‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,’ the saying goes. But what if your family parents don’t have a positive influence on your mental health? How can you tell you are in a toxic family dynamic and how can you handle the situation?

Let’s start with the signs.

They are overly critical

Toxic parents tend to criticize you for whatever you do or however you look. You are too fat, too thin, dumb, incapable of doing anything and you are an absolute failure to them. No matter how successful you are, no can’t seem to do anything properly.

They belittle you

To continue the previous point, if you do have success in life, they act as if it was nothing. Whatever you achieve, whatever you succeed in, they belittle you and try to make you feel worthless anyway.

They play the victim

Has something bad happened to you? You can be pretty sure that your toxic parent(s) will be the victim or they will try to make you feel that your problem isn’t even an issue compared to theirs. When I was going through a divorce, my mother used to call me and instead of supporting me, she kept complaining about her having sleepless nights because of my divorce while – according to her – I wasn’t taking the situation seriously.

They don’t take criticism well

While they are overly critical of others, they can’t handle criticism. Not even the slightest form. They tend to get extremely upset when you confront them about their behaviour or make a remark on anything you don’t like.

They lack empathy

It’s related to playing the victim. When you have an issue, they don’t care, blame you or get mad at you. The word ‘support’ isn’t in their dictionary.

They are controlling

Toxic parents tend to control you in every possible way. Do you live under their roof? Be prepared to be checked upon or made to follow their rules. If you don’t comply, there will be consequences. They are controlling even if you live separately and have your own life and try to tell you how you should live your life. If you don’t do things as they imagine, they will try to force you to change. I have heard of parents who always wanted to know where their grownup children were, who they were with, what they wore, what they ate, what free time activities they had and if there was something they didn’t like, hell broke loose.

They are boundary stompers

They might enter your room without knocking, show up at your place uninvited, or if they have keys, they walk into your home when you least expect it. They might check your phone, diary, notebook or rearrange your items when they are at your place. They don’t really respect your home, work or schedule.

They are manipulative

They act nice, gain your trust, and then use everything you share with them against you. They have an influence on your emotional side, undermine your confidence, guilt trip you, force you to do things you don’t want to do or ignore you.

How can you handle them?

Be aware that you are dealing with toxic people and try to spend as little time around them as possible. From a personal experience, nobody is worth your time and energy if they don’t add to your emotional, mental and physical well-being. If there’s no other way, cut them out of your life and don’t feel sorry for them.

Have your own support system of friends and family you feel close to.

Make sure you spend enough time recharging your batteries. Take up a hobby, meditate or choose any activity that gives you good vibes.


Do you have toxic family members? How do you deal with them?


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