Even normal parent-child relationships can have their ups and downs. As you get older, it is not possible to think exactly alike the people who raised you or even always be on the same page as them. But if your relationship with your parent is not an “ideally” normal one and constantly revolves around an on-going circle of arguments and usually leaves you feeling empty, helpless, sad or bad about yourself, then chances are you have a toxic relationship. The basis of a toxic relationship is anger, emotional manipulation, and other hurtful negative feelings, instead of having a mutually supportive relationship. We can foster toxic relationships with anyone in our lives, it can be our partner, friends, parents or siblings. But for most of us, toxic relationships with our parents are particularly common and are very difficult to deal with.
Well, we don’t get to choose our parents and despite everything, we can’t exactly dump them and go outside to buy new ones. Unluckily, most of us end up with parents who do more harm than good to our fragile psyches, whether consciously or unconsciously. Psychologists have coined the term “toxic parents” for such parents. It’s very difficult for children of toxic parents to grow up to become independent adults and it’s also very difficult for them to develop intimate relationships.
As always, we can always count on societal prejudices to make things worse. Society places immense blame and guilt on the shoulders of children who are estranged or aren’t on speaking terms with their parents and that pressure is enough to force children to suffer in silence. I take the issue of mental health very serious because I experienced it first-hand and know how it can make you suffer. There many options apart from suffering your parent’s toxicity with a smile and cutting your ties completely. Also, please know that cutting ties from a toxic relationship isn’t as tragic as some ignorant people make it out to be.
It may take some time for us who were raised by toxic parents to figure that out, but how do you find out if you grew up with a toxic parent? Do you think if there is any chance that you might have a toxic relationship with your parent/s? So here are some common signs to find out and do know that you have many possibilities to live a happy life. If you went through any of the following situations while growing up, then chances are that one or both of your parents were at least a little toxic.
They make toxic “jokes” at your expense
It’s normal for parents to occasionally pick on their children, but when those so called harmless jokes becomes a regular routine in your household, it can turn into a huge problem. You are not at all obliged to take this type of behavior because your parent has always joked at your expense. Regularly, criticizing someone regarding their appearance or any habits is not normal. In the end, it’s just an undermining approach to making you feel very bad about yourself. If a parent has a genuine and sincere concern regarding their child then they should have a non-critical attitude while approaching their children and must not make any mean jokes about them.
They dismiss your negative feelings
You can never have compassion for yourself when your parents took care of your physical needs and neglected your emotional ones. Did your mother ever made you feel invisible or as if your feelings did not matter, and then you caught yourself thinking, “People have had worst. At least I had a roof over my head and never slept on a hungry stomach. I don’t have any base to complain”. In any case, you shouldn’t be thinking like that because your suffering is real, even though other people’s problems are worse. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse and neglect and can deeply scar and wound us, too. Psychologists have proved that children who suffered emotional trauma and abuse experienced that same amount of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicidal impulses as children who have suffered sexual and physical abuse.
Emotional neglect from our parents can have lasting results on us, as it can make us feel unworthy of attention and experience deep self-doubt and all this whilst experiencing a never ending longing for love and affection.
Dismissiveness can take place in lot of forms, it can be when your parents undermine and don’t appreciate you whenever you achieve something in life or they make plans for your life without even considering your wishes and the message it gives is clear that they don’t think you are capable enough to make your decisions even when you are a grown adult.
You have holes in your childhood memories
You can remember bits and pieces of memories from your childhood but feel like there is something you can’t remember. And sometimes, it feels like your childhood was a complete blur. This could be the sign that you were raised by a toxic parent. Growing up in the stressful environment can affect your memory very badly. It doesn’t mean that you don’t remember a thing from your childhood but instead you have some clear memories of some events but there are some years where you remember close to nothing.
They often treat you with silent treatments
Parents often use the technique of silent treatment to bend their children to their will. I know it’s hard to talk rationally to someone when you’re angry but shutting out a child can be very damaging for the child. Treating anyone with our passive aggressive behavior can hurt our relationships and it compels the recipient to fix the situation even when they were not in the wrong. I would advise parents to never dish out their anger on their children and if they are too mad to talk rationally then it’s better to say nothing than saying something hurtful which can severe relationships in a long term.
