002 Toxic Parents: Dealing With the Fallout

You’ve heard it before: your childhood and upbringing have a massive impact on your entire existence; the seeds that our parents (sometimes toxic parents) plant in us as children continue to sprout and grow as we develop. Our relationships with our parents lay the foundation for our relationships with ourselves and with others later in our lives, and that’s why it is essential to understand these foundational relationships. The seeds planted by parents range anywhere from love, independence, and respect to the other side of the spectrum: obligation, fear, and guilt.

Toxic parents often don’t understand the impacts they are having on their children. In fact, they often act out of what they think is love. This could look like anything from reprimanding to comparison or repeated patterns of abuse. Toxic parenting deprives us of the ability to develop and grow naturally; it hinders our self-awareness and confidence. We internalize a lot of these non-nurturing elements as limiting beliefs, which are negative beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. All those unwritten and unspoken rules in our families go a long way. And for most people, it is not until their adult years that they start noticing the impact of toxic parenting traits. 

Types of toxic parents

  1. The controlling parent – makes decisions for the child which greatly hinders the child’s ability to make decisions or exist independently.
  2. The uninvolved parent – is not available emotionally, and does not provide any form of structure. It hinders the child’s ability to connect with or trust people.
  3. The parent-child (role reversal) – roles are switched for whatever reason and the child feels invisible. This hinders the child’s emotional growth as they are consistently finding themselves responsible for their parent.
  4. The critical parent – Sets impractical expectations, never appreciates achievements, and constantly compares. This creates intense perfectionists who are over-ambitious and have a constant need to impress.

Reclaiming your life

It can be difficult, but it’s important to acknowledge the impact that a toxic parent had on you while fully realizing that their behavior was not your responsibility. Also, realize that you can change even if your parents don’t since your well-being is not dependent on them. At a certain point we learn that we are completely independent from our parents: we have our own likes and dislikes, beliefs and personalities. You can overcome your childhood trauma without necessarily forgiving your parents.

As you start (or continue) on the road to self-discovery and self-definition, make sure you set new and healthy boundaries to govern your life and relationships. You are the only one who knows and can define your limits and what you’re willing to give and take. Lastly, learn to trust yourself to enjoy life while regulating your emotions, reactions, and responsibility. Life’s a journey and sometimes things take a while, be patient with yourself.