6 Signs You Had Toxic Parents
Dealing with toxic people in your life will vary greatly depending on your relationship with the person in question.
For example, if you have a toxic friend or are with a toxic person, it is possible to limit, limit, or end your interactions with that person to distance yourself from the negative impact they are having on your life.
However, when the toxic people are your parents or the parents of your spouse or partner, the options for simply ending the relationship are often not realistic or possible.
In situations like this, and especially with toxic parents, finding effective ways to manage the relationship in a way that preserves your emotional health is crucial.
While all parents make mistakes, some go far beyond simple mistakes.
These parents are toxic and the relationship they have with their children can be quite damaging. Not all toxic parents are like that on purpose, but the damage they cause is just as damaging.
Do you feel like your parents were toxic? Here are 6 signs of a toxic parent-child relationship.
1. You find trusting relationships difficult
Your best friend has really never lied to you, and your new partner only brings you positive signs.
But you still can’t believe them when they say they are there for you.
The feeling of not being able to rely on relationships is a potential sign of toxic parenting.
Negative parent-child interactions can make it difficult to develop trust in relationships as an adult because they undermine the sense that the world is a safe place and that people can respond appropriately to your needs.
If you haven’t been taught that people have your back, it can be especially difficult as an adult to trust reality.
2. You take rejection and failure very seriously
Do you freak out when you miss a deadline or your novel is gently rejected by an agent?
Children of toxic parents may experience more shame and pain than people whose parents were outwardly loving.
They strive to do something well because they are trying to avoid a consequence.
Therefore, feelings of failure or rejection can lead to fear of punishment and associated guilt, sadness, and shame.
Even if your boss assures you that the best of us double-book important appointments, growing up with toxic parents can convince you that you’re the worst employee ever.
3. You have extreme reactions that confuse you
Those seemingly random moments where you burst into tears when your partner asks you to meet them at a restaurant instead of a movie might not be so random after all.
According to a study, adults who were abused in their childhood can be very vulnerable to disproportionately intense emotional reactions.
While toxicity and abuse aren’t the same things, they can overlap, and parents don’t have to be constantly abusive to have a long-term impact on how their children respond to the world.
When a parent dismisses the child’s emotions (“stop being a baby”) or overindulges (“you don’t have to go to school when you’re scared”), the child has no opportunity to develop appropriate skills, to deal with it.
This can lead to difficulties in regulating negative emotions as an adult.
This can definitely lead to “small” things like last-minute changes of plans driving one over the edge of anxiety.
4. You tend to put your own emotional needs last
Whether you grew up with a verbally or physically abusive parent, a manipulative parent, or a parent who otherwise made you feel like they didn’t love you, your own emotional life may always come last in the household hierarchy Job.
Children can learn that it is best to put the needs and feelings of others ahead of their own.
In the short term, this can help reduce conflict or anxiety and make them feel in control.
In the long term, however, they learn to consistently neglect their own needs.
So you could force yourself to go to the party with your partner instead of getting your work done, no matter how stressful that stresses you out—but ignoring your needs now could cause you a lot of trouble in the long run.
5. Your inner voice is incredibly critical
Another sign that your parents didn’t take care of you the way children should be taken care of is that your self-esteem always seems very low.
Emotional and verbal abuse in childhood can take many faces — think of the times when parents compare their children to “superior” older siblings, tell them they’ll never get anywhere, or even tell the children that it’s impossible to bind high standards.
When a child grows up in a very critical family, where anything less than perfect is not tolerated, they may develop a harsh inner voice telling them that if they make a mistake, even if they do, they are a failure is still so small.
All of this can make it difficult to find self-esteem as an adult. According to a 2020 study, children who have been scolded by their parents are more likely to be overly self-critical and have very low self-esteem.
They’re also likely to feel stressed all the time, which can make them particularly hard on themselves for always “screwing things up.”
6. You have often felt responsible for your parent’s behavior
One of the traits that seem to unite the adult children of toxic parents is that the family dynamic is so entrenched that they don’t find it abnormal; it’s just “the way things are”.
In some households, a parent puts their own needs ahead of the child’s or responds to the child in unpredictable or inconsistent ways.
This can lead to a feeling that you have to control your behavior as much as possible in order to control the child’s reactions – leading to the feeling that you are responsible for many things over which you have no control.
You believe that any circumstances or interpersonal challenges are your faults.
7. You keep apologizing
If your friends are constantly begging you not to apologize — because no, the bad weather on your beach day is actually not your fault — it could be a sign that you grew up with toxic parents.
Children of toxic parents pay close attention to the needs and emotions of others to maintain their emotional security.
It can help to come to terms with yourself, to figure out if you’re apologizing because you actually screwed up or because something went wrong that you can’t control — and you want to make sure nobody’s blaming you for it.
8. You need constant validation
When you grew up in a toxic or abusive household, it can feel impossible to self-soothe when you need comfort.
Instead, you may be relying on other people to tell you that you’re doing a great job or that you’re making the “right decision” when ordering waffles instead of pancakes.
Your sense of self and your needs depending on your need for approval.
When a toxic parent speaks to a child in a demeaning manner, as an adult, that child will seek constant external validation.