They are too critical
In order to learn something in life, we need some productive criticism to keep us in check and every parent criticizes their kids from time to time. But a toxic parent takes criticism beyond limits and overly criticizes their child about every little thing. Some parents think that by being overly critical they are actually looking after their child by making sure that don’t end up making stupid and costly mistakes. Unfortunately, all it does is make a child harsh critic of themselves and set too much pressure on themselves, just to please their parents and this behavior can be extremely crippling later in the child’s life.
They gave you tough love while you craved affirmation and security
Some people approach parenthood thinking that if they only showed tough love to their children then they are actually making able adults who will be able to take care of themselves in the future. If you were raised with this kind of behavior on a regular basis then you might even believe that it had a positive impact on your life. But if at times, you feel like your whole life is crumbling around you because of any kind of rejection or failure than it is most probably because your parents failed to provide you with the right amount of affirmation and security you actually needed as a child. Yes, I am sure that this kind of behavior where a parent shows tough love can work at times but it should not be the only parenting approach if parents want their child to become a well-rounded adult.
You’re too scared to stick up for yourself
Sometimes sticking it out to your parents can have very terrible consequences. Even when a child think that they are blocking out their parent’s insults, actually after a lifetime of going through it makes a child believe whatever the parent said about them, and they treat themselves as they really were the person from their parent’s insults. It’s a lot of time to accept that relationship with your parent is irredeemably toxic. Also having a toxic relationship doesn’t always mean that you don’t love each other and the most hurting thing of all is knowing you love each other but cannot get along.
They are cruel
We can’t always spot toxicity, even if it were to hit in our face. It’s sometimes subtle and we won’t even know it is happening but sometimes everything is out in open. Do your parents often mock you, call you ugly names or they may imply or say it outright that you’re ugly/fat/stupid/ a failure / a loser / a disappointment? Are they often ridiculing your passions, friends or even partners, on the basis that they are saving you from making mistakes?
Cruel parents come in all kinds and have all kinds of inspirations and motives. Maybe they themselves are suffering from undiagnosed mental health problems that make them act like an irrational person. Or maybe you’re they punched bag on whom they take out their anger and disappointment about other aspects of their life. Nonetheless, whatever the cause, any damage your toxic parent cause can have devastating impacts on your life and are very tough to break free from.
You actually justify their terrible behavior
Some children grow up to believe that their parents treat them in a certain way, physical and emotional abuse because they deserve it. And by doing so they justify the terrible and cruel behavior of others at their expense. Toxic parents are masters when it comes to twisting a situation as they need and this leaves their children with either accepting that their parents are wrong or take the blame on themselves. But many children, who are presently adults, choose to blame themselves rather than accepting their parents’ mistakes.
They scare even their adult children
Respect and fear can never go side by side. In facts, happy adults are usually those you were loved and supported in their childhood. Although, from time to time, discipline is necessary but toxic parents take disciplining their children too extreme by using very fearful actions and hurtful words that damage a child’s psyche permanently. There is no need for children to be afraid in order to be respectful and adults need to control their anxiety every time their parents tries to contact them in some sort.
At the end of the day, we all want to stay insane and if it means to remove few toxic people from life then so be it. But removing people from our life is always difficult and even more so when one of them is a parent. And to correct those deep emotional and psychological damages, we need to take action and go seek some help.
Most importantly, if you recognized your relationship with your parents as a toxic one, then it just makes you an ungrateful or bad child. You are just someone who did not get the love you deserved and is just trying to do the best you can with it. It isn’t wrong to try to improve things, but you have to give credit to yourself because you are very strong to have come so far in life and no matter what your toxic parent told you, you have earned it.
Almas is an avid reader and a fitness enthusiast. When she is not grinding in the gym, you can find her either reading or writing. She is also a self-taught baker and feminist at heart. She longs for a utopian society which lacks any form of hate but then she realizes her own impossible wishes and writes to liberate her thoughts.