Watching television and finding a patterner that shows up in families regardless of ethnicity, or religion. After the death of a father figure, someone turns to the oldest boy child and says, "You're the man of the house now. You have to step up." Young girls are asked to take on extra responsibilities to help the mother get through the day. Stop doing that. They are still children and have enough to be responsible for. They just lost a parent, processing that fact, and worrying about what happens now is enough.
My father passed away when I was 15 and I assure you processing that, adjusting to a new norm that I had no choice in making was a heavy enough load. My family was changed and learning to find my place again was all I could handle. My mother was lost, she relied on my father for nearly everything. She was now the primary parent and wasn’t prepared for that role. I had older stepbrothers, however, they didn't live in our home, so I took on responsibilities I was not prepared for nor did I have enough knowledge about. My younger sister by only two years didn't adjust well to me telling her what to do. She became rebellious and at times refused to listen to me at all.
Boys came into my life around this time. Again an experience I was not prepared for. I soon was involved with a boy four years older than me. He became my world, we met in October, and by late April of the next year, I was pregnant, and by June I was married. Again another responsibility I was not prepared for. I was now a teen mother and married at age sixteen.
As I look back at that time of my life a helpful alternative from an adult might have been, "I know you are probably scared and wondering, what happens now, knowing our lives will be different and it's okay to feel scared. We will have to make adjustments, and we can work together to get things done. It's okay to feel sad and cry. Always know you can talk to me and I will do my best to help you." As parents, too often we think we are supposed to have all the answers, you don't have to have all the answers immediately, it's okay to say to a child, I am a little scared too and sad, but we can get through this. No responsibility, other than those they are already responsible for, should be placed on the child. Children do not step up to be an adult or have the answers.
Along with my own experience and working as a LAC (Licensed Additions Counselor) and behavioral change facilitator for domestic violence perpetrator classes and victim's assistant, I saw firsthand the pressures we place on our children. We fight in front of them or send them to their rooms to listen in the dark to the scary sounds downstairs. We place adult responsibilities on their shoulders, those shoulders aren't built to carry that load.
Regardless of how difficult it may seem for us, the adults, we must bare the responsibility, look for the answers, and let the children be children.