Siblings playing parents: How To Lessen The Load


By Athandiwe Ntshinga


Ipeleng wore many hats on #MTVShugaDS: She was an older sister who acted like a parent; a teenager who acted like an adult, and a student who had to work like an employee. Athandiwe Ntshinga takes a closer look at the challenges of child-parenting.

Ipeleng is Lemo’s sister and parent, in the order most older sisters and brothers tend to become. There’s a saying that older siblings are the deputy parents of their younger siblings, and this usually turns out to be true. Many times, the older brother and/or sister becomes a childminder – making sure the younger ones have everything they need. When it’s hard to open up to your parents, your older sibling is probably the first person to know the ins and outs of your first crush or about your bullies.

We’ve watched Ipeleng deal with being a young adult while making sure she keeps a roof over Lemo’s head and making sure he doesn’t feel the absence of a parent in their lives. We can only imagine how confusing it must be emotionally and mentally for her to be a mother while she is still a child herself.

Her education and personal growth are done to make sure Lemo is taken care of because generally when you care for someone, everything you do starts to be about that person’s well-being. Lemo’s run-in with Sol shows that Lemo is mischievous when he Lemo put himself in danger to protect himself from his bullies. After all, Ipeleng can’t always be there.

Ipeleng is prepared to sacrifice everything to make sure Lemo is never in danger again after he’s been stabbed. She tries to open herself to Daniel because she’s hasn’t given herself the chance to think about herself without Lemo as part of the equation. Lemo’s very near death experience makes Ipeleng feel very guilty. She’s ready to leave school and end things with Daniel in a heartbeat, which turns into her neglecting herself and focusing on her role as ‘deputy parent’.

Having watched my own sister look after my late sister and me, I’ve picked up on ways where she’s found it in her to look out for herself. She is my Ipeleng, and answers a few of the questions that correspond with lessening the load of parenting.

Firstly, it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers. You can’t know everything, and we put that pressure on you as younger siblings. Find it in you to admit that sometimes, you have no idea how to fix the problem, but we can figure it out together. Also find it in you to have an open dialogue with your younger sibling(s) about the fact that you do have a life, crushes, and concerns about passing exams. You can get carried away making sure that you’re parenting, more than remembering that you are siblings; the first best friends you ever make.

Friendship is the best base because we open up to our friends. And, deputy parent – if there’s an actual adult who recognises your need to be a regular youth whose ready to lift the weight of your shoulders, allow them. You won’t be any less of an amazing sister or brother by letting people help you raise us. Lessening the load of parenting is both literal and emotional – And people like Ipeleng need to know how to do this!

If you or anyone you know is affected by any of the above and needs someone to speak to, send a Please Call Me to 083 323 1023.

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