Toxic People Affect Kids Too: Know the Signs and How to Explore a Little Deeper

Toxic People Affect Kids Too - Know the Signs. Then Explore Deeper

We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first.

Sometimes that means letting them know when we don’t support something an adult in their lives has said or done and giving them permission to close down to the influence of those who contaminate their self-esteem, their happiness and their self concept. It’s not always easy or possible to withdraw from a relationship, but with our support they can minimise the influence and impact of those broken adults who might otherwise do harm.

Toxic relationships are ones in which someone’s own negative behaviour can cause emotional damage or contaminate the way a child sees himself or herself. They can lead to anxiety, depression, physical illnesses and feelings of isolation. Children can end up blaming themselves and feeling guilt or shame. Even if there is something about our kids that needs a little bit of a nudge in a different direction, any behaviour that makes them feel less than or ashamed just won’t do it. In fact, it will do damage.

We all have an inner voice. It’s the one that tells us how we’re going, whether we’re good enough, how we think the world sees us, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. When an adult is toxic, the risk is that the inner voice of the child will pick it up and make the words their own. Children are born awesome. Our job as the adults in their lives is to make sure they know this and to minimise the effect of anyone who might influence them to feel otherwise. When children feel stupid, slow, naughty, troublesome, untrustworthy, incapable or silenced in response to the comments of any adult in their lives, it’s time for us to be their voice. 

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We adults will get it wrong sometimes. On some days, we’ll get it so wrong that it will feel like ‘right’ won’t want anything to do with us for a while, but kids are savvy and seem to know the difference between a bad day, a bad mood, bad timing and something more enduring and targeted. Our kids will look to us for confirmation and validation of what the world is telling them. Though it’s important to support the other adults in their lives as much as we possibly can, when there is an adult who is causing them harm or responding to them with bad intent, it’s equally important for us to let our children know that we don’t support that adult’s behaviour. 

Toxic people can come in the form of teachers, coaches, relatives, parents (their own and the parents of others) and friends. The only thing anyone needs to be toxic is a mouth. The potential is in all of us.

Adults should be a source of support, safety and trust for children. At the very least, they should do no harm. When they are a source of shame, anxiety or stress, the risk to the child is too much to allow it to keep going. Though it’s important to provide our kids with the opportunity to be resilient to difficult people, part of being resilient is knowing when to draw a bold heavy line between our self and another. Kids need our permission and our guidance to being able close down to people who scrape against them continuously.

This doesn’t mean that we withdraw our support from every adult who makes a decision that we or our children don’t like. We’re all human and life disappoints us all sometimes with plenty of decisions that go against us along the way. Part of becoming a successful adult is learning to bounce back from these with the capacity to sustain relationships through disagreements and disappointments.

A bad decision or a difficult relationship isn’t necessarily a toxic one. The line can be a blurry though. Toxic people are usually masters in the art subtlety and skilled at staying just behind-the-line-but-not really-but-kind-of. Fortunately, children are often skilled at picking up on when something – or someone – feels bad. I’m not talking about the cranky teacher or the day they get blamed for something that isn’t their fault. I’m talking about ongoing behaviour that feels shaming, belittling and ‘bad’. Kids might not always talk about it because they won’t always have the words, so it’s up to us as the adults in their lives to notice the changes in them and to listen when they try to tell us that something isn’t right. 

The Signs.

Kids won’t always be able to say when something doesn’t feel right, particularly if it’s in response to an adult whose authority they’ve been taught to respect or whose intentions they’ve been taught to trust. The first sign that something isn’t right might be in their behaviour. Here are some things to watch out for. Remember, you’re looking for changes from their normal:

  1. They seem withdrawn. 
  2. They don’t want to go to somewhere they previously had no problems going (e.g. school, soccer, dancing). (Remember that you’re looking for changes from the norm. If your child has always had trouble saying goodbye at school drop-off, that doesn’t mean there is someone there that they are having trouble with. What’s more likely is that they’re a little bit anxious about leaving you.) 
  3. They cry more easily than usual, or more often.
  4. They have a lack of energy. 
  5. They aren’t as interested in the things they used to enjoy.
  6. They have unexplained tummy aches, headaches or other pains or illnesses.
  7. They’re clingy.
  8. They’re aggressive or more cranky than usual.
  9. They seem worried more than usual.
  10. They seem more controlling than usual. (When there is something that feels out of control in one part of their lives, a normal response is to try to take control over other things.)
  11. They’re treating their siblings differently. (They might treat younger people in their lives the way they feel that someone is treating them.)

Now Explore a Little Deeper. Have the Conversation.

If you suspect there is somebody in your child’s life who is causing trouble, have the conversation. Here are some questions to guide you in your chat with them:

  1. So – if you had to say five people you like being around, who would you say? What makes them good to be around? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel good to be around?
    Start with something that’s easy to talk about so your child will (hopefully!) feel relaxed enough and engaged enough with you to speak about something that might be more difficult.
  2. Would you say they’re mostly good to be around or mostly bad? What makes it so? How do you feel when you’ve been with that person? 
    Look particularly for how your child feels about him/herself. Remember the danger of toxic people is damage to the self-concept.
  3. What do you think that person thinks of you? 
    Adults don’t have to like everyone and they don’t have to like your child. Regardless of how an adult feels though, it’s critical that any negative personal opinions are kept away from the child. An adult might disapprove of a certain behaviour, but the child should always feel supported and liked regardless. This needs to be conveyed verbally as well as non-verbally. It’s not enough for an adult to say, ‘But I’ve never said anything bad.’ Good. But what about the non-verbals?
  4. What does that person think of other kids?
    If your child says this person is grumpy with everyone, there’s less chance that the things the adult says or does will be taken personally, which minimises the chances of doing damage. If your child says the adult is fine with everyone else but doesn’t like him or her, then that sound you hear will be alarm bells.
  5. Does this person treat you the same as the other kids or a bit differently? If differently, how?

