Emotional incest is a dysfunctional emotional intimacy between a parent and their offspring. Another term for it is “surrogate spouse syndrome.”
Unnatural intimacy would include:
- Confiding in a child about relationship problems they are having with a spouse or partner.
- Talking about emotional problems, or their sex life, or other adult subjects with a child.
- Turning a daughter into a surrogate wife and mother when becoming a single parent.
- Turning a son into a surrogate husband and father or “man of the house” when becoming a single parent.
- Leaning too heavily on an adult child when they have other options.
- Avoiding other relationships with other adults who are peers while treating child like a peer.
This is not to say that a child should not take on additional responsibilities when times are difficult. Children can sense when parents are struggling, and it can improve their self esteem and self reliance to help their families when there is a need.