Expert explains what TikTok's 'Glass Child' syndrome means
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Featured Image Credit: TikTok/@whitneygoodmanlmft
An expert has explained what the ‘Glass Child’ syndrome that you may have heard about on TikTok is, having originated more than 10 years ago in a TEDx Talk.
You may have come across the term while scrolling through TikTok recently, with more than 62 million views for the #glasschild tag and a further 55 million for #glasschildsyndrome. But what does it mean?
Licensed marriage and family therapist Whitney Goodman recently posted a video explaining what the syndrome is, and how the term stems from a 2010 talk from entrepreneur Alicia Maples.
She said: “If you grew up with a sibling who had a disability, who was struggling in some way – maybe had chronic illness, or was just taking up a disproportionate amount of your parents’ energy – you might be considered what is known as a ‘glass child’.
“This was a term coined by someone named Alicia Maples in a TEDx Talk that she gave.
“And glass children are not called glass children because they’re so fragile. Glass children are the type of kids that are doing so well, while another sibling is struggling, and you kind of just see right through them.”
Goodman continued: “What we know is that it can be really hard for parents to hear that, while they’re dealing with this really difficult thing with another child, that their child who seems to be doing well needs a lot of help.
“But the reality is that sometimes these kids are doing so well because they really have no other choice.
“In adulthood, these glass children might be the kind of people that are always busy, they’re always able to handle everything. They seem like nothing is wrong.
“But really they might be struggling to share their needs.”
The term was coined by Maples – whose surname was formerly Arenas - as she gave a TEDx Talk titled ‘Recognizing Glass Children’ in San Antonio, Texas.
During the talk, she discussed how it felt to have one brother affected by autism and another by terminal illness – and how it meant she never knew what a normal childhood felt like, having always had to put on a brave face for her family.
“We are some of the strongest children there are – we have to be in order to survive the things that we have survived,” she told the room.
“We are called glass children because our parents are so consumed with the needs of our brothers and sisters that, when they look at us, they look right through us, as though we’re made of glass.”
Maples added: “We’re very sensitive to the needs of our parents and of our siblings, and we love our mothers and fathers and our brothers and sisters.
“And we know that the problems that we have – the things that we face – are insignificant compared to what our parents are dealing with and our siblings are dealing with, so we become very quiet.
“We become caretakers of the family.”