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These questions are more for you. Your child might not be able to answer them directly but they are important ones to consider. The answers might be more likely to come up through observation, passing comments or in direct conversation with the adult in question …

  1. Is your child’s feelings towards this adult different to their feelings towards other adults?
    If there are a few adults the child feels like this about, it may be a symptom of a broader problem, rather than one problem person. Is your child misinterpreting? Taking things personally that aren’t intended that way? Acting in a way that’s problematic?
  2. Does the adult exclude your child from activities or give your child less opportunities than other kids who are also under the adult’s supervision or care.
  3. Is the adult quick to blame the child for their (the adult’s) own behaviour, mood or feelings?
  4. Does the adult lack empathy towards your child and fail to understand why your child feels or behaves as he or she does?
  5. Does the adult often find fault with your child?
  6. What is it that the adult does that causes distress to the child?
    See if you can get a handle on exactly what it is about the adult that upsets the child. It may just be that the adult has a loud voice, or a way of speaking that sounds more abrasive than is intended. A measure is whether the adult does this with everyone or just your child.
  7. Does the adult interfere with the child’s opportunities?
  8. Does the adult pathologise your child and try to convince you, (or particularly in the case of a parent) health professionals or the child they there is something wrong with the child?
  9. Does that adult do anything that undermines the child’s capacity to cope or their belief that they can cope (with whatever)?
    This and the previous are perhaps the most toxic of toxic behaviours and are often at the hands of a parent, particularly in divorce of separation. In this case, the adult (typically the parent) will actively tell the child they won’t or can’t cope with a situation. They will give the impression that they are doing this for the child’s benefit. The adult may interfere with the child’s relationships or attempts to try new things – ‘to protect them’. In more severe instances, the adult may seek for the child to be medicated (unnecessarily). The true effect of this may be to deepen the child’s dependance on the adult and to undermine the child’s potential for independence and growth. This is most often done to interfere with the relationship between the child and the other parent.

Kids are born with a beautifully intact sense of who they are. As the adults in their lives, it’s up to us to see to it that their self-concept stays as dent free as possible. Of course there will be scars and bruises – they’re an unavoidable part of learning and being better, stronger, wiser and braver, but when deeper cuts are made into that self-concept, the damage is harder to repair. Sometimes it changes people forever.

As parents, we are told to support teachers, coaches and other adults in the lives of our children and this is true – to a point. What’s more important is supporting our own children in drawing the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to other people. Sometimes that means openly naming unacceptable behaviour. When did it ever become more important to support an adult than to protect a child?

I’m not talking about openly speaking out against a decision that neither you nor the child like, or behaviour that might have gone against what you would prefer. There are plenty of times to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it. What I’m talking about is the behaviour that does damage. It can be a hard line to draw, and given the finesse with which toxic people have mastered the art of subtlety, it can also be a blurry one. Remember this though – you know your child, and you will know when something is changing them – the way they are, the way they see themselves. Trust yourself to know when something isn’t right. If it feels ‘off’, then it probably is. 

We can’t stop toxic people coming into the lives of our children. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as wrong. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to adults should never be used against them by those broken adults who might do harm. 

Our kids are amazing. Let’s do whatever we have to to keep them that way.

(This article was reprinted with my permission on The Good Men Project.)



This was a very thoughtful and well written article! I wish that my mother could have read this when I was growing up.
She allowed my stepfather to inflict verbal and emotional abuse for years.
Sometimes I still feel that she loved him more, because a parent who cares about their child wouldn’t allow that.

He is an extremely toxic person and sadly, he ruined my life in many ways.
To all the parents out there reading this…please beware of adults around your kids who might harm them emotionally, verbally and otherwise.
It’s important to protect children from this type of damage. My mother saw the harm that was being done to me and she did absolutely nothing about it.

We, as adults, need to step up and speak out when children are being hurt.
We can’t stay silent when a child is being abused…because it IS abuse.


If you are able to ask her why she couldn’t protect you, she may say she was afraid of him also. I was terrified of my ex. When he would smack our son, I was frozen. I was gutted then relieved when he left.


This was a very thoughtful and well written article! I wish that my mother could have read this when I was growing up.
She allowed my stepfather to inflict verbal and emotional abuse for years.
Sometimes I still feel that she loved him more, because a parent who cares about their child wouldn’t allow that.

He is an extremely toxic person and sadly, he ruined my life in many ways.
To all the parents out there reading this…please beware of adults around your kids who might harm them emotionally, verbally and otherwise.


I am in a tough situation. My husband passed almost 4 years ago. I had a stroke 18 years ago so am somewhat diabled. My daughter married this guy 2 y know before so my husband and I didn’t really knoe him when they married. They’ve been living with me ever since. Theu have no kids together but my daughter has 2 dayghters from a previous marriage ages 10 and 14. My daughter has a good job but her husband has hardly worked since they got married. He’s probably had 15 jibs in the few years since they’ve been married. I’m sure he gets fired or quits. He does nothing to help here or my daughterand either sleeps or plays video games all the time. He uses foul language in front of my grandkids all th and I don’t either.e time. My 2 granddaughters don’t like him and I don’t either. My daughter got pretty seriously sick a few months ago and anf I read it can be brought on btly stress. Bothof my granddaughters behavior is changing for the worse. My 10 year old is very worried about her mom and doesn’t want to be away from her mom much
My 14 year old granddaughter has a lot if anger in her. I can’t talk to my daughter about it. She defends him. I’ve hD health problemds for quite a while now which i know is from all the stress. A couple days ago i saw about 4 bruises on my daughters arm. I asked how that happened. Her husband was there. She said it happened when she went to the doctor. She said the nurse did it but doesn’t make sense. Looks like finger mark bruises. My neighbor said she overheard them arguing in my back yard and he said You’ll never get me out of this house. I want to know where to turn. kick him out but don’t know where to turn.


