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Published on Oct 07, 2021
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Sophia Clark

How to Deal with Toxic Parents?

Parents are the most important contributors to our progress. Our mental, physical, social, financial, and career growth are all influenced by them. Parents are the most precious gift to us, and they assist us in all aspects of our lives and have rigorously prepared us to meet future problems.

What Does it Mean to Have a Toxic Parent?

To be clear, the phrase "toxic parent" is not a medical phrase nor a well-defined notion. When people talk about toxic people, they usually refer to parents who routinely act in ways that make their children feel guilty, afraid, or obligated. Their behaviors aren't one-off occurrences but rather a behavior pattern that has a detrimental impact on their child's life.

Parents are, after all, human beings. That implies, even if unintentionally, they're more likely to make errors, shout excessively, or do things that can potentially harm their children. On the other side, their instinct is to improve and remedy the situation.

On the other hand, a toxic parent is more concerned with their demands than with whether or not what they're doing is detrimental. They're unlikely to apologize or even admit that they're doing something wrong. And the maltreatment or neglect is usually persistent or escalating.

Characteristics of Toxic Parents

Parents who demonstrate one or more of the following qualities are described as "toxic parents."

  • Self-centered behaviors

When it comes to things you need, your parents may be emotionally unavailable, egotistical, or indifferent. It may seem that every circumstance revolves around the same question: "What about ME?"

  • Physically and verbally abusive

There are different things that toxic parents say to their children that may harm their children mentally and their relationships for a long time. Physical violence, screaming, threats, or something apparent aren't always considered abuse. Name-calling, shifting blame, silent treatment, or gaslighting are examples of more subtle types of abuse.

  • Controlling behaviors

Toxic people may intrude on your privacy or refuse to let you make your own choices. Or perhaps, even as an adult, they are unduly judgmental and controlling of your judgments.

  • Manipulative behaviors

Your parents may attempt to exert control over you by instilling guilt or shame in you. Toxic people may manipulate their children by using time, money, and other items as pawns.

  • Lack of boundaries

Toxic people are notorious for insisting on getting their way. You may surrender to thoughts or circumstances when their approaches wear you down due to exhaustion or frustration.

What are the Consequences of Having Toxic Parents?

The family has a significant impact on a person's feeling of self-worth, perception of and trust in others, and general worldview, in whatever form it takes. It is, in essence, the foundation for how you see and interact with the people, places, and things around you.

If you've been exposed to toxicity, it may be therapeutic or even freeing to admit that many of the behaviors you've picked up are poisonous. You may have believed that the bad things that happened to you as a kid were "normal."

For instance, you may have been beaten or abused but dismissed it as a spanking. You may have been neglected horribly, but you justified it by blaming it on your parents' hectic schedules.

You may feel doomed as a parent if you grew up with a toxic parent as a role model. How can you stop history from repeating itself?

There's some positive news to report. Learned habits may be unlearned and adjusted with little effort. This isn't a manageable undertaking, but the first step is to acknowledge that your surroundings shaped you.

You won't change until you recognize and embrace the factors that have shaped your actions.

What Can You Do if You Have Toxic Parent?

While you can't control what other people do, you can limit your interactions with toxic people by setting boundaries. It can also help you regain control and feel empowered in circumstances where you previously felt helpless.

The situation is overly critical if toxic people surround you and cannot stop them from being verbally abusive and make you feel guilty or emotionally abused. Your parents may still affect or overwhelm you as an adult child.

You can even feel as if you're waiting for someone to permit you to leave that control.

The truth is, you are the only one who can permit yourself. You are the one who has the power to alter and reclaim your life. And you can get started right now by establishing a plan.

  • Boundaries

One of the best ways to start is by setting boundaries. A boundary is just an invisible line that no one is permitted to cross around you. This might be a physical or psychological issue. And you have complete control over setting boundaries and measuring that line.

Two ways to set boundaries are:

  • Be straightforward with the boundaries you define

"When I look at toxic family structures, one thing I see is that the children are more sensitive to the demands of the parents." The conventional parent-child relationship has been reversed, and there is confusion regarding setting boundaries.

For example, parents may have toxic relationships with their co-parents, and they fight in front of the kids instead of in private. As a result, it tends to immerse kids in the parental discourse, which is a highly improper and overly critical situation in toxic families, and that's when kids start to take on more parental side responsibilities.

Toxic people are typically consumed by their problems, emotional roller coasters, or addictions, and as a result, their children never learn to be themselves. They are constantly looking for ways to help their parents, which are very adverse effects of toxic people.

  • Make communication about setting boundaries clear and consistent.

As it is for so many of us, the challenging component for children in these settings is that we may begin to emulate the dysfunction that we're seeing. As a result, it's vital to start spotting harmful behaviors early on and diverting the conversation wherever possible. This may be done by simulating the type of behavior and constraints you wish to see in place.

You may provide some emotional validation by saying something like, "Okay, Mom, I see it; this is incredibly difficult for you," as recommended. "Right now, I'm quite irritated."

