“Oh, the stories I could tell!” Have you experienced difficult parents in your personal or work life? This often creates an uncomfortable situation for all involved.
So, how do you deal with toxic parents? This may represent a personal issue in your life. How can you break free?
Keep reading to learn more about toxic parents and how to manage the situation.
What Are Toxic Parents?
Toxic relationships can occur in any interpersonal situation. When your parent is the toxic person, this causes a different kind of pain. Your parent is supposed to be the one who loves you and teaches you how to love.
The parent doesn’t treat their child with respect. They do not demonstrate an understanding of the child’s individuality. There is little to no compromise.
The parent takes no responsibility for their own behavior nor do they apologize. Many toxic parents have mental or addiction disorders.
Toxic behavior can manifest in several different behaviors. These behaviors can cause harm to the child’s self-esteem.
The parent tends to overreact to situations and cause a scene. They make excessive and repeated demands on the child. They may even employ emotional blackmail, guilt, and manipulation to achieve their desire.
Control is at the heart of this pattern of abuse. They criticize the child when they don’t meet their arbitrarily high standards.
Parents don’t listen to their children and blame the child when things go wrong. They avoid apologizing and fail to take responsibility for their own actions.
The parent does not establish physical or emotional boundaries. They show little regard for their child’s needs and feelings. They often compete with their child for attention.
If you recognize these behaviors in your parent, consider counseling for yourself.
How Do They Impact the Child?
Childhood trauma often follows you into adulthood. This can lead to difficulty in forming relationships out of a fear of failure. You may experience problems with boundaries among friends, peers, and co-workers.
Some people have a problem with trusting others. They lack a feeling of emotional or physical safety. Mental illness and substance abuse may also occur.
Studies have shown that parents with unresolved trauma from their childhood may repeat abusive behavior with their children. To heal, you must first recognize that behavior patterns were and are toxic.
Are you hyper-critical of yourself? Children of toxic parents often fear criticism and disappointing others. They set very high standards for themselves hoping to earn the approval of others.
Do you blame yourself if others are upset? Toxic parents tend to blame their own self-dissatisfaction and frustration on their child. This creates a feeling that the child bears responsibility for other’s happiness. Other people’s distress causes them to feel guilty.
Are you a “people-pleaser”? Signs of love and affection are not reliably demonstrated in dysfunctional families. This leads the child to do whatever it takes to make people happy and gain their approval and friendship.
This is exhausting. You can never make everyone happy. Some people always find some reason for displeasure.
Do you find yourself repeating your parent’s words to yourself? When you hear the same thing over and over, it becomes a part of you. The words echo in your mind. If you grew up in a healthy environment, this can be a grounding source from which you gain confidence.
If your home environment was negative, this may pull you down. You may unconsciously repeat phrases and allow them to impact your self-esteem.
What to Do If You Are the Child
You must understand that you do not have the power to change other’s behavior. You can only change your behavior and your response to their behavior.
Working with a counselor may help you find forgiveness. Forgiveness serves to increase your happiness. This is not for the other person.
Here are some things to remember when breaking and healing from a toxic relationship.
- You are your own person
- You can be different from your parents
- You only need to work on healing yourself
- Your parents don’t define you
- Set boundaries for interactions with your parents
- You can’t rescue all your family members
- Feeling hate, anger, or resentment for another person hurts you more than them
You must start defining your life according to yourself and not other’s opinions. A counselor can help you to validate ideas and feelings in a safe, non-biased environment.
Separation from Toxic Parents
In order to achieve your own emotional healing, you may need to separate from the abusive parent. This means an emotional split, not only a physical change. This involves:
- Not letting yourself take what is said to heart
- Not allowing yourself to feel concern for the person’s feelings, wants, or needs
- Not allowing yourself to be triggered to an emotional response
- Establishing steadfast boundaries for interactions and sticking to them
- Considering physical separation and stopping all interaction
- If you feel attacked in any way, stop the interaction and leave on your own terms
Work with a therapist to learn strategies for coping with abusive situations. You may then schedule short visits and focus on using these coping tools. Remember, you can leave anytime that you start to feel uncomfortable.
During the visit, pay attention to family rules, boundaries, and communication patterns. Avoid falling back into old habits and defenses. Stick to the plan you and your therapist developed.
If active drug addiction or abuse is ongoing, define your boundaries. Will you only visit when they are sober? Will you leave the moment any abuse starts?
Would You Like to Feel Better Emotionally?
Our counseling practice provides a safe, comfortable environment for you to discuss your personal concerns. We don’t take notes during sessions so that the focus remains on you. We work together to achieve your goals.
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