You need to get an eviction notice for only him if you own the home. Just know that your daughter may also move out if that happens. If he gets angry or hostile about it, then just file a $100 restraining order.


If you want him out immediately then skip the eviction process and file a temporary restraining order and make 3 copies one for him you and the courts ask for an officer to deliver it and he’ll have to leave the moment they had him the papers then you go in front of a judge about a month later


What a fantastic article – thanks for sharing!

I have 2 incredible kids ages 10 yrs and 7 yrs. and am a divorced mother. I have shared custody of my children with my ex-husband. He lives with his girlfriend and her son and she appears to be a very toxic person (kicking the kids out at 10pm for a potty accident, making my son wear a face mask when he has allergies, limiting my children’s food intake, requiring they share sinks, bedroom, etc. when her son gets his own, and constantly finding things wrong with my children – ie speech impediment, yellow teeth, in need of psychological help etc. Things professionals such as teachers, doctors and dentists are saying aren’t true). She truly seems like she has NPD and does not treat my children well. My previous mother in law has recently been cut off by her son and has reached out as well expressing her concerns about this woman and how she is treating her grandchildren. My 7yr son now gets anxiety and starts withdrawing before going to their house and has started having anger issues (he’s now seeing a counselor), however, my 10yr old daughter seems to think this woman is just great and doesn’t express any concerns which worries me that she thinks this is acceptable to be treated as such (although since she is the only girl there she does apparently get treated better than my son).

My internal conflict is that I want to teach my children that this behavior by this influential person in their life is not ok but I 1. don’t want to cause them to feel worse about the divorce/divide between homes 2. I don’t know an appropriate way to do it that won’t make them feel bad or that I’m saying something bad about someone they claim to care for

I would greatly appreciate your recommendations on how to help them create this boundary and inner voice without feeling like I’m bad mouthing the other home (creating more internal conflict/divide for them).

I look forward to your thoughts! Thanks.


I am having a similar situation going on now in my house and I am not sure how to handle it. My daughter is 11, I have been in a 3 year relationship. My BF and I have a 1 year old baby. From the moment my baby was born he changed with my daughter, before we used to play, watch tv together do things together , laugh etc. Now, they don’t talk to each other. He decided to ignored her completely, and he said is because she does not listen, doesn’t pick up after her. I have told him many times how this is affecting our relationship and my daughter. He has been an amazing father for my baby, and my daughter now filling ignored, seeing all the love that he gives to the baby and how she did not had that ( I divorced her father when she was 7 months) and feels sad. Her behavior has changed, she feels sad, she said she is depressed, doesn’t want to do anything fun. I am trying my best to spend as much time with her after work and on the weekends, but I also wants to spend time with the baby. She told me recently that she can’t stand him, and told me the main reason is because she doesnt see that she belongs to our new family. I am practically living two lives in my house,,, one with my daughter and one with him (it is emotionally exhausting). It really hurts me to think to leave him, more because I feel my baby is going to to through the same things my daughter did and he will tell me the same thing in 10 years. He does not want to accept he is the reason everything is changing in my house, he thinks is my emotional stubborn daughter that is creating this, I keep telling him he is the adult. 🙁


I would suggest counseling for both of you, but if he’s that stubborn and unwilling to take responsibility, than leaving him is worth it. For both your children.


Hi I am in exact same position as u! I’d love to know how ur getting on & if counselling worked? I dont know too many others in this exact position so I’m so glad I found your post here! It really is heartbreaking & i am at my wits end too!


Well, my son is in his late 20s and has been out of town for 7 years. He was pretty great until 8th grade. I saw some strange meanness in him but the good in him outweighed the meanness. He aligned himself with my mother and she gave him her inheritance at 21, which wasn’t that much. He split the money with his brother and his father and me. It has been 6 years and he is resentful he split the money. He feels like I should pay his college loans (which I do) and he deserves all the money. My mother was manic depressive (he doesn’t know that and I really don’t want him to know.) Toward the end of her life, she became paranoid and thought I was stealing from her. I could have fought the will but I didn’t because he was going to share. It isn’t the money, it is the idea that he believes he is deserving and better than us. “She left it to me.” “She wanted me to have it.” He is also resentful of me and goes to counseling. He uses buzz words like toxic all the time and believes he grew up in a toxic environment. He grew up in an environment where his father and I worked and devoted all our free time to their sporting events and their Disney vacations. We never socialized with our friends again until they were grown. And still he blames me for his brother being out of college and not working now for 5 years; but his brother was an alcoholic and gave up drinking for 3 years now. His brother is proud of that. Both sons are artists of sorts. They have clashed for a while now to the point of physical aggression. The younger can’t take the verbal berating from his older brother and lashes out physically. For years, I have just used the words “he doesn’t like us” or “he doesn’t like me, mostly me.” He also says I am toxic and calls me a lot of names. I am emotional and I tell him how I feel. I never give him ultimatum. I try to be close but he pushes me away. We help him whenever we can – moving, getting doctors, helping him with his artistic pursuits, but nothing is good enough. When he comes home I get him his favorite food, try to get out of his way – clean everything after him – he won’t pick up at all after himself when he is home. He never has offered to cook, clean up, take us out to dinner, anything. He did when he first moved away but now feels pretty deserving. His friends are well off. His girlfriend’s family is well off and she is an only. He is friend with her mother on FB (but not me) and he goes to their house for holidays. There are no taking turns. She has made that clear. The girlfriend vacations on holidays with her parents and her parent’s friends. I suspect Scientology is involved which probably is easy for me because that would explain a lot. Her parents were involved with scientologists a while ago. Anyway, we haven’t talked in weeks. I emailed but when even 1% of blame is place on him, he goes ballistic. I blame him for name calling – bad name calling. My bottom line question is could it be me – could I be toxic? I have expressed need. I have begged for him to call. But no ultimatums, no helplessness, no feigned illnesses, not guilt trips other than “I would like to see you, spend time with you” which usually culminates in me begging for forgiveness for making him feel quilty. What’s your take with this bird’s eye view?


