How to Deal With Toxic Parents

Phi Atratus
  • Jan 04, 2022
  • 6 min read
irritated father yelling at teen son in car

Having a toxic parent means you constantly doubt yourself and your own worth. You feel like it’s impossible for others to love you, it’s difficult to form a meaningful relationship with others due to trust issues.

Any toxic relationship can feel like there’s a huge black cloud hovering over your whole life. Growing up with toxic parents leads to an adulthood filled with insecurity, arguments, tears, and hope for things to change. But they never do change on their own.

Relationships with toxic people turn into vicious cycles. But we can break those cycles and learn how to deal with our toxic parents.

What Is a Toxic Person?

A toxic person isn’t a scientific term coined by psychiatrists, psychologists, or other scientists. It’s a colloquial term. In a nutshell, a toxic person is any person who displays actions and behaviors that hurt people around them.

Toxicity isn’t considered a mental health disorder. That said, some mental disorders could act as the causes of toxic behaviors. Some of these include PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Keep in mind that many toxic people also deal with their own trauma and stress. For that reason, they may act in a manner that presents them in a negative light. This is primarily due to their inability or difficulty to cope with said trauma and stress.

Do I Have Toxic Parents?

Toxic traits may vary from one person to another, but in most cases, toxic parents are:

  • Self-centered
  • Overly critical
  • Controlling and manipulative
  • Inclined to overshare improper information with their children
  • Lack a sense of boundaries
  • Highly negatively reactive
  • Lacking empathy
  • Inclined to physically or verbally abuse their children

How toxic parents affect us as adults, or affects a child or a teenager, is not that different. A toxic parent tends to be emotionally unavailable or even narcissistic and makes everything be about them. Their children often feel alone or neglected because they aren’t getting much-needed love and support from their parents.

Parent-child relationships in these cases may also involve elements of abuse. But abuse isn’t just physical; it can also be emotional. Examples of emotional abuse include name-calling, constant blaming and yelling, guilt-tripping, and gaslighting.

Toxic parents usually don’t allow their children to have choices or make their decisions, even in adulthood. These negative reactions and the need for control over you and your life are constant, not just occasional scenarios. You may feel like you have no privacy whatsoever.

The effects of toxic parents on children and their mental health is tremendous. A child may grow up to be insecure or feel unloved because parents constantly put them down. Children of toxic parents often believe they don't deserve love, and they don't trust anyone.

How to Deal With Toxic Parents

Dealing with toxic parents starts with taking a few moments to evaluate your relationship with them and firmly acknowledge that you are ready to work on improving your psychological well-being. After all, toxic parents have a major influence on your mental health.

Things you can do to deal with toxic parents include:

  • Setting boundaries and firmly sticking to them 
  • Being kind to yourself
  • Controlling where you communicate and interact with your parents. For example, it should be a location where it's more difficult for them to disrespect the boundaries.
  • Practicing self-care
  • Setting up your support system to help you as you learn how to deal with a toxic mother or father
  • Getting help through psychotherapy

Can Therapy Help Deal With Toxic Parents?

While self-help tips on how to deal with toxic parents when you live with them are useful, a lot more work than that is often necessary. That's where therapy steps in. 

Healing from and setting boundaries with toxic parents aren't easy. Many people find themselves giving in, so their parents continue to be toxic.

Therapy helps you because it focuses on the power of empathy. You are in a safe space to discuss your relationship with your parents without fear or judgment. The therapeutic relationship exhibits an empowering effect that helps you cultivate confidence and cope. You also learn a lot about yourself and your parents at the same time.

Sometimes, people don’t even realize just how much toxic parents affect them. Therapy helps you identify the consequences of a toxic relationship so you can work on repairing it and improving your mental health and general quality of life.

The exact approach for how to deal with a toxic mother or father varies from one client to another and depends on who they are as a person. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that assists in managing your problems by changing or improving the way you behave and think. This approach is based on the concept that our feelings, thoughts, and actions are all interconnected, thus trapping us in a vicious cycle.

As one of the most widely studied types of psychotherapy, CBT was found to be effective for a wide range of mental health problems, including abuse and relationships.

During a CBT therapy session, you work with a therapist on a specific problem. In this case, it’s the relationship with your toxic parents. You talk about your thoughts and feelings but also gain more comfort and confidence.

As you dig deep into the consequences of having a toxic parent, you also learn how to reshape negative thinking and behaviors. By coping in a healthy manner, you learn how to deal with toxic parents and work to improve and repair your relationship with them.

Family therapy

Family therapy is an important aspect of handling relationships with toxic parents. This approach works to improve communication skills, strengthen relationships, identify problematic areas, offer new insight and understanding, and provide skills to cope with challenging situations.

During family therapy, you and your parents get to be open and honest. Your therapist creates a safe place where you can explain how their toxic behavior has affected you, and your parents get new insight into the effects of their actions.

Family therapy can be systemic or structural. Systemic family therapy considers a family as a unit and aims to understand family processes. On the other hand, structural family therapy is based on the idea that behavioral and emotional concerns in children and adolescents are associated with dysfunctional families. The main goal of this type of family therapy is to understand and develop boundaries within a family.

Family therapy works when you and your parents alike are committed to improving your relationship. It’s not something you can or should force.

Can Online Therapy Also Help?

Online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy for people who want to learn how to deal with toxic parents. 

Online counseling works just like face-to-face counseling. You work on your problems with a therapist who embarks on a journey with you and provides guidance and support. In this case, you communicate with a therapist via video calls, phone calls, or text messages. You don’t need to travel or set up appointments in their office.

If you’re not satisfied with your therapist, you can easily find one. That’s why online therapy is truly amazing; the therapist’s location doesn’t have to stop you now. You can have an amazing therapist even if they don’t live near you, which isn’t the case with face-to-face therapy. 

Learn How To Deal With Toxic People In Your Life

Speak To A Licensed Therapist Today


Toxic people don’t always realize they are toxic. They can be exhausting to deal with, especially if the toxic person is one or both of your parents. People with toxic parents tend to have low self-esteem, trust issues, and other problems that affect their quality of life.

Therapy can help you learn how to deal with toxic parents. Indeed, if you have a toxic parent (or two), therapy is the best solution because it helps you deal with negativity and cope in a healthy manner. It treats the problem, not just the symptoms.

Online counseling stands out as a convenient, easy, and just as effective solution. You can attend a therapy session from the comfort of your home or even from work.

Whether you want to attend therapy on your own or with your parents, it can help you start a new, better chapter in your life. Thanks to therapy, you don’t have to be trapped in the bubble of negativity created by the toxic relationship your parents have created. You finally get to realize your worth.

Start your online counseling journey on DoMental today.