Sibling violence on the increase
Overburdened older siblings may resort to bullying, child counsellor suggests.
The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has reported an increase in sibling violence that goes beyond expected behavioural norms. Child counsellor at the Centre, Zeenat Osman, says children are being given parental roles due to single parent households and absent parenting. Lack of support, limited resources and substance abuse issues are some of the reasons behind the eldest child being given this role.
“Older siblings feel overburdened by the responsibility and anger”
“The older child is given the position of provider and protector of their younger siblings, however, they are not given any respect in this unasked for position. Older siblings feel overburdened by the responsibility and anger, which manifests into bullying, is often the result. Younger siblings feel unduly bossed around by their older sibling, which leads to anxiety, confusion, depression and a major power struggle,” says Osman.
The Centre, which has assisted more than 100 000 women and children since opening 16 years ago, has noticed an increase in young mothers seeking assistance. “The mothers themselves are often too young to make adult decisions around parenting and the oldest child is forced into a caregiver role, as the single mom cannot cope on her own,” says Osman.
“Parents need to take the willingness and maturity of the older sibling into consideration before giving them this role,” Osman advises. “The child has their own social and academic responsibilities to manage and complete and this is being compromised by the adult role that they find themselves in.”
The Centre, which opened their child counselling service just over a year ago, says parents need to give children age appropriate responsibilities. “Parents need to fulfill the role of caregiver and provider, this cannot become the burden of the older child,” Osman warns.
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