The Blog

Distancing Yourself From Toxic Parents

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


The decision to disengage from emotionally unhealthy parents does not ever come easy for a child even when s/he is grown. It is a heart wrenching, painful decision that does not ever seem to rest at complete healing, but hovers somewhere between I won't let this control my life and Why does it have to be this way?!

As with all empowerment/self-love work, it is imperative to set appropriate boundaries with those who are draining our energy, disrespecting our lines, minimizing our value or attempting to control all aspects of our lives -- even when it's our parents. The repeating theme I've witnessed for all the people who have had to create distance between themselves and their parents is this...

They gave their parents 4,653,824 chances to see the light, own their behavior or make even one teeny tiny change in the right direction, but it never came. They felt backed against the wall and the only healthy thing to do was to save themselves by creating space.


Although we want to blame our parents, we cannot really blame them for truth be told, they don't really know what they are doing. They are unconsciously acting from a pathology of their own family tree. They are carrying forward issues from their own childhoods that they never got the opportunity or wisdom to heal. They did the best they could at the time even though their best hovered somewhere around "awful." This point often stirs up feelings of anger, but before you stop reading, let me ask you this...

When you made a mistake in the past, a bad mistake, did you really know it wasn't the right thing to do or did you do the absolute best you could at the time?

I know my best thinking led me to some serious mistakes in my life. I didn't have any higher thoughts to consult or I would've done things differently. As the great Maya Angelou said, "When we know better we do better." How can we do better with no new information to consider?

Now I'm not saying what your parents have done or said to you doesn't carry weight. Contrarily, what others say or do to us holds a tremendous amount of weight especially after we have had to experience it over and over and over again!

I'm only inviting you to step closer to peace by looking a little a deeper and opening your mind to a new perspective. Examine the upbringings of your parents. Where were they failed by their elders? Where did they learn to do what they are doing? Do you see the pattern?

You are collateral damage of a dysfunctional pattern of behavior.

Pathologies of families are carried through the generations until someone (and it's probably you) decides, "It ends here!!" Somewhere in the midst of your dysfunctional family, you knew in your soul this is not right and it desperately needs to change. Your pioneer spirit drives you to speak up and it doesn't always land on open hearts. You may be the first and only one who ever speaks up and that, my dears, is not easy. However, your boundary setting could be the very thing to open their eyes to this destructive pattern and heal it once and for all.


I commend your courage for taking a stand against disrespect and dishonor. It's not an easy thing to do because commonly you stand alone. The ass-kissers and cowards are not going to support you. They are "comfortable" with status quo or in alignment themselves with the dysfunction and your truth will rock the reality they have chosen to live in.

I've had several occurrences in my life where I was the first one to speak up about painful memories, let downs, bad behaviors and experiences that left me feeling unprotected and afraid. I can assure you it did not make me popular to express my truth. I was met with anger and a barrage of excuses. But something inside of me couldn't let it go. Was it my inner Libran scales of justice? My personality? My Spirit?

Hard tellin'.

All I know is that I couldn't hold it in any longer. I was on the healing path and I craved a dialogue regarding what had happened in my youth. I wanted to know why that person chose to do the things they did. So I took it to the person who was responsible for it.

Fortunately for me, the person I shared with eventually dropped the demands of their ego and began to see I was not accusing, I was trying to heal. The humble apology came and all that was balled up inside of me let go.

However, this is not always case. Not every person can see beyond themselves and into the hearts of their loved ones to help them transcend their pain. Their ego is strong and won't let the light in for one second.

My heart grows heavy for the people in my life who have had to distance from their parents. I remember one friend telling me through rushing tears and a broken heart that she felt like she had no family. I reminded her we ALL have family; we just have to look around and recognize who they are.

Remember the ones who...

Rescued you in the pouring rain when you had a flat tire?

Came to your emotional aid when you desperately needed someone to talk to?

Loaned you his car when you had no wheels of your own?

Let you cry on her shoulder when your heart was broken?

Always reminds you who you are when you have forgotten?

Those people are your family.

Just because someone has similar DNA running through their veins does not mean they are going to show up any better than someone who does not.

When my daughter was in the hospital 3 years ago with a Strep C infection that spread throughout her entire body and almost took her life, the most unexpected people blew up my phone and offered me food, to talk or just simply to sit with me. Their support blew... my... mind. I felt so incredibly surrounded by love, it was almost as if I floated through those two weeks.

Conversely, the ones who I thought "should" be coming to my emotional aid did not. Two of my "best friends" showed little concern and family I thought would care, did not. That was a harsh reality to face. They say when tough times hit you know who your friends are. I say when tough times hit, you know who your family is!

To all of you who are in pain regarding family disruption and dysfunction, I implore you not to focus on what you don't have -- focus on what you DO have. You are loved beyond measure. There are people in your life who have your back. You are not alone.

Open your heart to allow the love that IS coming your way because a closed heart cannot receive.

I know it's hard, but you have done well, my friend. The first step to reclaiming and living an empowered life begins with actions that speak self-love.

Boundaries ARE self-love.

No longer allowing someone to treat you poorly IS self-love.

Although firm boundaries are not always easy to put into place when we love someone, they are always the right thing to do.


I invite you to keep your thoughts in alignment with your self-worth and emotional well-being.

Keep inspiration flowing into your life daily.

Open your heart to receive the love coming your way and remember..

Always remember...

You matter.

For additional blogs and articles by Kristen Brown or to contact her for personal coaching, click HERE.