Cutting ties with a toxic parent may give you space to heal, but it may also present additional challenges.
There’s still a fair amount of stigma associated with adults who choose to go no contact with a parent. A common assumption is that the decision to cut ties with a “toxic” parent is made from a place of anger and impulsivity.
For many, it can be an act of self-preservation or a careful consideration after attempting to make the relationship work.
Every situation is different, so the decision you make should be the one that fits your needs. If you’re currently considering no contact, it’s important to know that cutting a parent out of your life isn’t a quick fix for the pain they caused.
Still, there are benefits to making a conscious decision about whether you want someone in your life if you don’t like the way you feel when they’re around.
Here are some things to consider, both before and after going no contact.
I was 16 when I made the decision to cut my mother out of my life. I still remember the explanation I gave my father: “That woman took 16 years of my life, and she’s not going to get a 17th.”
Given my history with my mother, it was a rational decision for me. It was my attempt to protect myself from future abuse.
What I didn’t realize at 16 was that cutting ties wasn’t going to fix a lifetime of wounds. I still needed to embark on a healing journey.
If you can, try to base your decision on the type of relationship you want with a parent and the healing journey you want for yourself.
You might find that your parent isn’t able to provide the relationship you want. Their behavior may not be intentional, but you don’t have to accept poor treatment or abuse just because someone has the label “mom” or “dad.”
“Consider going no contact with a parent if your interactions with your parent are undermining your self-esteem, self-respect, choices, decisions, and/or relationships,” says Avigail Lev, PsyD, a clinical psychologist based in San Francisco.
Lev recommends doing a cost/benefit analysis on your relationship. See if your interactions are causing more harm in the long run or if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Here are some questions to think about:
- How does this parent make me feel when I’m around them?
- What positive elements am I getting from the relationship?
- Are there more negative experiences than positive ones?
- Is this parent causing a strain on my mental health? For example, does my anxiety increase when I interact with them?
- Do I dread talking to them and/or being around them?
“If you’re finding that most of your interactions end up causing you more pain than contribution, then going no contact — or slowly decreasing contact — with your parent may be the best option,” says Lev.
I didn’t have any bonding memories with my mother. The negatives far outweighed the positives, which made my decision to make a clean break easier.
(Video) What does it mean to go "no contact"? (Glossary of Narcissistic Relationships)
There are benefits and consequences to going no contact with a parent. What you can expect will largely depend on the relationship dynamic between you, the parent in question, and other family members.
“No contact creates a strict boundary within the relationship, essentially by ending it or pausing it for a period of time,” says Ashley Hodges, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist based in Chicago.
If the relationship you’re ending was causing you distress, you might feel some relief in the immediate aftermath but soon after realize the challenges that lie ahead.
Fallout from family members
Your experience with a toxic parent can be different from the relationship siblings and other family members may have with them. So they might not understand why you want to cut contact. This could mean they may not support your decision.
It might be a good idea then to prepare for some relatives to side with your parent and think about what that might mean for your relationship with them.
I was able to keep a relationship with my brothers, even though they still maintain a relationship with my mother.
After disclosing to others that I don’t have a relationship with my mother, I’ve often heard statements like:
- “But she’s your mother, and you only get one”
- “You turned out OK, so she must not have been that bad”
Cultural stigma can be particularly challenging for daughters who cut contact with a mother. The myth that all mothers are loving, nurturing, and act in a child’s best interest is still largely accepted.
Often, people who haven’t experienced childhood with a toxic parent have a hard time understanding your experience.
You may find yourself feeling alone, but remember that there are many who share similar experiences.
It might help to set boundaries around who you talk with about your decision. If someone isn’t respecting your feelings, it might be a good idea to avoid discussing your family history or no-contact status with them.
Taking the leap to go no contact can unlock some complex emotions. You might feel guilt, shame, fear, regret, or an extreme sense of loss.
Even though I felt good about my decision, I still had to start my healing journey. That meant learning self-compassion and unlearning some behaviors I developed to cope with my childhood treatment.
Try to give yourself permission to grieve the childhood you wanted and didn’t get and nurture your inner child.
“The important work to do is to process the guilt, despair, and grief of not having the loving parent that you deserve,” says Lev.
Going no contact was right for me, but it may not be right for every situation. Your decision depends on how you feel and your relationship.
If you think you need a change to protect your mental health but don’t want to cut off your parent completely, there are other options.
Taking a contact break
Some people choose to stop contact for a period and then revisit the decision again. This can give you time to focus on you and learn some skills to help navigate challenging situations.
For example, you might work with a therapist to unpack feelings from your childhood and learn how to set appropriate boundaries.
Limited contact can be a good option if you don’t want to totally cut a parent out of your life but need space and structure to the relationship.
