue their own life. The parents being the cowards that they are will not allow this child even when they become an adult to live their own lives. There will always be some problem that needs to be handled, however, there will always be some excuse as to why they can’t or prefer not to call the other children, but they will always call the “helpful child”. Some parents use their illnesses to further manipulate the “helpful child”.

The “helpful child,” knowing that their siblings will not help, will feel obligated to run to the aid of their parents. The other siblings, knowing this will keep on staying away. As long as the “helpful child” keeps helping out of obligation and guilt they will never be able to live a healthy and independent life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help your parents, but feeling obligated to do anything is unhealthy. There are so many “helpful children” out there whose health is in shambles because they are too busy being obligated to the needs of their parents or their very healthy siblings.

The “helpful child” maybe single while the other siblings are married with children. This is another tactic which is used to place more guilt and burden on the “helpful child”. The “helpful child” remained single in order to be there for the parents, but family members use this as an excuse to say that the “helpful child” is not married nor do they have children, so they are the one who is best suited to handle any issues with their parents. No one stopped to think that if they had shared the responsibilities then the “helpful child” would have had the chance to have a life and or get married. However, that is the underhanded tactic of the family members. The parents would often praise the “helpful child” for being so helpful and of course every child desires their parent’s approval. This sends a message to the “helpful child” that the parents really need them so they can’t get married or have a life. It’s also a way for the “helpful child” to continue gaining their parents approval and to be seen as the good child.

It maybe difficult for the “helpful child” to abruptly step away fearing that there will be no one to care for their parents, but be assured, when your parents realize that you are no longer available, they will miraculously remember the phone number and addresses of your other siblings. Be prepared for them to criticize you, stop talking to you, say all sorts of nasty things about you either in front of you or behind your back. This maybe hard for the “helpful child” to absorb, but no one likes to loose a doormat. It takes away their security and they now have to take on the responsibilities that they were running away from.

It is possible for the “helpful child” to be able to have their own lives, it will be a lengthy process but one that is worth it. Take time for yourself, even if it is ten to fifteen minutes of the day. Your health is just as important as the health of your parents. Start creating rules and boundaries. By not taking much needed time for your own life you are essential letting your siblings continue to get away with their spoilt behavior. Call a family meeting if necessary. Let your parents know that you need to take some time for yourself. Know this, if you suddenly stopped being available the other siblings will automatically step up without any prodding on your part.

Another attitude exhibited by the “helpful child” as an adult is that of selfishness or what may appear to be selfishness to others. As an adult the “helpful child” is prone to start looking out for themselves alone. This will cause problems in relationships, friends and on the job. Unfortunately, because individuals may not understand the attitude of the “helpful child”, they are prone to assume that that person is being selfish and self-centered. More often than not, a “helpful child” will not realize that he or she is indeed a “helpful child”. If you can relate to what this article is talking about, then odds are you are a “helpful child”.

While it maybe difficult for you to stop helping others, you, however, can begin to do things for yourself. This will avoid you suddenly dropping everyone and everything around you, which may seem selfish to others. When you begin to do things for yourself, you begin to release the pent up resentment, anger, despair and helplessness that may overwhelm you at times. It is important to note that you will meet upon resistance from those you were always available to. Your emotional well-being is first and foremost.

If you are single, then it may be a bit easier for you to draw back a little at a time and begin to do things for you. However, if you are already married, you may have to discuss things with your partner letting them know that while you do not have a problem being for them and other family members, you would like some time for yourself. You need to be firm regarding what you desire for your own happiness and joy.

Author's Bio: 

Trudy-Ann Ewan, Founder and Executive Director of Create Your Passion Creative Life Coaching, is a Creative Life Coach, Inspirational and Motivational Speaker who specializes in the healing of mind, body, heart and spirit. She works with individuals who are seeking to heal their past and move forward into a more (w)holistic life. To learn more visit her website at createyourpassion.com where you can sign up for her free informative Newsletters, participate in interactive quizzes and Coaching Assessments and where you can also join her coaching program. You can join her on Facebook: tinyurl.com/createyourpassion