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How to Deal with Toxic Parents: Tips and Strategies

It is incredibly complex to deal with toxic parents. Parents are the people who, in many cases, raised you, provided for you, and continue to love you unconditionally. But in some cases, that unconditional love is mired in complex issues like toxic behavior on behalf of your parents. 

Dealing with toxic parents on a regular basis can have a strong emotional toll and interfere with your well-being. It’s important that you address the issue for your mental and physical health and figure out how to deal with toxic parents in such a way that you have more control over your happiness and well-being moving forward.

toxic parents

What Are Toxic Parents?

Toxic parents are individuals who display toxic parenting behaviors. This can include:

  1. Manipulation
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Neglect

Toxic parenting does not necessarily come from a place of ill will, even if it seems like it. In most cases, parents exhibit toxic behaviors because of their own unresolved issues and generational cycles of abuse.

Toxic parenting is defined as behavior utilized by parents on a regular basis that is hurtful to their children. These can be negative behaviors or negative words that cause anxiety and stress in children.

Identifying toxic parenting behaviors can be difficult, especially when you have a close relationship with your mother or father. It might be easier to identify these behavioral traits by recognizing the symptoms they cause for you. Some examples include:

  • Continually feeling judged
  • Feeling guilty whenever you say no to something
  • Feeling like you are constantly manipulated or not respected, especially by your parents
  • Feeling bad about yourself or unsure of yourself
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed or drained after interacting with your parents. 

Impacts of Growing Up with Toxic Parents

When you grow up with toxic parents, it can have emotional and psychological impacts that leave an indelible mark on things like:

  • Your adult relationships 
  • Your self-esteem
  • Your life choices

Toxic behaviors can leave you feeling angry, drained, or overwhelmed every time you interact with your family. This can have a detrimental impact on your relationships as well.

For example:

If you speak to your mother or father and it leaves you feeling emotionally drained each time, you may not have the emotional regulation or willpower after each interaction to be supportive and listen to your spouse or your own children. It might also leave you overwhelmed, such that you are unable to complete daily tasks.

Toxic behaviors from your parents can cause you to feel bad about yourself, usually after you interact with them. You might walk away from a visit or a phone call feeling unsure of yourself, and this can lead to issues of low self-esteem, which inhibit relationships and intimacy and can affect your parenting style as well as your relationship with your own children.

Suppose you walk away from interactions with your parents constantly feeling like you have to walk on eggshells and not upset them or trigger them. In that case, it can directly influence the life choices you make because many of the decisions you make will be weighed against the reaction of your parents or how they might feel.

Strategies for Dealing with Toxic Parents

To that end, it’s important to develop strategies for dealing with toxic parents and improving your own self-esteem and quality of life.

Set firm boundaries

Setting firm boundaries is important. You allow people to treat you however they treat you, and that applies to toxic parenting behaviors as well.

This is not to say that you are responsible for the behaviors your parents employ but you do have control over how much you tolerate.

Don’t be afraid to set firm boundaries, such as not allowing your parents to show up unexpectedly or requesting that they not discuss specific issues over the phone. 

When you set these boundaries you also put yourself in a position to no longer try to get approval from your parents for your life choices.

Avoid personalization

Another way to deal with toxic parents is to avoid personalization. Remember that trust is the Cornerstone of healthy relationships, and if your parents have proven that they are untrustworthy because they criticize you, gossip about you, or share things without your permission, then you can avoid telling them things that are happening in your life or sharing things with them.

For example:

Laura always shares pictures of her children on social media without their permission. One of her sons requested that none of the family members post any pictures of their newborn child on social media. Laura continued to do so, saying that she was “her grandbaby and she could do what she wanted.” So, after the first several months, her son stopped sharing photos of the newborn child and would not allow Laura to take pictures with the child. 

Schedule regular therapy sessions

If necessary, go to regular therapy sessions. Therapy sessions can include family therapy where you involve your parents. This might be a wonderful way to identify problems in the relationship, help your parents recognize some of the personal factors that contribute to those behaviors, and improve communication.

Create a support group meet-up

Create a support group meetup where you can get support from friends, family, or other people in your community who struggle with toxic parents. Support groups can be things you attend regularly or when you feel you need extra help because of the interaction with your parents.

Engage in a weekly self-care activity

A great way of dealing with toxic parents is to engage in a weekly self-care activity. Self-care should be high on your priority list no matter your relationship with your parents because it can improve your mental and physical well-being.

When you incorporate regular self-care strategies into your routine, you put yourself in a better position to deal with toxic parenting behaviors.

For example:

Alice constantly feels overwhelmed, anxious, and emotionally drained when she takes a call from her mother. She recently started employing a weekly self-care activity where she took a day off to go hiking. Sometimes, her mom calls her on that day, but Alice no longer feels guilty about not taking the phone call. 

Moreover, she also started employing meditation and yoga as a daily part of her self-care routine, and now when her mother calls, she is usually in a much better place emotionally and cognitively, so the effects of the phone call are not as severe. 

Consider limited contact or no contact

It’s okay to set boundaries on how often you have contact with your parents as well. You can tell them no from time to time, go to family events late, or leave their house early.

Limited contact could extend to declining their request to come to visit or to stay with you, or, when you go to visit family, declining to stay with them. 

Remember that healthy relationships are based on respect, and if your parents treat you poorly, it can be difficult to keep the relationship going with that lack of respect. In these cases, you might even need to cut off contact with toxic parents entirely.

Summing Up

Overall, knowing how to deal with toxic parents is important for your overall mental health and well-being. When parents have unresolved trauma or issues of abuse in their past and haven’t worked through those issues yet, it can manifest as toxic parenting. That said, you can choose how they treat you and how frequently you interact. 

Don’t feel guilty about prioritizing your well-being and seeking happiness. You have a great deal of strength and resilience, having dealt with toxic parents, and you can use that to help you take the necessary steps forward.

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