Ideally parents are supposed to teach, love, and protect their children. Sometimes parents lack the ability in any of the above mentioned duties. Parents should value and cultivate their children, but unfortunately some parents are very toxic. By toxic I mean abusive and neglectful, abusive by means of verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional withholding or parental neglect. Some children are lucky enough to receive help in repairing those old wounds of abuse, but what about the children who are not rescued, counseled, or engage in spiritual healing? Well they turn into adults who may someday have children of their own. The question then becomes how do adults avoid becoming a toxic parent? Well lets identify all the ways one can be a toxic parent and then we will examine ways to recover from toxic parenting.
The following should be considered toxic parenting:
- Verbal abuse in the form of criticism, yelling, name calling, cursing, discouraging your child, overall negativity. Ex. “you are useless” “you are stupid” “you are not smart enough to do that” “I wish you were never born” “I don’t like you”
- Sexual abuse in the form of touching, forcing a child to watch pornography, sexual intercourse, forcing a child to watch adults have sex etc.
- Neglect in the forms of not providing adequate food or shelter, meeting the adults needs before the child’s. Ex. buying food or clothes for adults but not the child, leaving children unattended in order to hang out socially, withholding emotional affection/emotionally unavailable.
- Physical abuse in the forms of hitting, beating with objects which leave long-lasting bruises, yelling, all punishments are physical, slapping a child, punching a child, pushing into furniture for mere infractions that are age appropriate.
- Untreated mental illness in which the child suffers because the parent is suffering from depression, mood disorders etc. the parent refuses to be medicated and refuses mental health counseling. Untreated mental illness leaves the child to suffer with abrupt moods, extreme anger, witnessing suicide attempts etc.
- Substance abuse which leaves the child witnessing parental black outs, drug and alcohol abuse by many adults within the home (parties), drug selling, neglect because the family finances are used to obtain drugs or alcohol. All of this can leave the child with trust issues, developmental issues (if use occurs during pregnancy), co-dependency issues, etc.
- Manipulating and controlling parents who constantly manipulate their children to fulfill their own agendas such as using guilt trips, using money to control children, using religion to inflict guilt etc.
Ways to recover from toxic parenting:
- Adults recovering from toxic parenting should seek mental health and spiritual counseling.
- Create boundaries such as staying away from those who have or continue to abuse or mistreat you.
- Self reflection exercises: listing your good qualities, volunteer work that makes you feel worthy and needed, and showcases your talents.
- Journal often, this helps to regulate feelings and is good for releasing anger.
- Learn the art of prayer and meditation.
- Join a support group.
- Surround yourself around positive people who love and support you in your goals, and who can help further your goals in life.
- Seek a mentor, a person who is healthy and possibly have overcome the same type of experience with toxic parents.