My mother in law can’t hold her tongue. Shes gainst me referring to me as a fat pig in front of my son. When confronted her husband insures me she doesn’t do that anymore. But the lady is like a verbal machine gun, sure to drain anyone who will listen. She can not help but talk bad about me to everyone but me and she does this in front of my son. Even tho I’m the sober parent trying to take care of my boy without any help from them. Both she and my husband are verbally abusive superficial judgmental and self-centered. Im about to divorce my husband of 24 yrs. He is addicted to drugs whores gambling cheating lying betraying decieving which has been going on since I had my child 7 yrs ago. He has never been a “stay at home for more than 3 days at a time” type dad, before nutting up flipping off my kid or calling me a stupid fat cunt and getting kicked out again. My son has witnessed to much verbal and even physical abuse in the past and now his dad is just never around. And his grandparents spoil him boy him every toy but it all has to stay at there nice can’t take anything home cause we live in a “dump” sh’d say. She even called my son a piece of trash last Christmas and slapped her husband in front of my son. They only see my son on Saturdays but they seem to manage brainwashing and manipulating my son before he comes home with a bad attitude toward me refusing to listen and obey blatantly defiant about it. He loves his grandpa but he’s hard of hearing and wife won’t stop her toxic talking . I don’t know what to do these people I don’t want my son to be like them. They may have money but they have no soul no empathy.

Georgina R

Former father in law told me, he doesn’t love my kids as much as he loves his daughters kids. this was five years ago and I still can’t get over it. the thing is he wants to visit and stay at my house for weeks and weeks. but I feel no interest in having such a close relationship with him after hearing that. everyone tells me to ignore it and just focus on the fact that he’s a very attentive grandpa. he stays at my house because his son doesn’t have space to keep him at his place. HELP!!!!


I have a different case my daughter is very, very pretty I often get stopped by people taking Pictures of her or indulging her looks. I constantly reinforce the beauty is inside not out from your looks and at home we have teach her this. I protected from exposure to this situation because is uncomfortable for us, I don’t want my child to grow with stigma of been the beauty queen, is just not I want my child to become. I have focus on sports (she is a great surfer) and she loves her guitar classes but her music teacher says she has an amazing voice and now we are in the dilema of just let have vocal classes. And why is our dilema now she is 10 a lot her classes mates are very jealous of her but also parents. I just can’t see why people focus on her and her achievements. It almost feel I have to put her down or not let her be good at what she is great, just to be accepted.


Love everything that you have written,my daughter is 30 with 3 girls and it bothers me that she ke err pa bringing different guys into her life that only last for a month at that.then she gets upset if the kids dont do things with the guy she with for that concern is that she thinks more of herself because of her marriage she went through,she know life is all about her and having a man right away,then daughters second.she gets mad ccx when family saids something to her but rather listen to her friends that has not a thing going for them.what can I do.


I’m fixing to be 36 in December and my dad always says mean things to me like I just got married today and my daughter video taped are wedding and I showed my dad the video and he said that I reminded him of alfred Hitchcock. I’m a woman and my dad well also call me a roadblock because I’m at he constantly picks at me and makes insulting comments and he belittles me and bullies me and makes cruel jokes about me.


Good morning,

I have serious concerns about the way my wife behaves near my son. The story is very long although we are together for 3 years it feels like a 100 years passed by. She is always unhappy and finds fault for every solution. She is aggressive, making huge scenes and provoking a suite of fights and she uses bad language on a daily basis. I have tried my best to cool down the tension and whenever I touch the subject of trying to resolve she gets annoyed by it and whenever I talked to her that we can’t go on like she immediately pours offensive words about my mother and myself which are totally untrue. She then provokes me and lately got me off my calm and I say a few words back too, then I withdraw quickly so that I keep my positive as much as possible attitude. The fact is that she screams and makes a scene so that other people hear and see her as a victim screaming out loud that I beat her or other similar accusations although I did not ever touch her. She blackmails me with my son and I don’t know what to do but this can’t go on like that. I am extremely concerned about my son’s healthy mind growth as he is very smart but things that happen from morning until midnight and her always negative attitude is affecting us both. I want to call the childcare as she needs treatment and support and I don’t know how to proceed and get to keep my son. I was afraid of losing him, however, if her bad behavior continues like that the consequences could be worse than my son being taken away from me. I am thinking about him and I wish to provide him with a healthy life. I have been reading books on personal development and positive thinking and I always took action towards my goals, I am aware of the energy that surrounds us and that the people we surround with to be positive, however, I have not managed to make my wife turn good. She makes theatrical scenes threatening me she will commit suicide and she takes pills and then she says she faked it. I called 911 when she was pregnant with my son because she made a huge scene and started to smash everything in the house. Police and firemen and more than 20 people from negotiators to people sent from the city hall came to our place and she locked herself in for 24 hours with all those people waiting for her to open the door to see all was good. She was inside on facebook and laughing and all as my step-daughter sent me photos that everything is find. The story is really big of things like this. Whatever I wrote here is merely 1% of all I have been through. IF it wasn’t for my son I would have been gone long time ago, but I do not trust her and I need to call the authorities to put an end to all of this.


