Just a Kid or Man of the House?

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About Elisabeth Corey

Elisabeth is a survivor of family-controlled child sex trafficking and ritual sex abuse.  Her education in social work and her personal experiences as a survivor inform her intimate discussion about the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of trauma recovery, which she discusses on her blog at http://www.stolenchildhood.wordpress.com.  She writes about breaking the cycle of abuse through conscious parenting, navigating intimate relationships as a survivor, balancing the memory recovery process with daily life, coping with self-doubt, and overcoming the physical symptoms of a traumatic childhood.


  1. Elisabeth

    Your son is seven years old?
    Even if men have instincts to protect women, he is just seven years old.
    Some psychologist mean men have that instinct. Still I think it is problematic when a seven year old feel he has to be the man of the house.
    I read about your background and wonder if you are vulnerable after all the terrible things that happened to you.

    Maybe the little guy picks up this feelings of vulnerability in you?

    • Thank you Kim. I struggle with your word “vulnerable”. To me, vulnerability is the ultimate strength. I have struggled to be truly vulnerable in the past. Part of that is because of my trauma. Part of that is because I am a human having a human experience. And vulnerability is hard. If you mean that I am indicating to him that I am struggling with my role as the leader of the house, I guarantee you that I am not.

      • Hi Elisabeth

        When I say I about myself that I am vulnerable it means that due to earlier life experiences , I will probably be able to carry less stress,and will probably not be as strong in all life situations as a person that come from a background of safety and caring.
        In other words it means to be more sensitive and not able to always he as strong as others.

        Maybe you have no vulnerabilities at all Elisabeth.
        It sounds like you see my comment as an insult.

        • Hi Kim, I did not mean to give you the impression that I thought it was an insult. I think I just define that word differently. I have been working very hard to be vulnerable. This article and most of my blog entries are attempts at vulnerability (Brene Brown style).

          My abusive past manifests as anxiety, and usually, I handle that with Type A, Control Freak Perfectionism. That is my poison pill of choice. And so, I am working to let go, go with the flow, and all the other things that mean calm down. Honestly, I know that will only help my kids in the long run.

  2. I kind of felt that pressure growing up with just my mom and I after my parents got divorced when I was 2yo.

    Now I see my older son doing it now that his mother and I have been separated for over a year.

    I don’t know that it is something that you can teach away…

  3. U.S. Army Persian Gulf 1991 says:

    Elizabeth, the first one of your articles I responded to was “The Innocence of Man,” and I told you it was a pleasure to read your words. I wanted to tell you I found this article just as insightful, follow your example and share a little of my own experience.
    At the age of eleven, I called the paramedics to come and save my alcoholic mother’s life. I did not know that when I hung up that phone, that I had assumed the leadership role in my family. By the age of thirteen I made all the financial decisions, and by the age of fifteen I was raising my brother that was five years younger than me. Based on my experience and in my opinion, young boys will absolutely feel that pressure to take on that male “Man of the house” role. Perhaps you could talk to your son and explain to him that it is normal for him to feel that way, but that while society used to expect that action of young boys, things have changed; you have things under control and want him to know that you appreciate that he wants to do the best for his family. I cannot tell of the times that the words of a complete stranger would almost reduce me to tears when I was young and doing the best I could. One time, a young woman, (25 or so) learned that I was about fifteen and took care of my mother and brother, and she looked me right in the eye and told me that was the actions of a man; not a boy. I never saw her again, but if I could talk to her today, I would tell her of how her kind words kept my determination alive through some hard times. Thank you again for your insights.

    • Thank you for your comments. I am so sorry you experienced that type of childhood. I am all too familiar with growing up too fast. It isn’t fair to do that to kids. You read my mind with your advice. I have been talking more openly with him lately about how he “gets to be a kid right now” and “he doesn’t have to worry about all that adult stuff”. He seems to be taking it in.

  4. I’m not sure if it is anything to do with gender – I think this applies as much to girls and especially to the older sibling who often feels a sense of responsibility.

    • My children are twins, one boy, one girl. In our family, I happen to see this in my son, but not in my daughter. It may have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with personality.

  5. My impression: Parentification. Although I read the entire post, the red flags are right in the first paragraph.

    • Thank you for that deep, insightful psychoanalysis of my family environment.

      • Apologies if that touched a nerve.

        I’m sure it’s much more comfortable to think there must be a biological factor, or something else within the child, rather than something within yourself.

        Best wishes on your journey.

        • No nerve touched here. I am not inexperienced enough to believe such simple judgments about the human experience. As my blog indicates, I examine all aspects of myself, our environment and my children’s innate characteristics. Nothing is so black and white.

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