How to Deal With a Bad Parent


Unfortunately, the Norman Rockwell vision of a functional, loving family isn't true for all families. Parents are human too, and some of them are toxic people who are unhealthy to be around. Dealing with or extricating yourself from a relationship with a bad parent comes with its own special complications. While it won't be possible for you to change your parent, it is possible for you to alter the way in which you interact with her, resulting in a happier, healthier you.

Evaluate The Situation Calmly

  • Give yourself an adult time out, particularly if the thought of your parent gets you very upset. Do this before you make any decisions about how you'd like to handle your parent. In an article for Psychology Today, Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D., suggests making a list of everything that's happened between the two of you, then taking some time to work through all of your feelings. Once you feel calmer, it will be much easier for you to return to the list and constructively decide how you'd like to proceed. It will also be simpler for you to gain perspective on your parent and her actions without a lot of negative feelings clouding your thinking.

Consider Your Own Role

  • Take a few moments to consider your current relationship with your parent. Ask yourself honestly if there's anything you're doing that's contributing to its poor quality. As difficult as it might be to admit it to yourself, there may be some negativity attached to the way you're ehaving or responding to your parent that are contributing to the toxicity of the relationship, says Fulbright. Once you've can identify any enabling or contributing behaviors coming from you, make an effort to change them, and see if the negativity between you and your parent diminshes.

Set Boundaries and Rules

  • When dealing with a bad parent, it's in your best interests to set some boundaries and limitations on when and where you see or talk to her, as well as how much time you spend with her. Psychologies magazine suggests that, rather than spending the weekend at your mother's house, where it's easier for her to attack you and may be harder for you to end the visit, only meet your toxic mother for lunch in public. Make it a policy to leave or hang up the phone if she becomes nasty. You can say something simple, like, "I'd rather talk to you when you're in a nicer mood."

Let Go Of The Relationship

  • In some cases, a parent may be extremely cruel and, consequently, psychologically harmful to his son or daughter. If you have a parent like this, your healthiest option is to extricate yourself from the relationship entirely, counsels psychiatry professor Richard A. Friedman, Ph.D., in an article for The New York Times. This can be incredibly difficult, especially since it's human nature to bond with one's parent, even if his behavior is abominable. A highly toxic parent actually has a negative effect on your brain, says Friedman, and, in extreme cases, getting away from him for good is literally the healthiest thing you can do.


  • Photo Credit Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images
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