My daughter suffers from anxiety and some medical problems, which she can become tired, angry easily. She had two girls that she had been really close to, and they used to have playdates and do a lot of things together until recently, all of a sudden my daughter is not being included in the playdates or being invited to do things anymore. My daughter is already in counseling and it is helping her, but she is having a hard time understanding why she isn’t included anymore. I don’t know why she isn’t being included because the parents of both girls will say to me, we need to get all 3 them together but then make plans and not include us. And when they do see each other at birthday parties the other two girls basically ignore my daughter and hang out together, it’s like she’s become the 3rd wheel and not wanted and she’s starting to notice it.

Drunk Wiz K

Hi, I have a very difficult situation and decisions to make. I had a whirl wind relationship with the father of my kid. We both just decided to have a kid since my biological clock was ticking. So I didn’t really get to know him and his family all that much until I had to stay home and stop working and be a mom. It was a very difficult birth between life and death for me and my kid. 3-4 months into recovery my partner took a call and told me it was a family and good friends and that he might need to get them a grocery run and I said are they really that broke? And he said they don’t have a car and so I said they couldn’t afford a cab? All these didn’t really make sense until we went on holidays and thought I left my phone at my aunt’s car so he lent me his phone and I accidentally ran into a girl’s messages and connected the dots. My trust was broken. And since I was breastfeeding it was very inconvenient to be waking up at every feed time so I tried taking my baby to our then room when the baby started crying he was so mad he punched the headboard of the bed and walked out of the room because he has really bad sleep problems. It was very traumatic for me and my kid so I started just sleeping in my baby’s room to save us from troubles. Which then now turns to be still a problem I couldn’t sleep train him now that he’s toddler because every time my boy cries his father would rage into anger screaming and yelling, calling me names and threatening me that he’d call protection services because I’m letting my kid cry it out to get him sleep trained. He is very manipulative and our relationship has gone downhill from then on. Then a work acquaintance wrote me one day telling me how she was trolling on tinder and found the father of my kid’s picture along with some nice introduction about himself and what basically he’s looking for, where he works with some pictures. Being the second time didn’t surprise me as much. When I confronted him about it. He told me he’s looking for a new fling and relationship and wanting to get rid of me and so someone else new can watch my kid for him. It is absolutely disgusting just the thoughts of it someone he doesn’t even know himself would watch my kid for him. Then we started having more issues that includes his dog being really really protective of him almost bit me and then lunged and almost bit my kid on a separate occasion. Nobody was trying to hurt the dog. He almost bit me because it took me a while to help him up the couch and as soon as his owner said something while I was still holding him he lunged at me with serious intent to bite. I was shaking. Then my kid was just starting to take his first steps then he got to the couch where this dog was licking him like no tomorrow when my kid got to his father, he took my kid’s hand out where the dog was licking it gave the dog the wrong message so he lunged at my little guy and his father was quick to pull him out of the situation. There was no actual bite but this was traumatic enough for me. Then this dog was also not home broken properly that it was a complete struggle for me to do the child proofing. The dog leaves poop piles anywhere convenient and good places for him in the house. With my kid starting to explore and put everything in his mouth, I asked that I put gate on the big bedroom and the baby’s room because that’s where he used to lay poop pads so the dog thinks it poop safe for him. He never liked any of the idea that he had to close bathroom door, gate on his bedroom he violently tore the gate apart out of rage. And dog proofing under the bed he thinks I’m the crazy one for thinking about the safety of my kid. And the list goes on and on and all these acts of complacency does not give me confidence about having him handle the kid by himself. He does not know how to handle stress. He grew up with ADHD and sleep problems and still on medication for anxiety. We were at the airport once and I was holding the kid and few other things so I made him fold the stroller. He was in absolute panic looking at all the passengers getting on board while he’s still trying to figure out the stroller. He eventually got it by pulling random things. When he claimed our stroller it was missing the handle that cradles the car seat so we had the dilemma between catching the next flight and looking for the missing part while he’s pushing the stroller i noticed that the arm was actually latched on to the car seat from his not focusing on the task. And if I didn’t pay attention it was missing the arm I’d drop my kid. Like he did at home. He was pulling on random things and I nearly dropped my kid going thru the bump because he had the arms loose. The other week he left the transparent jug of orange juice filled with gasoline because almost every night he invites friend or friends over if he was not to party out with them. I nearly passed out myself when I tried to check what’s on it and smelled it. He left it right next to the kid’s picnic table. Then another day I found his anti-anxiety medication lying on the floor behind the couch. He told me it was safe because it was behind the couch. Then I showed him how to secure and buckle up the kid and told him the kid really needs to be snug with the straps on properly done. He told me I was hurting and squishing the kid’s genitals and that’s why he didn’t want to be put on the car seat. Nobody ever likes car seats but I’d rather squish the odd child balls than have him brain dead or with broken spine in an accident, the doctors might not be able to fix. So then the other day he buckled up the kid, good thing I checked because he left the chest buckle right down on the kid’s tummy. He would be flying off the car seat in a second in case of an accident. All these seemingly harmless mistakes can be very fatal to my kid. I don’t get any financial support from him not even a penny out of charity since I had to stay home to care for the kid. So I’d have to get back to work soon but work would be long shifts and may require a move out of town for few months. He won’t allow me to move with my kid even with the offer of regular visits back and forth. He does not support any of my personal goals. And I don’t feel like my kid can be safe with him and he has very very sharp tongue. He doesn’t have control over the f words and some really hurtful words in front of the kid and his mom come in and relentlessly blame me for everything and harass me call me mentally and emotionally unstable because of my concerns for the safety of my kid. I have no personal support close by and I have been emotionally battered trying to stand up for myself being my kid’s advocate. He won’t go on counseling and didn’t think he has issues. There is also a lot of alcohol in the house and not a day without a beer pile either under table under the bed or in the fridge. I am so worried about the over all well being of my kid under his care if we go separate ways and his safety and the influences he’d put my child under.


