Words By: Tiara Sharmane
I happened to be scrolling through Twitter the other day and came across a thread regarding cutting ties with toxic parents. Initially, the number of responses shocked me. I was taken back by how many people have cut all communication with their parents because of their toxicity. As I continued to read their answers, I realized that it was common to cut ties with toxic and abusive parents. All of the people who responded ended their relationships with their parents to protect their mental and emotional health. The entire thread made me question if it is even possible to break up with our toxic and abusive parents in the first place.
What If You Are Unaware That Your Parents Are Toxic?
As children, we were naively unaware of our parent’s behaviors and traits. We believed that their dysfunctional parenting was normal until we began to interact with other families. Many of our parents have questionable personality traits or behaviors, but does that qualify them as toxic parents? First, we must determine what behaviors or traits our parents possess before deeming them as toxic.
Your parents may be toxic if they are:
- disrespectful of your boundaries.
For instance, if your parent has a habit of criticizing, then you may not feel comfortable telling them about your new ventures or ideas. You withhold this information from them to avoid having to experience their criticism. When they do criticize you, you are left feeling awful and inadequate afterward.
Another element to take into account is that our parents are possibly practicing learned behavior. One example would be your parents disrespecting your boundaries by reading your mail or stopping by your place unannounced. Our parent’s parenting style may be a byproduct of their parent’s style of parenting and unresolved pain. Some of our parents do not know any better because they were not taught any better. Due to this, they mimic the actions of their parents, not realizing that they are passing down the same dysfunction to their children.
Second, do you notice any of these traits in your parents? If so, distancing yourself from that relationship may be a great idea. If we were aware that we had a toxic friend or romantic partner, we would try to remove ourselves from the relationship. However, separating ourselves from our parents may be more difficult.
Often, when we mention to others that we need space from one (or both) of our parents, we experience resistance. Others will hit us with the infamous line, “But that is still your family.” We should not have to subject ourselves to abuse and mistreatment all for the sake of the family. Honestly, some of our parents are bullies. Many of them do not view us as adults but rather as a child. Our parents must understand that we are not 10-year-old children anymore, but adults who deserve respect. If our parents are unable to respect us as adults, then it may be best to distance ourselves from them.
Five Techniques To Handle Toxic Parents
Therapy is the best remedy — Working with a therapist to help you navigate your relationship with your parents will prove to be beneficial. Even if your parents never receive or seek therapy, you will have the necessary skills needed to engage with your parents in healthy ways. Also, therapy will provide you with techniques to have healthy interactions with your parents and love them from a distance.
Set boundaries — With the help of your therapist, you can learn how to create boundaries and how to implement them within your relationship with your parents. You will experience some pushback when you initially set your boundaries. However, stand firm with your boundaries and try not to cave to your parents’ pressure or demands.
Act as an adult and not your ten-year-old self — We tend to revert to our younger selves when we are in the presence of our toxic parents. However, we can stand up for ourselves but in a respectful manner. If the interactions between your parents and yourself become overwhelming, then utilize your skills learned in therapy, or you may have to remove yourself from the situation completely.
Have that tough conversation — Sitting down and having a conversation with your mother or father may yield positive results. Try not to assume that having a conversation with them will be pointless. Enter into the conversation with an open mind and heart. While you all are conversing, remain open, honest and do not allow fear of their reactions to prevent you from speaking your truth.
Cutting all ties — According to Black Twitter, you can cut ties, and experience freedom and relief from cutting ties with toxic parents. Although it is possible to do so, is that the best option? You can remove yourself from the relationship, but you all will still have unresolved issues. However, if your parent is verbally or physically abusive, then it may be necessary to cut ties for your safety.
Take the time to identify these traits within your family. In the beginning, it may be difficult to believe that your parents possess toxic traits, especially if you are unaware of their toxicity. If you notice them, then try the techniques I mentioned above to cultivate a good relationship with your parents. Some of us are aware of our parents’ toxicity. If you have decided to cut ties without utilizing any interventions, then I encourage you to try them, especially therapy, to work through the issues. We cannot choose our parents, but we can choose how to love and interact with them.