You might choose to see them only on certain holidays, or you may limit contact to a few infrequent phone calls.
There’s no right or wrong way to do limited contact. You can design the contact level that works best for you and communicate that to your parent.
Setting stronger boundaries
If you didn’t grow up with strong boundaries in the relationship with your parent, you can still set them as an adult.
“If a particular topic always leads to an argument and hurt feelings, choosing to not engage with those discussions and leaving or changing the subject might be a good boundary-setting alternative to going no-contact,” says Casey Tallent, PhD, Director of Collegiate and Telebehavioral Health Initiatives at Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center in Colorado.
Going no contact isn’t a magic solution to dealing with a toxic parent; you’ll still have complex feelings to process, cultural stigma to contend with, and other family members who may not understand your decision.
When you’re considering no contact, try to make the decision that’s best for you. Consider setting boundaries that make you feel safe and respected.
“If you’ve clearly requested that your parent stops a particular behavior, and they don’t stop or change the behavior, then consider doing what you need to do to take care of yourself,” says Lev.
What happens when you go no contact with a narcissistic parent? ›
It's quite likely that a narcissistic parent will try to manipulate the situation to avoid any shame on themselves for your no contact. They might: tell lies about you and the reason you're not in contact. try to make themselves out as the victim of the situation.How do I deal with not being close to my parents? ›
- Practice acceptance. ...
- Focus on the qualities that your parents do have. ...
- Find support and solidarity. ...
- Create the family you want. ...
- Be the parent you wish you had.
- Drug or alcohol abuse by the parent.
- Engagement of a parent or their partner in an ongoing criminal activity that impacts the child's wellbeing.
- Domestic abuse or violence by the partner of a parent.
- Domestic abuse to the child or in front of the child.
“Consider going no contact with a parent if your interactions with your parent are undermining your self-esteem, self-respect, choices, decisions, and/or relationships,” says Avigail Lev, PsyD, a clinical psychologist based in San Francisco. Lev recommends doing a cost/benefit analysis on your relationship.What is cold mother syndrome? ›
Emotionally absent or cold mothers can be unresponsive to their children's needs. They may act distracted and uninterested during interactions, or they could actively reject any attempts of the child to get close. They may continue acting this way with adult children.Is it OK to cut a parent out of your life? ›
It's also possible that, even if your parent has good intentions and has addressed their own issues, continuing a relationship with that parent may still feel too triggering for you, Spinazzola says. If that's the case, you have every right to cut ties.What kind of parent raises a narcissist? ›
Cramer (2011) showed that children raised by authoritative and permissive parents (high responsiveness) exhibited more adaptive narcissistic tendencies, such as superiority and grandiosity, whereas children raised by authoritarian parents (low responsiveness) were less likely to exhibit such traits.What are signs of toxic parents? ›
- They're self-centered. They don't think about your needs or feelings.
- They're emotional loose cannons. They overreact, or create drama.
- They overshare. ...
- They seek control. ...
- They're harshly critical. ...
- They lack boundaries.
Lack of trust
With an emotionally unreliable mother or one who is combative or hypercritical, the daughter learns that relationships are unstable and dangerous, and that trust is ephemeral and can't be relied on. Unloved daughters have trouble trusting in all relationships but especially friendship.
“Children who are not raised in safe, loving, respectful, and consistent environments tend to grow up feeling very unsafe and untrusting,” explains Manly. As a result, they tend to experience challenges trusting themselves and others throughout life.
Why I miss my parents so much? ›
“If you are sad and missing a parent, that likely means that you love them and have a great relationship with them. Feel free to observe all aspects of the emotion and why it is coming up. Decide if talking to them in a moment of sadness will be helpful or hurtful.”What age is the most difficult for parents? ›
Forget the terrible twos and prepare for the hateful eights ‒ parents have named age 8 as the most difficult age to parent, according to new research. Eight being the troublesome year likely comes as a surprise to many parents, especially since parents polled found age 6 to be easier than they expected.How often do most people talk to their parents? ›
Sixty-percent of young adults get together with their parents once a week, compared to 42 percent of Baby Boomers when they were younger.Should a parent read text messages? ›
“It's just a tool. Reading your child's text messages is not that different than eavesdropping or reading their diary.” She advises parents to stay in their lane by steering clear of needless snooping, whether trying to find out what your kids are saying or who they are hanging out with.What counts as estranged from parents? ›
You must have had no contact with either parent for at least 12 months, although exceptions can be considered to this timeframe, to be deemed as irreconcilably estranged from your parents.What happens when you grow up with emotionally unavailable parents? ›
Symptoms Of Being Raised By Emotionally Unavailable Parents
Being raised by an emotionally unavailable parent or guardian can lead to a life of unstable friendships, strings of failed relationships, emotional neediness, an inability to self-regulate, provide for yourself, and identity confusion.
