Damage done to a child of a toxic parent

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  • #594
    Renee Swanson

    Here is a list I found of damage that children of toxic parents experience.

    The child doesn’t feel heard or validated.
    The child’s feelings are not acknowledged.
    The child is not encouraged to develop their own sense of self.
    The child will not learn how to set healthy boundaries in relationships.
    The child does not know what reality is.
    The child’s emotional development is stunted.
    The child exists only to please the narcissistic/toxic parent.
    The child will not learn to trust their own feelings.
    The child will have crippling self-doubt.
    The child will grow up feeling “not good enough.”
    The child is not taught to give credit to self when deserved.
    The child believes he/she is unworthy and unlovable.
    The child will experience unbearable amounts of shame and humiliation.
    The child will not know how to develop healthy emotional connections.

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  • #117769
    CiCi Walite

    I know that all of my children are dealing with several of these types of damage. It’s so hard to accept that I allowed them to be emotionally abused for as long as I did. Now that I’ve stopped enabling my CN husband, I’m now struggling with enabling my children in the effort to counter some of the emotional scarring they’ve suffered. I do establish boundaries for them, but I cave so easily, and I rarely enforce negative consequences, because my husband ONLY used punishment and negative consequences to discipline.

    I’ve got to be more assertive with my expectations and consequences, while still being liberal with affection and positive communication. It’s a delicate balance when all of use are still so raw and anxious.

    Renee Swanson

    It is a delicate balance for sure. And you will find some days are better than others. What works one day might totally crash the next day.

    Learn to trust your heart when working with your kids. Some days they are more open to talking about things than other days. Don’t force things. Watch for those moments of openness and use them.

    Also, they have to learn to trust you. Let them express their negative feelings. Those feelings are coming from the pain in their hearts. Don’t react to those feelings. They have to get them out. They need to break through the wall that we all build for self-protection during abuse. Be that safe place for them. It won’t be easy, so make sure you are taking care of getting the pain out of your heart too.

    You are their best ally in this journey. So make sure that you are getting healthy. Get the help you need to recover from the abuse. Being emotionally healthy yourself is the greatest thing you can do for them!

    Setting boundaries for them is definitely good. They need that. But it is very possible to discipline kids without being mean. Discipline them with love in your heart and not anger. They will know the difference.


    I have a 14 year old who hasn’t seen her toxic dad for 6 months and since we moved out have discovered she has many problems. Depression, low self esteem, body dysmorphia, anxiety and panic attacks, and ptsd. I am happy she is away from her dad but she wants nothing to do with him and I am worried the courts will force her into reunification counseling with him and he will manipulate her into some kind of toxic relationship once again. She sees a counselor weekly, sees a school counselor weekly and whenever she needs to, and goes to Alateen once a week. I’ve created a safe home filled with love, a lot of very needed clear boundaries, and have let her know it is safe to communicate with me. I’m learning to be a much better listener and less reactive (although it’s pretty hard when your beautiful, talented, intelligent, gifted child thinks of themselves as trash. I’m getting better though…)

    I’m currently reading “Divorcing A Narcissist” and reving up for a big hearing in November to deal with everything including support and custody, whatever else you have to deal with when divorcing after being together for close to 30 years.

    Any advice is welcome.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by Annanda.
    Renee Swanson

    Hey Amanda,

    I am so glad that you and your daughter are out of that toxic environment. Getting out of it is a huge step. But another huge step is getting it out of you. I have learned first-hand just how difficult this is.

    I am happy to hear that your daughter is in counseling. Kids from an abusive household seem to play out a written script in their own head. They believe that everything was their fault and thus they are worthless and unlovable. My two teenage boys, who are amazing young men, also have gone through this and still face it today. As a parent, it is incredibly painful to watch.

    My guess is though that you also have gone through some phases of feeling worthless and unlovable. Most of us do. And during that time, other people in our lives certainly didn’t see us that way. They saw a person of value, while we saw ourselves as hopeless.

    One of the absolute best things you can do for your daughter is to lead by example. Go further in your own self-healing. Love, accept, and forgive yourself. If you already do, then explore even further. I assure you that she is watching, even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

    When you find tools that are particularly helpful, articles, videos, activities, etc., share them with her in little bits. As teenagers, my boys were resistant to much help. They wanted to do everything for themselves. But they didn’t have the skills as such a young age in life. Mention little parts of what you have read and then move on. I believe that most teens hear things in little bits. They seem to shut down if we expand it for more than a couple of minutes. When I was willing to keep the comments short, overtime my boys started trusting that more. Then they started opening the conversations themselves. This was a huge turning point for us!

    She will get through this!! She has your strength to help guide the way. I wish you both much peace on this journey of healing!

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