We talk a lot about toxic partners and their impact on our mental health and general well-being but we don’t really talk about our parents and how they can often exhibit the same toxic behaviors that we find in our partners and more often than not, these toxic traits are the reason behind many of our insecurities, our relationship patterns, our attachment styles, and our character. Knowing whether or not your parents are toxic is the key to deep transformation and healing.
Toxic parents can often translate their behaviors as love or protection but they seldom stop to think about how these behaviors can affect their children or how they will grow up to see the world. Below are some of the most common traits of toxic parents.
1. Taking out their unhealed wounds and traumas on their children.
Some old-fashioned parents don’t really believe in therapy or healing their own childhood issues so they inadvertently take it out on their children. The depressed parent who teaches their child not to trust people and the world. The lonely parent who preaches that love is nothing but a scam and it’s not real. The parents who constantly insult and abuse each other in front of their children. This dynamic creates a toxic environment for the children to grow up in. They view the world as unsafe and they often struggle to find the right friends or the right partners because they didn’t see a healthy relationship dynamic or a safe family model to follow.
2. Dismissing their child’s interests because they don’t understand it.
Overprotective and traditional parents tend to play it safe when it comes to their children’s education and career. They don’t really understand what they don’t know or what sounds like a hobby to them. They discourage the children from pursuing their passions or their desires because they don’t find it lucrative or prestigious enough. They stifle their child’s identity which builds constant resentment. Some parents think they know what’s good for their children that they don’t try to distinguish between what’s truly best for them and what’s not.
3. Putting their own needs first.
Selfish parents often neglect their children and their needs because they’re too focused on theirs. They don’t care enough about what the children are going through or if they have exams or an important day at work, they often use their children as punchbags based on their mood or their needs or their own grief. They also downplay their children’s emotions and problems because they’re ‘futile’ compared to what they’re going through not realizing that this behavior makes the children feel like their feelings don’t matter. Selfish parents don’t always sympathize with their children or nurture their emotional needs making them feel abandoned and unloved.
4. Showing no respect to their child’s boundaries.
Parents who invade their child’s personal space and private matters think they’re doing it to protect them or keep an eye on them but that often backfires because it forces the child to have a separate life away from their parents and hide the truth from them. They realize that they can’t be who they are at home so they pretend to be someone else to avoid conflict with their parents and find their freedom and happiness elsewhere. Forcing the children to act in a way that goes against who they are or what they truly want makes the child either fearful of the parents or rebellious in extreme ways.
5. Failing to take responsibility for their own actions.
Parents who fail to recognize where they went wrong and what they need to do to fix it are only prolonging the healing process for them and their children. Parents who continually fail to examine their actions and how they made their children feel can create a very toxic environment where the child feels misunderstood, abandoned and afraid to speak up. Refusing to acknowledge the pain they inflict on their children only creates more wounds and hostility. Parents should seek to understand where the children are coming from even if it means taking the blame or recognizing their own mistakes. A parent in denial can truly ruin the life of their child.
In many ways, all parents make mistakes but when parents see a repeated pattern that is not serving them or their children, they need to take solid action to fix the problem before it gets out of hand. Creating a safe, loving, healthy, and nurturing environment for the children should always be the parents’ top priority no matter what they’re going through so they can bring up well-rounded individuals instead of children who will grow up with a bunch of unresolved childhood issues that will later need healing.
If you happen to have toxic parents, your path should start with understanding how their behaviors are affecting your day-to-day life and how you can change that. Being aware of the emotional triggers and the childhood wounds that you still harbor from your parents is the beginning of healing those wounds and breaking the cycle of toxicity. Toxic parents may never change who they are but you can always change how much of their toxicity you choose to allow into your own life.
By setting clear boundaries with them, doing the self-help work and seeking therapy, you can definitely heal some of the scars they left on you but first, you have to accept the harsh reality that your parents are toxic and may be the reason behind some of your biggest fears and insecurities so you can truly take action towards ridding yourself of their toxicity and not repeating the same mistakes when it comes to raising your own children.