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Can parents become toxic?

‘But he’s your father’

‘Your mother has done so many things for you’‘

‘You are turning your back on your parents who have sacrificed so much for you'

Relationships can become toxic over time. It can happen with the closest of relationships. Even with parents.

There’s this strong conviction among a generation of parents that their fully grown sons and daughters - owe them for all their sacrifices in bringing them up. This expectation is not just financial, it's psychological as well. This is more acute in India, where this has been normalized as a culture, where even relatives can make us feel like we are not doing enough for them.

We talk a lot about physical boundaries. We even teach kids today about good touch and bad touch. What about psychological boundaries? What do we do when our emotional freedom is consistently compromised in the name of close relationships? What to do when expectations from our parents require us to give up a part of who we are?

In recent times, I have personally experienced and heard a bunch of situations, where parents are not just happy with the way their sons and daughters - all of them 30 and above with their own families, are leading their lives. And this props up in conversation after conversation. It’s like that deafening construction sound next door that just keeps intensifying every single minute.

Many of us feel extreme guilt in conflicting with our parents when their opinions and expectations infringe upon our mental health. Our society gives us a bunch of reasons for not raising this with our parents like

‘They’re old’

‘They can’t bend their minds anymore’

‘You are the young one, you need to adjust here’

‘They are like that only..'

Subconsciously, we are all transferring toxic patterns of behavior from one generation to another and ruining our future generations. My grandfather was a class-A narcissist who took the whole family for a ride. My father could never confront him. And even after I became an individual, there was this expectation that I should listen to my father even if it bothers me, just like he did. If I bow down to this, I am just taking this expectation along with me to the next-gen.

In India, there’s this consistent dialogue about how the next-gen should treat their parents. Or how we are failing them. We are supposed to idolize our parents. We got to listen to them. Not turn our backs and become traitors.

But what about the other side? What’s the responsibility of parents once their children have become adults?

Just because people are aging, does it mean that they don’t have a responsibility to evolve with the world?

Just because you think you have done all your duties, are you not going to keep your brain neuroplastic and shed some of the assumptions you grew up with?

And just because you think you did all the things in your life for your sons and daughters, do they have to keep repaying you by allowing you to infringe upon their psychological freedom?

Toxic relationships, especially with parents, are more common than many of us will accept or realize. But, this is a systemic way where one generation consistently puts the mental health of the next-gen at risk, trying to perpetuate toxic behavior across generations. It’s high time we talked about this.



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