How To Deal With Toxic Parents?

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June 6, 2023 by Marjorie R. Rogers, MA (English), Certified Consultant

Dealing with toxic parents requires setting boundaries and seeking support. It’s important to prioritize one’s own mental and emotional well-being when navigating a relationship with toxic parents.

While every situation is unique, there are common strategies that can help individuals cope with the challenges presented by toxic parents. Growing up with toxic parents can have a lasting impact on an individual’s mental and emotional health. Toxic behaviors may include emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or manipulation.

Coping with toxic parents can be difficult, but it is possible to navigate these relationships while prioritizing one’s own well-being. This may involve setting boundaries, seeking support from friends or professionals, and working to heal from past traumas. In this article, we will explore some effective ways to deal with toxic parents and prioritize self-care.

How To Deal With Toxic Parents?


Understanding Toxic Parenting Styles

Definition Of Toxic Parenting

Toxic parenting refers to a parenting style that is damaging to a child’s mental and emotional well-being. It can take many forms, but its core characteristics are consistently unhealthy and harmful behaviors that leave children feeling anxious, unloved, and unsupported.

Below are some common traits of toxic parenting.

  • Control: A toxic parent may exert excessive control over their child’s life, including their thoughts, feelings, and decisions. They may use guilt, threats, or manipulation to get their way and prevent their child from developing their own sense of autonomy.
  • Negativity: A toxic parent tends to focus on the negative aspects of their child’s behavior and may be critical or dismissive of their accomplishments. These parents often take pleasure in seeing their child fail and may belittle or shame them.
  • Inconsistency: A toxic parent may be unpredictable in their behavior, resulting in a child who is always on edge and unsure of how to behave. They may give mixed messages or say one thing but do another, leading the child to feel confused and uncertain.
  • Emotional abuse: A toxic parent may engage in various forms of emotional abuse, including name-calling, gaslighting, or bullying. They may withhold affection or use their child’s vulnerability as a bargaining tool to get what they want.

Signs Of Toxic Parenting

It’s not always easy to recognize toxic parenting, especially if it’s all you’ve ever known. However, there are some common signs that suggest your parent’s behavior is unhealthy and damaging to your well-being. Below are some signs of toxic parenting.

  • You feel like you can never do anything right, and your parent is quick to point out your mistakes.
  • Your parent is emotionally distant and rarely offers praise or affection.
  • Your parent is highly critical of your appearance, behavior, or choices, and may mock or ridicule you.
  • Your parent uses guilt, manipulation, or control to get you to do what they want.
  • You feel anxious or depressed when you’re around your parent, and you dread spending time with them.

Types Of Toxic Parenting Behaviors

Toxic parenting can take on different forms, and it’s helpful to understand each type so that you can recognize it in your own life. Below are some examples of common toxic parenting behaviors.

  • Authoritarian parent: This type of parent creates strict rules and expectations and expects their child to obey without question. They may use physical punishment or threats to enforce the rules. Children of authoritarian parents may struggle to develop self-confidence and autonomy.
  • Narcissistic parent: A narcissistic parent is highly self-absorbed and emotionally unavailable to their child. They may view their child as an extension of themselves and expect them to meet their own needs. Children of narcissistic parents often struggle with low self-esteem and have difficulty forming their own identity.
  • Perfectionist parent: A perfectionist parent demands excellence from their child in all areas, including academics, sports, and hobbies. They may be critical of any mistakes or failures and create an atmosphere of high-pressure and stress. Children of perfectionist parents may struggle with anxiety and self-doubt.
  • Neglectful parent: A neglectful parent is emotionally and physically unavailable to their child and may fail to provide necessary care and attention. Children of neglectful parents may struggle with feelings of abandonment and lack of trust in others.

Remember, toxic parenting is not your fault, and it’s never too late to seek help and cultivate a healthier relationship with your parent.

The Impact Of Toxic Parenting On Adult Children

Growing up with toxic parents can have harmful effects on adult children’s mental, physical, relationship and social, as well as career and education outcomes. The effects can be long-lasting and pervasive throughout adulthood. Below are the key points of each impact of toxic parenting.

Mental Health Outcomes

  • Toxic parenting can cause a plethora of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and personality disorders.
  • Adult children of toxic parents may experience emotional numbing and dissociation as a coping mechanism to deal with their trauma.
  • Childhood trauma can also increase the likelihood of developing addiction or substance abuse disorders in adulthood.