- Practice ongoing self-care. Dealing with a toxic parent is taxing and often traumatic. ...
- Know that you're not alone. ...
- Explore your options. ...
- Clarify your intentions. ...
- Allow yourself to let go of guilt.
Signs that your parent is emotionally unavailable
They respond to children's emotions with impatience or indifference. They avoid or prevent discussion of negative emotions. They're dismissive or overwhelmed when the child has an emotional need.
Mothers with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may lack empathy, be controlling, and emotionally unpredictable. Being raised by a mother with BPD can affect many areas of your life. By learning how to assert yourself, set boundaries, and practice self-care, you can heal and move forward.What is a primal mother? ›
(Learn how and when to remove this template message) Archaic mother (primal mother or Ur-mutter) is the mother of earliest infancy, whose continuing influence is traced in psychoanalysis, and whose (repressed) presence is considered to underlie the horror film.
Is it normal to feel detached from your parents? ›
It's absolutely normal. We tend to feel disconnected to people we don't know who might have hurt us. This is nothing to feel ashamed of. If it bothers you, you could always reach out to them and try to reconnect with them.How do I end my toxic parents? ›
- Stop trying to please them. ...
- Set and enforce boundaries. ...
- Don't try to change them. ...
- Be mindful of what you share with them. ...
- Know your parents' limitations and work around them — but only if you want to. ...
- Have an exit strategy. ...
- Don't try to reason with them.
- Set boundaries with your parents (and enforcing them!)
- Accept the guilt (and live with the discomfort)
- Don't try to change them—change what you can control.
- Take care of yourself first.
- Surround yourself with supportive relationships.
- Be prepared to exit the relationship if necessary.
Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.How does a narcissistic parent behave? ›
Narcissistic parents maintain their power by triangulating, or playing favorites. They may have a golden child who they compliment excessively, for example, while speaking badly about another child in the family. This can make children feel uncomfortable, disloyal and psychologically unsafe.What causes a child to become a narcissist? ›
Social learning theory holds that children are likely to grow up to be narcissistic when their parents overvalue them: when their parents see them as more special and more entitled than other children (9).Are my parents toxic or is it me? ›
Some of the common signs of a toxic parent or parents include: Highly negatively reactive. Toxic parents are emotionally out of control. They tend to dramatize even minor issues and see any possible slight as a reason to become hostile, angry, verbally abusive, or destructive.What toxic parents say? ›
- Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.
- You're such a disappointment.
- Why did you do that? You're so stupid.
- You can't do anything right.
- You're worthless.
- No one will ever love you.
- You can't even open a jar. You're so useless.
- You're so dumb.
- They Try to Invalidate Your Feeling. ...
- Emotional Blackmail. ...
- Gaslighting. ...
- Withholding Affection & The Silent Treatment. ...
- Shifting Goal Posts. ...
- Raising Your to Be Codependent.
- Low self-esteem.
- Difficulty regulating emotions.
- Inability to ask for or accept help or support from others.
- Heightened sensitivity to rejection.
- Lack of language for describing feelings.
- Dissociative tendencies.
- Shame or guilt around emotions.
How does not being hugged as a child affect you? ›
Unfortunately, it is something children today experience too. If your children are not touched, they can get into a deficit state that can lead to negative mental health as well as show up as psychosomatic symptoms. These symptoms could include a headache, abdominal pain, anxiety, and sadness, to name a few.What does lack of affection from parents do? ›
On the other hand, children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower self esteem and to feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and anti-social. There have been a number of recent studies that highlight the relationship between parental affection and children's happiness and success.How do I know if my child feels loved? ›
- Babies stare into your eyes. We've all been told staring is rude, but when babies stare, it's downright adorable. ...
- They recognize your smell. ...
- They smile at you. ...
- They talk to you. ...
- They want you around. ...
- They share your interests. ...
- They use you as a shield. ...
- They give cuddles and kisses.
Unfortunately loneliness perpetuates loneliness… once children start becoming lonely, having no friends, withdrawing from social interactions, lacking social skills, getting bullied, with no intervention to help them cope better, they struggle to feel good about themselves, start withdrawing more, trusting people less…What does a neglected child feel? ›
For children, affectional neglect may have devastating consequences, including failure to thrive, developmental delay, hyperactivity, aggression, depression, low self-esteem, running away from home, substance abuse, and a host of other emotional disorders. These children feel unloved and unwanted.What to say when you miss your parents? ›
- To say I miss you is an understatement.
- One of your hugs would be nice right now.
- Wish you were here.