You should really get counseling for your situation. I recognize all the toxic And harmfull behaviours of my ex, who was an alcoholic and had mental issues, because of the alcohol, or because of the curcumstances he grew up in and how he lived the rest of his life. Probably both. I suggest you read into personality disorders, your eyes will open. You will have to leave this toxic damaging parent. Because you are the only healthy adult in his life, I really recommend you to get counseling. It can be free also, even when it’s urgent. I also would recommend you to gather evidence. Wether it are recordings with your phone of his lashing out or it be pictures of his potentially dangerous mistakes. And keep a log on your phone or someting, date, what he said or did. And don’t hesitate. You are right. You are the only protector of your child!

Good luck!


I am from Asia. Divorce is rare here but my wife and I are divorced. We have two kids who live with my sister.
Only two years back I was able to overcome my alcoholism. Despite suffering severe bullying at the hands of my then employers, I had money to spare. So I asked my teenaged children if they wished to come and live with me. My sister who is emotionally needy did not want to let them go. She wrote some mails to my abusive ex employers twisting many facts to portray that I talk inappropriate sexual topics to my daughter. Even those abusive ex employers did not believe those allegations but they often used them to needle me.
I left that job a year later but my career has only been going downhill. I really feel more sorry for children than myself. But I find it so tough to merely hang in there. But I know I have to


I feel like i let my son down because I let him go over to my husbands parents house where my husband’s mother has always acted very strange she came and picked up my husband on Valentine’s day and told him to divorce me and when I found out I was pregnant with my son in the first place she tried with her family to bully me into an abortion to murder our son in the womb with her equally crazy partner who called me up and told me while I was pregnant with my son that me and my husbands relationship was unimportant while she listened in the background Anyways I am a kind person everyone says that about me and I decided to give them chances well i let my son go over there and eventually while I am there she’s with my son on the patio with a 13 ft pool in the backyard he’s two years old and I see them outside together and then just she walks in by herself I run out side in a panic to where she has left my toddler near the pool by himself and she tells us it’s not a big deal because it was an accident! We thought she had changed then it happens again when he’s three while I’m over there again! She left the door open to the pool than walks out to the garage where and my husband are I yell where’s my son and run back in to find the door to the pool open and him by himself! Near the door! Then she slips out and says it’s only happened a few times he’s gotten out there by himself it’s not a big deal! and each time was an accident! So it’s not a big deal I am just floored she works in a hospital so does her husband who’s an RN I’m asking myself is this even real so after that I put my foot down Roman was only allowed over there with a babysitter who is pre med because my son also has a feeding tube temporary from prematurity so essentially I have to pay a babysitter to watch the grandparents and my son at the same time whos 20$ an hour and the father in law says oh it’s your choice we could of easily watched him! Are u kidding me I’m not going to let my son accidentally die because of these people because before the pool incidents even Roman kept coming home with huge bruises on his head caused by my husband’s mother that also weren’t a big deal to her she said oh it’s normal for toddlers to have bruises on their head all the time I said yes it’s normal if they cause them themselves not when other people cause them from when she dropped him and left a drawer open that he ran into and she didn’t see it because she was showing someone her knife collection with a three year old running around and she doesn’t even think anything is wrong with that and neither does her husband it’s terrifying that they think this way and then expect my son to still be under their care and the other time she tripped my son on purpose because she was annoyed he was running around with his toy car so she purposely tripped him on to hard stone floor he had a huge bruise with a huge bump he was throwing up violently it hurt so bad and it was the mother in law’s birthday and she goes oh now my birthday is ruined because of Roman I feel like these people are insane and then Christmas comes up they buy my son my husband and the father in law’s dad an iPad and tell me if I wanted one I have to buy my own and then two weeks later of my husband asking repeatedly where is Romans ipad my husband’s mother says it’s Ray’s now her husband because he decided that he wanted it after Roman had been using it to watch his you tube shows now Ray the husband decided he was going to just take it from a disabled three year old I feel so disgusted that this would happen to my son and then they the inlaws lie and tell everyone around them that me and my husband are crazy etc and that we are somehow in the wrong it just sounds like insanity to me and my son is only three and a half and nonverbal do u think I should get him counseling because these people never one time even called me to let me know when he had been on the porch by himself or gotten a bruise who knows what else they have done to him do u think counseling is appropriate thanks for your time he is never going around them ever again I feel like this is the only solution for his safety -AS

Karen Young

The best thing you can do now is to make sure he is never with them without you. If your son is not showing any outward signs that he is struggling, I wouldn’t think he would necessarily need counselling. Kids can move through trauma if they have the love and care of a supportive adult to help them feel safe and strong. There is no benefit to him in looking for ways he might have been affected if he isn’t showing signs that he has been affected. You are right to protect him from any further risk that may come from any adults in his life not understanding what they need to do to keep him safe when he is in their care. It sounds as though he is in very safe and loving hands now.


