If You Have Toxic Parents, Read This

Disclaimer: This article is to spread awareness among the general public, please don’t perceive this as a personal attack on your character. 

It’s pretty common to come across dysfunctional family units, however in some occasions the dysfunction is turned up a notch, in which the toxic patterns happen repeatedly and are really evident. The parents would not compromise, never take responsibility for their behaviour, and never apologize. 

If you have some form of toxic upbringing, then please read this: 

  1. Stop expecting them to change. You can change yourself without changing your parents 

Your mother turned into an alcoholic after the divorce with your father when you were just a teenager. Now you are in your final year of university. You also become self-aware that you have encountered several difficulties in your romantic relationship, and you are told by your therapist that one reason for this is because of the unhealthy attachment pattern you developed with your mother when you were young. You want to fix your relationship with your mother by trying to coax her to join therapy sessions with you. However, she refuses. 

Psych2goers, are you feeling unhappy seeing your parents struggle with their life and other issues? Naturally, you want to help, rescue, or fix their life and prevent them from making “bad” decisions. A psychotherapist, Sharon Martin, LCSW, stated in her article entitled “You can’t solve other people’s problems: How to stop trying to change others”, while it may be a noble intention to try to protect your loved one from diving into a “molten lava of life destruction”, however it also requires the intrinsic motivation from your parents to change in order for the change to happen. Yes, this is a difficult pill to swallow, but you should know, you simply can’t solve your parents’ problem and oftentimes when you meddle in their problems, it can become way worse than it is. 

2. Your happiness and wellbeing no longer depend on your parents 

Picture this! It’s the day for the school magazine photoshoot, but you feel sad and a bit down. The photographer urges you to smile, “Come on dude, give a huge smile for me,” then the moment you etch that grin on your face, you start to feel better. 

Remember this, true happiness comes from within. Your happiness and wellbeing are not under the control of your parents. Start to be in control with your own happiness. Be an active participant in your life. Don’t depend on other people to make you happy. 

3. Stop blaming yourself for the painful experiences in your childhood

You step into your therapist’s room and after making yourself comfortable in the winged armchair, you disclose your story, 

“I am such a loser. I hate my life. I am already 30 years old but I can’t seem to keep my job for more than a year. I think my life will not change. I will be forever stuck in this awful place.” 

“Okay, why do you feel so?” 

“How could I change? It’s all because of my childhood. My parents were not supportive of me, abused me physically and emotionally, and neglected my needs when I was young.” 

Psych2goers, have you ever found yourself constantly blaming yourself for the painful experiences in your childhood? Perhaps because of those painful experiences, you also gravitate to blame your parents. You continuously paint yourself as a victim and your parents are responsible for your failure. 

However, it is crucial for you to know that in order to move forward and break free from the feeling of being “stuck”, you need to take ownership of your own life. If you are stuck with this victim mentality mindset, it is highly impossible for you to become the person you aspire to be or to create a life that you dream for. 

4. You don’t have to forgive your parents in order to start healing and feeling good about who you are 

You had a traumatic childhood. Your father always insults you, especially regarding your appearance, causing you to have low self-esteem and suffer from an eating disorder. 

What you experience during your childhood is indeed traumatic and should not be experienced by any child ever. The most important step in healing is to forgive yourself.  Perhaps you have really abusive parents who never fulfill their responsibilities as a good father and mother to you. Forgive yourself means that you are actually trying to let go of the emotional baggage that keeps weighing in your heart, that tiny voice in your head that says, “I am at fault for what has happened to me.” Remember, you cannot change or relive the past. 

Being forgiving does not mean you accept their behaviour. You forgive for the sake of your mental health, so that you can let go and move forward in your life.

5. You can overcome your childhood traumas and have healthy relationships, even if your parents and family stay the same 

Do you worry that the traumatic experience during your childhood can ruin your happiness and other relationships in your life? Your parents remain the same, they still exhibit their toxic behaviours with you. 

If you can relate to the above scenario, then know this: You can overcome your childhood traumas and foster healthy relationships with other people in your life despite there is no change that can be seen from your parents’ side. Remember, the past does not always have to stay where it should. 

Final thoughts 

Those who have experienced traumatic childhood, oftentimes would carry wounds into their adult life. However, know this: healing always starts with you – your feelings and attitudes. Your parents may never change, but you will. What happens to you in the past does not define who you are as a person and you are not “broken” because of it.

REFERENCES 

Amsel, B. (2013, October 19). Blaming your parents hurts you most. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/blaming-your-parents-hurts-you-most-0311134.

Lancer, D. (2018, August 28). Are your parents toxic? Psych Central. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/are-your-parents-toxic#5.

Martin, S. (2021, May 18). You can’t solve other people’s problems: How to stop trying to change others. Sharon Martin, LCSW Counseling San Jose and Campbell, CA. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://sharonmartincounseling.com/how-to-stop-trying-to-change-others-codependency-therapy-san-jose/.

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