- Missing you so much and wishing I could give you a big hug.
- Counting down the days until I can hug you again.
- It's hard to feel at home when I'm missing my Mom.
Grief and loss affect the brain and body in many different ways. They can cause changes in memory, behavior, sleep, and body function, affecting the immune system as well as the heart. It can also lead to cognitive effects, such as brain fog.What to do when you miss your late parents? ›
- Recognize Grief Shows Up as Many Different Emotions. ...
- Let Yourself Feel All the Emotions That Do Show Up. ...
- Establish a Support System. ...
- Write Your Parent a Letter. ...
- Allow Yourself to Grieve in Small Doses (and Keep Doing So as Needed)
Forty percent of survey participants felt that five was the most fun age. This was thought to be down to improved communication skills and the development of a good sense of humour.What are parents favorite age? ›
According to a recent survey of nearly 2,000 families, 40 percent of parents found their children to be the most lovable/fun at the age of 5. Meanwhile, they found kids to be the most difficult to spend time with between the ages of 10 and 12.
What is the hardest number of kids to have? ›
A TODAYMoms.com survey of more that 7,000 mothers found that the least stressful number of kids is four, while the most stressful number is three. Scary Mommy blogger Jill Smokler told Today that she wholeheartedly agrees.How often should a parent call their child? ›
Unless there is a specific need, parents should not initiate a call or text to their children more than one time a day while they are in the other parent's custody. It is understandable to miss the child, but co-parenting requires respect for the child's time with the other parent.Is it OK not to talk to a parent? ›
You're Doing What's Right For You
Of course, some people will be unable to believe this. They legitimately can't imagine anything "bad enough" to cause someone to stop speaking to a family member. But that's OK. Your life is not limited by what your friends, co-workers, or other family members can imagine.
According to this article, CBS News found 24 percent of adult children thought they should call their mothers at least once a day. Another 24 percent thought they should call a few times a week, while 35 percent answered once a week. And 12 percent deemed once a month or less is appropriate.Should I check my 15 year olds phone? ›
The phone plan is probably in your name and you probably bought the electronic devices. But even if not, you have every right and responsibility to check them if you've been given cause to do so because you have the right and obligation to keep your home safe, your child safe, and your other children safe.Should parents look through their kids phone? ›
Overall, parents should be able to trust their kid enough to not look through their phones. This will also maintain trust and a healthy relationship. If there is heavy evidence that there is something that should be investigated, then it's okay, but if not… teens should have some privacy.Can my parents see my texts with screen time? ›
Android– MMGuardian allows parents to view all of their child's SMS text messages, as well as chat messages from popular social media messaging apps such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and more. Screen Time does not offer message monitoring of any kind.
- Engaging your inner child. ...
- Learning how to self-soothe. ...
- Finding emotionally available people. ...
- Identifying your feelings. ...
- Distancing yourself from your parent. ...
- Seeking professional guidance.
Estrangement can be a form of self-protection
For adult children who have experienced abuse, maltreatment, or rejection by a parent, cutting ties or going no contact is often viewed as self-protection and the only way for them to heal and move forward (Agllias, 2018).
- “Numbing out” or being cut off from one's feelings.
- Feeling like there's something missing, but not being sure what it is.
- Feeling hollow inside.
- Being easily overwhelmed or discouraged.
- Low self-esteem.
- Pronounced sensitivity to rejection.
Can an absent parent cause trauma? ›
Mental health issues, substance abuse or the physical absence of parents or caregivers due to death or divorce can all contribute to abandonment trauma, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of abandonment.Is it healthy to cut family off? ›
It could be time to cut the person off if you or your child start to dread visiting that family member, especially if they only interact in negative ways with those around them. "Recognize that spending time apart from them is important to one's own mental health," adds Dr. Halpern.How do you let go of family that hurt you? ›
- Create some space. Cutting out a toxic family member isn't an overnight affair. ...
- Consider your role. ...
- Let go of your need for an apology. ...
- Drop all the excuses. ...
- Stretch the cord and cut it. ...
- Give yourself a deadline. ...
- Deal with family fallout. ...
- Lean into your support system.
Cutting is a common form of self-harm behavior that is used to relieve inner stress and anxiety. Cutting refers to taking a sharp object to the skin to make small cuts in the body, usually the arms and legs.How often do adults contact their parents? ›
Sixty-percent of young adults get together with their parents once a week, compared to 42 percent of Baby Boomers when they were younger.At what age does a child cry when a parent leaves? ›
Tearful, tantrum-filled goodbyes are common during a child's earliest years. Around the first birthday, many kids develop separation anxiety, getting upset when a parent tries to leave them with someone else. Though separation anxiety is a perfectly normal part of childhood development, it can be unsettling.