The deliberate setting of scenes for an accident is very creepy, and something familiar to me from my inlaws. At first I gave them chances and accepted the “it was an accident and nothing happened” excuse, until I noticed a definite pattern. I think two factors at play with my inlaws were a) love of drama, particularly getting to be at the centre of drama whatever the cost, and b) they could not be wrong, so therefore leaving a toddler in a dangerous situation was kind of a challenge, to show they could do what they wanted. The clue to me that it was seriously toxic behaviour was that there was never any sincere apology, and only concern for their being right, no concern for the child’s safety. I think you are right to never leave your son alone with them. You may find looking up discussions of grandparents with NPD or other personality disorders helpful.


My daughter just asked me what to do about her boyfriend of 4 years who is the father to their 3 yr old and 1 yr old boys in dealing with the holidays. My daughter also has a 10 year old daughter. The boyfriend treats my granddaughter much different then his own boys. He calls her names, makes fun of her and seems to constantly bother her, he is a good father to his boys. He has even woken my granddaughter up one night to tell her that her natural father is a loser, and some other terrible things. My daughter has tried many times to tell him about his hurtful behavior and now has other family members watch my granddaughter when my daughter works. I have suggested family counselling to them but they have not gone and now my daughter has shared that she is done and is leaving him. What should I do or say?


I feel i may be doing something wrong. My Ex husband constantly shares his issues of his toxic relationship to my children (of which I had no idea he was sharing this with our kids) He usually calls me to vent. I’ve told him several times to pls stop sharing this with me. But he continues. Due to the issues he has i feel very uncomfortable letting my kids be around him and his girlfriend. According to him she has burned his clothes in their arguements, there is personal items damaged, basically verbal, physical and emotional abuse. He has tried to hurt himself more than once. Yet he chooses to continue to be in that relationship. Based on the information he shares i do not feel safe letting my children be around them. He is adamant about bringing our kids around his girlfriend. Am i being the toxic parent for not allowing my kids to be involved? Please advise.

Karen Young

Rebecca I can hear how confused you are about the situation with your ex husband and your children, but it’s impossible for me to advise you based on the information you’ve provided. There are so many variables here, including the ages of the children, how they are making sense of it, whether or not they feel safe, how they feel about their relationship with their dad, whether the fighting happens in front of them or away from them etc. The important thing to remember is that your children only have one father. They might have other men in their lives who love them, but they only have one dad. As much as possible I think it’s important to support that relationship and work on ways to make it safe and nurturing for everyone.


I really needed an article like this to help make me realize the decision I made to cut out a toxic parent out of my families life is the best decision I have made. My daughter was friends with a girl in her grade. Something happened and within a week they were no longer friends. I asked if my daughter had done anything wrong and was never specifically given an answer.
Over the years the mother of this young girl has had many conversations with other parents of children in our community. They haven’t been very enlightening conversations about my daughter. I have had many people tell me how she speaks of my daughter and it’s never in a positive light.
Something happened at a party and the mother decided to contact me and tell me what a rough time her daughter has been having and she does not need to speak to my daughter ever. I agree. They don’t need to speak to each other but they do need to get along at a child’s party for the sake of all the other kids there. No one should feel they have to pick sides. My daughter excluded herself so she wouldn’t ruin the party.
When the mother contacted me the whole conversation was her talking about how hard her daughter has had it this year in school and then to tell me how my daughter has no self-esteem and the reason she believes this is because of her relations with boys. I’m sorry. When did she follow my daughter around to know what she is doing with boys? She ripped my daughter apart during most of the conversation. I did not say anything about her daughter at all. Does she help with the rumors and gossip of young kids in school? I always say if you help spread rumors and gossip you are part of the problem not the solution.
I unfriended this mother on facebook. I let her know that I would no longer be friends with her on facebook after what she had said about my daughter. I feel that I am in the right here. Why should anyone be allowed to speak about someone else’s child is this manner, let alone to the child’s own mother. Who is she to decide my daughter has low self-esteem?
I often feel guilty at first, thinking a made a quick gut reaction. But this time I feel free. I feel like my daughter and I can finally move on in peace.
We will still see each other due to school and sports, however, I don’t feel I need to be friendly. I feel I should protect my child. We can be cordial to each other but our daughters will probably never be friends but there is not reason for animosity among all.
Am I wrong for feeling this way?