Physical Health Outcomes

  • Physical health problems associated with toxic parenting include chronic stress, inflammation, and weakened immune system.
  • Adult children of toxic parents may neglect their physical health due to the lack of self-care skills learned in childhood.
  • Childhood abuse and neglect can lead to physical ailments such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems and headaches.

Relationship And Social Outcomes

  • Toxic parenting can negatively influence an adult child’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Adult children of toxic parents may struggle with emotional regulation and communication, leading to difficulties in social situations.
  • Childhood trauma can result in social withdrawal, isolation and feelings of loneliness in adulthood.

Career And Education Outcomes

  • Adult children of toxic parents may have difficulties in pursuing their educational and career goals, due to the effects of trauma and low self-esteem.
  • Toxic parenting may also contribute to difficulties in finding and maintaining employment due to poor coping skills.
  • Childhood trauma can lead to an inability to handle stress and therefore result in a lack of advancement in their careers.

Toxic parenting can have long-lasting, negative impacts on adult children in every area of their lives. Seeking professional help and therapy can help individuals to cope with and overcome the effects of toxic parenting, leading to a happier and healthier future.

How To Address Toxic Parenting Behavior

Dealing with toxic parents can be a challenging and emotionally taxing experience. Toxic parents often exhibit harmful behavior that stems from a deep-seated root cause. If you’re struggling with difficult parents, it’s essential to address their toxic behavior. In this section, we’ll discuss how to identify the root causes behind toxic behavior, approach your toxic parents, and communicate boundaries and expectations.

Identifying The Root Causes Of Toxic Behavior

It’s crucial to understand the underlying causes of your parents’ toxic behavior to address it effectively. Here are some of the common root causes:

  • Childhood trauma or neglect
  • Personality disorders such as borderline, narcissistic, or antisocial personality disorder
  • Substance abuse or mental illness
  • Unhealthy family dynamics or expectations

It’s vital to seek therapy and support to work through the impact of toxic parents and better understand and cope with their behavior.

Approaching Toxic Parents

Approaching toxic parents requires a lot of courage and preparation. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Plan the conversation in advance
  • Be respectful and avoid blaming or attacking
  • Use “i” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Listen actively and try to understand their perspective
  • Set boundaries and consequences

Remember that you can’t change your parents’ behavior, but you can control your response to it. Stay firm and assertive in your approach.

Communicating Boundaries And Expectations

Establishing clear boundaries and expectations is essential when dealing with toxic parents. Here are some tips to help you communicate effectively:

  • Be specific and clear about your boundaries
  • Use positive language
  • Communicate consequences for violating boundaries
  • Stand firm and do not compromise on your boundaries

It’s crucial to remember that setting boundaries and expectations is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires consistency and follow-through.

Addressing toxic parenting behavior can be a complex and challenging process. Identifying the root causes of toxic behavior, approaching toxic parents, and communicating boundaries and expectations are key steps to take. Remember to seek therapy and support to help you deal with the impact of toxic parents effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions For How To Deal With Toxic Parents?

How Do I Know If My Parents Are Toxic?

Toxic parents often show excessive control, manipulation, criticism, neglect or abuse.

Can Toxic Parents Change Their Behavior?

It depends on various factors such as the severity of the situation, willingness to change, and the extent of support they receive.

How Can I Distance Myself From Toxic Parents?

Setting boundaries, limiting contact, seeking therapy, or moving away can help.

Should I Confront My Toxic Parents?

It depends on your safety and emotional well-being. Consider seeking therapy before confronting them.

How Can Therapy Help In Dealing With Toxic Parents?

Therapy can help you establish boundaries, heal from past trauma, and learn healthy coping mechanisms.


It’s never easy dealing with toxic parents, but acknowledging the problem is the first step in finding a solution. You have the right to choose how you engage with them or whether you want a relationship at all. Setting boundaries is crucial, and you must remember to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being.

It’s essential to seek professional help if you’re struggling with the situation. There’s no shame in asking for help. Remember, you’re not alone, and many are in the same boat. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who accept and appreciate you for who you are.

Take time for self-care and focus on your personal growth. Ultimately, you have the power to create a healthy and positive future for yourself, regardless of your past experiences. Remember, it’s never too late to start fresh.

About Author (Marjorie R. Rogers)

The inspiring mum of 6 who dedicates her time to supporting others. While battling with her own demons she continues to be the voice for others unable to speak out. Mental illness almost destroyed her, yet here she is fighting back and teaching you all the things she has learned along the way. Get Started To Read …