It’s easy to distance yourself when you’re dealing with toxic people, but what if those toxic people are your parents? It’s hard getting any kind of break when you see them every day. Boundaries almost don’t even exist, because it’s the word “family” that ties you together, even though the word feels foreign as it rolls limply off your tongue as you say it. You may not have had a choice being born and brought up by the people you call your mom and dad, but you do have a choice in how you choose to react towards them. Psych2Go shares with you 10 ways to deal with toxic parents:
1. Become self-sufficient and independent.
If you still live with your parents, figure out how to establish financial independence and work towards that goal. These things take time, and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but learn to budget your money and find a job that you are good at that will help to sustain you when you are eventually on your own. If you have parents who don’t respect the boundaries that you set, they will use money as a weapon to keep you under their control because they still provide for you.
Recognize and understand that trick. Learn to take care of yourself and be self-sufficient. Work towards the goal of moving out, because once you’re out, there’s not much they can do to keep you wrapped under their control. Physical space can do wonders. With freedom comes more responsibility, but with freedom, a new life can also begin.
2. Know that you are your own person.
Although you may share a few similar personality traits, habits, or quirks with your parents, know that you are still very much your own person and not 100% the people who have raised you. If you recognize that your parents are being toxic, understand that you don’t have to follow those same behavioral patterns. Instead, you can break out of them and remember how not to be the source of hurt you’ve been exposed to. It’s great to have role models we can look up to in life, but learning what not to become can influence us even greater to grow into better people.
3. Create space for your own emotions.
Just because your parents may not respect your boundaries, it doesn’t mean you can’t create a safe space for your emotions. Even though you may come from a household that didn’t foster and nurture the habit of talking things out, doesn’t mean your emotions have to be locked away forever. In fact, that will only hurt you more in the long run by denying an essential aspect of who you are. If your parents don’t see your emotions as valid, let them out elsewhere. You can do this by journaling or blogging. Just because your parents failed you in this sense, doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to continue denying what you feel.
4. Find support elsewhere.
If your parents are the last people you want to talk to when you run into problems, rely on others instead who you can trust and lean on in times of trouble. You can seek help from your friends, a teacher, counselor, or co-worker. When you face stress and difficulties, your body releases the chemical oxytocin that prepares you to reach out to others, so that you don’t have to go through hardships alone. Build a support system you can depend on and create a list of contacts you can call when you find yourself at a breaking point. Just because your parents aren’t the most approachable people, doesn’t mean there aren’t any others you can talk to in this world.
5. Set your expectations low for your conversations.
Understandings seem impossible to reach and it feels like you and you parents are constantly operating on two different pages. As much as you want to have deep, meaningful or light-hearted, fun conversations, it seems like neither can be achieved when everything gets discolored through toxic words. I just want to let you know that your thoughts are valid and important. Remember that you can still be the bigger person anyway by doing your best to keep in touch with your parents, but know that you might not necessarily get the connection you want from them.
6. Use conversation diversion tactics.
If you feel as though your parents are dominating the conversation by asking you uncomfortable questions, making jabbing comments that put you down, or giving you unwanted advice on how they want you to do something, you can steer the direction of the conversation away from a potential argument by standing your ground and changing the topic. For instance, if one of your parents say, “You should find a better apartment,” instead of picking a fight, you can say, “Thanks for letting me know what you think, but I’m happy with where I am,” and then change the topic by asking them what they are up to for the day. This can help you gain some control when you’re feeling attacked.
7. Recognize the traits that make you easy prey.
If your parents choose to often lash out on you, ask yourself what makes you such an easy prey? Is it your fear of speaking up for yourself that may cause conflict or the fact that you have difficulty saying no and soften up from their suffering? Learn to stand your ground firmly and that it doesn’t make you any less of a person when you establish that you are also deserving of respect.
8. Don’t fall into the trap of intermittent reinforcement.
Research shows that people are generally optimistic. Therefore, a close loss may look like a close win for us. When challenges are thrown our way, we get through them by staying motivated by the one thing we desire most. We are also more likely to hold on when we are given what we want every once in a while.
This is called intermittent reinforcement, and it works in human relationships, too. If your toxic parent decides to be nice to you again, you might be optimistic and think, Wow, things are finally turning around. But the reality is that it’s only a perpetual cycle that lures you into thinking it’s different when the pattern is still very much there and nothing has changed.
I’ve fallen into this trap many times myself. And it was especially hard for me to admit that it was happening, because my friends all see me as this overly optimistic person. How can I not be when it’s the only way out of misery? But it was only recently that I finally dropped it. Not optimism itself, but my expectations. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know if things will eventually necessarily get any better. But, I’m not going to stand here anymore and think that the few occasional good days I have will ever be enough. Instead, I’m going to strive and look for consistency elsewhere.
9. Expect anger, but don’t give in to it.
The thing about anger is that it is often used as a weapon to remain in control. When you try to set boundaries and carve space for yourself, your toxic parents will start seeing it as a threat and will use anger to pull you back where you so desperately tried getting away from in the first place. Don’t ever expect the anger to go away when you try to establish healthy boundaries, but don’t let it leave you feeling paralyzed. The truth is that you can still do things. It just won’t create the kind of reactions you hoped for from your parents, that’s all. Do it anyway. Just because your parents are angry with your choice to grow, doesn’t mean you should let it hold you back.
10. Do not normalize abusive behavior.
We all say and do things we don’t mean when we’re upset. But, letting that be an excuse all the time to justify the toxic behaviors your parents exhibit means accepting the poor treatment you are given. And that should be never be done. That should never be okay. Remember that you are more than all of it. Every night you never thought you’d get through —every hurtful argument —every moment you blinked back tears when you felt mistreated or misunderstood —you are more than these bad memories. Have the guts to look ahead anyway. Your upbringing doesn’t determine who you can become.
How do you deal with toxic parents? Leave a comment down below!
Chen, C. (2015, February 25). What to Do When the Toxic People in Your Life Are (Unfortunately) Your Parents. The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
Streep, P. (2016, December 14). 8 Strategies for Dealing With the Toxic People in Your Life. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
Thorpe, J. (2015, September 18). 7 Tips For Dealing With Toxic Parents. Bustle. Retrieved October 4, 2017.