Luzmaria Nunez

I have two stepdaughters and their biological mom is a very toxic person. When she had custody of them she would physically punish them, neglect them, wouldn’t dress them nicely, keep up with health needs like doctor visits even when they needed it, and my oldest would not pick her up from school but let her walk alone even though she was unemployed. Whenever she got mad at their dad she would refuse to let them see them and even sometimes regardless of a court order. On december 2014 after fighting with her spouse over his affairs(thats what the court said happened) she tried to commit suicide in the home while my two stepdaughter and her other daughter she had wit this spouse where in the home. When I first met my youngest she was 2 and a half and didn’t speak. She was also nowhere near potty train, She was a constant thumbsucker. It was the way she coped. My oldest was an emotional mess as she didn’t know how to react. When I first met her she cried, but then liked me. When the incident happen she was just really scared. She would have really bad anxiety and show signs of depression. She would constantly say her head hurt or her stomach. She started to get therapy with us for the trauma for the event and for sexual that occurred when she was 7 in the care of her biological mom. In the time of the incident she was 8. In the sexual assult that took case she was sexually abused by her aunts bf who lived with them. When she first told her mom, her mom didn’t do anything about it, not until she told her dad. In the report when taken to the hospital it says when her mom was asked why she had waited to bring her in and her mom said because my stepdaughter was too embarrassed. In the end my bf/their dad received custody. We have lived together for going on 3 years. However, their mom remains a toxic person and idk how much more I can take. I feel so powerless. The toxicity is years and since she hasnt changed even after everything. She would constantly talk bad to my oldest about her dad and tells her its not ok for her to hold a relationship with me. She hates that they called me mom and when she found out she would try to discourage them. Of what I know she does spank them but I hope that is really as far as it goes. I personally dont approve of spanking and neither does my bf.We asked her to not to it but we go ignored. Her siblings would also gang up on my children negatively. Their aunt/sis of mom would make my daughter cry when she would take care of her while her mom work when she was spending her weekend with her. She would tell her that she just wanted her to see that her dad was the bad guy. Her uncle as well as her aunt would also spank my youngest. Sometimes my youngest would suffer as well when improperly clothed, at the least it has gotten better. She would send her in ripped or dirty clothing. Once she was wearing pants ripped at the crotch and had no underwear on. She would also for some time not bathe them when in her care. I stopped sending them in clothes, shoes, etc that I have bought them as I will not get them back or she would determine that. Twice has she switched the little ones shoes. One was in winter she had pink leather cat boots and when we picked them up she had her with flip flops with socks. My oldest said it was because they couldn’t find her shoes. I asked her to please just bring them back next time. When she asked her mom for them she said if I wanted them back I have to ask her for them. I never got them back. She claims she is the good parent but has been not organized with her visits for the past year, would be later or as once she acted as she forgot when she was suppose to pick them, she would cancel, or in the summer want to stick them with her mother who visited from mexico. In the beginning we would try to be reasonable giving her options we didn’t have to and being very flexible in our part, but we refuse to anymore. We decided we are only giving her what is asked and going exactly by the court papers. She started to tell our oldest who is 10 now that we are making it hard for her to see them. She says she has to fight us to see them which is not true and how so if there is a court order from visitation. She also doesn’t pay any child support. At the moment for my youngest who is 5 I worry so much for her. I worry how she is emotional development is being affected and behaviorally. She only acts out with her biological mom but can sometimes over carry. The other daughter her mom has fake cries a lot, hits my daughters, and throws tantrums. My youngest mimics this behavior. My oldest knows this is not the way she should act or be so it grows tension between them. The little one disrespects her and gets away with it in their mother’s home. Sometimes my youngest would say the oldest hit her which will result in my oldest getting punished meaning “spanked”. My youngest still sucks her thumb. Do know I have tried everything from hot sauce to band aids to biting bracelet jewelry, to mittens for nigh time, nail polish, and at the moment just ordered her some gloves from etsy she can wear it school. She just started kindergarden and its holding her back. My child is so smart but the thumsucking is hurting her succes. She has stopped or slow down at times but then it picks up as her mom says that she can and can stop when she wants. She won’t allow my oldest to say a word to her about it or she will be punished. I already took her to the orthodontist but then cant take action til 6 months. I also worry cause a five year old should be having break downs. She has told me her biological mom spanks her and hits her hard. That she doesn’t like. My little one has difficulties sometimes focusing, expressing themselves, and not fidgeting. I feel shes gotten better but I wish I knew how to better help and what can I do. Sometimes their biological mom talks aggressively to my oldest of what I know when they have argued. At times telling her to shut up and that she is right. My little one recently started to use words like that. How can I protect them. There’s so much that would take me forever to write. A while ago I started a letter as I was upset and I got to 8 pages. I haven’t continued as I work as a full time assistant teacher and sometimes babysitt. In my other time I am with spouse and daughters. How, If you can, can you advice me.


My kid’s aunt is toxic. Uses exclusion and silence to intimidate others. I had to take her out of the equation in order to remove the stress from my kid’s lives.


Me and my husband are together for 19 years (9 years in marriage and 10 years before that). We have two children: a girl 8 years and a boy 6 years. My girl is like me positive, inteligent, motivated and my boy is inteligent, but he wants to arrgue all time whit his sister. Somehow he is like his father who has many problems whit our private business and is very offen nervous, don’t speak at home and don’t communicate to much at home. Our son is arguing with his sister all time don’t give her anything, also he did not give to kids at kinder garten, too. He don’t want to talk with me about that and When I try to teach him that he should not have to argue with his sister he doesn’t want to hear me and tell me stop, stop, don’t tell me I will do what ever I want, you want tell me what to do.


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The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️
Such a beautiful 60 second wrap of my night with parents and carers in Hastings, New Zealand talking about building courage and resilience in young people. Because that’s how courage happens - it builds, little bit by little bit, and never feeling like ‘brave’ but as anxiety. Thank you @healhealthandwellbeing for bringing us together happen.♥️


Original post by @healhealthandwellbeing:
🌟 Thank You for Your Support! 🌟

A huge thank you to everyone who joined us for the "Building Courage and Resilience" talk with the amazing  Karen Young - Hey Sigmund. Your support for Heal, our new charity focused on community health and wellbeing, means the world to us!

It was incredible to see so many of you come together while at the same time being able to support this cause and help us build a stronger, more resilient community.

A special shoutout to Anna Catley from Anna Cudby Videography for creating some fantastic footage Your work has captured the essence of this event perfectly ! To the team Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre thank you for always making things so easy ❤️ 

Follow @healhealthandwellbeing for updates and news of events. Much more to come!

#Heal #CommunityHealth #CourageAndResilience #KarenYoung #ThankYou

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