So you support their thoughts, and then you focus on what your experience is. In this approach, you're expressing that you're agitated and worried and that you need a break from the talk. Prepare your responses ahead of time so you can repeat them like a mantra to yourself.

"Even if the parent does not respect the limits, it is better for you as a child to repeat the broken record mantra than to follow them into their dysfunction."

  • Stop trying to please them.

It's normal to want your parents to welcome you, but toxic people are notoriously tough to please. It's your life, after all, and you have the freedom to make your own choices and do what makes you happy.

If you conduct your life according to the goals and objectives of others, you will constantly be unsatisfied. And if you spend your life trying to please your parents, you'll end up as their prisoner, always seeking affirmation and affection from people who aren't likely to offer it to you.

When you give your parents this kind of authority, you're allowing them to judge your self-worth and tell you whether you're clever, successful a good parent, or a decent person.

  • Don't try to change them.

Trying to change those who don't want to change is a waste of time and energy and will leave you extremely frustrated. Instead, focus on the areas of your life that you have control over, such as responding to your parents, decisions, and behaviors.

  • Be mindful of what you share with them.

Healthy relationships need trust, and we should only share personal information with those we have already proven to be trustworthy.

Unfortunately, your parents may not fall into this category if they gossip about you, criticize you, expose personal information about you without your consent, or use what you tell them against you. You are not required to tell them everything (or anything) about your life or to respond to their queries. Only share what makes you feel at ease and secure.

  • Know your parent's limitations and work around them — but only if you want to

I know many adult children of alcoholics who acknowledge that they can't stop their parents from drinking. After a specific time of day, their parents become forgetful, angry, or otherwise problematic (when intoxicated). As a result, they schedule their phone calls, visits, and family gatherings for earlier in the day to escape their parents' worst behavior.

This is a functional coping approach for some people, but you don't have to structure your life around your parents. Workaround their limits only if they are beneficial to you. It's perfectly okay to hold your birthday celebration in the evening and not invite your parents since you don't want them to ruin the occasion. Remember that you have options and that you are not required to justify them to your parents.

  • Always have an exit strategy.

When things start to go wrong, use it as a hint to go (or ask your parents to leave). You may have to do things that are contradictory to what your parents expect. It's almost sure that things will only get worse (they'll drink more, get angrier, and more obstinate). As a result, it's better to call it a day at the first hint of problems. You are not required to stay solely to please your parents or to be courteous.

  • Don't try to reason with them.

You can't reason with someone unreasonable, emotionally immature, or drunk, so don't waste your time attempting to persuade them to see your side of the story. For informational purposes, I would like to add that accepting that you won't have a healthy and mature relationship with them because they are closed-minded or lack empathy can be sad and frustrating.

Be forceful about essential subjects, but don't expect your parents to care or comprehend your viewpoint. Avoid getting sucked into power struggles or disputes that devolve into harsh name-calling and other rude actions and living in a toxic environment. As I previously stated, you are not required to attend every dispute to which you are asked. Instead, choose to withdraw.

  • You don't have to be at your parents' beck and call.

This is an essential form of boundary. If you don't say no to their unreasonable requests, toxic people will continue to take them. You can assist them if possible and appreciate them, but you are not bound to be their chauffeur, maid, gardener, or therapist, mainly if they treat you like dirt the entire time.

You also don't have to be their errand boy, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You're also not obligated to answer their calls or respond to their texts right away.

  • You don't have to be spending the holidays with your parents.

That's correct! You have earned the right to enjoy the holidays, which may entail spending them away from your parents. There is a lot of pressure in some families to keep family traditions alive, but this frequently comes at the price of your pleasure and peace of mind.

This is an excellent time to start your own Christmas traditions or experiment with your holiday expenditures and staying away from toxic people who are verbally abusive. Perhaps you'd want to have a Friendsgiving party or go on a vacation around the holidays.

And you should not be feeling guilty and telling yourself you are doing anything wrong. It's all about caring for yourself and staying away from toxic environments where you are emotionally abused.

  • Take care of yourself.

Dealing with toxic people is exhausting, and the stress hurts your mental and physical well-being. It would help if you took special care of yourself. Please start with the fundamentals, such as eating well, getting enough rest and sleep, exercising, connecting with positive people, identifying your feelings, providing a healthy outlet for them, receiving support, and having fun.

Go for a permanent solution despite looking for an artificial solution. When you're physically and emotionally abused at your best, it'll be simpler to set boundaries, respond differently, or detach.

To Sum Up:

Changing your relationship with your toxic people might be daunting since it will disrupt the status quo! It's only standard for your parents to oppose whatever changes you try to make. Transitions are challenging and stressful, but establishing boundaries with your parents is the first step in releasing yourself from their poisonous energy and expectations.

You are the only one who has the power to alter your connection with your parents, and you can begin right now! What is one tiny move you can do now to reclaim your life?

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Sophia Clark

Sophia Clark is a writer from Sydney, kid-lit enthusiast, and mom of three kids who loves to writes about motherhood, parenting, and big feelings.