No one prepares you for the realisation that parents, whom we, rightfully, hold in high regard can be toxic. Nothing can take away the love and respect parents deserve but the realisation that they’re human and prone to being dishonourable is a bitter pill for anyone to swallow.
Abusive parents exist and, while we may be too timid to call them out on account of the unquestionable respect the African culture demands, this is a conversation we need to have.
Abuse is expansive but the most common, yet least-talked about, are the psychological and emotional forms. Emotional abuse, in this context, is the gradual disregard and subsequent destruction of your child’s self-worth and esteem in the way you address them verbally or physically.
I may not list all facets of emotional abuse. However, emotional manipulation — constant comparison of your children to others because of their inability to project values you forcibly inflict on them, being verbally uncouth with them, addressing them with little respect and a general lack of empathy for what they are going through embody some of the facets of emotional abuse.
Psychological abuse is manifested in actions that put children in a mental state likely to cause depression, anxiety, trauma and stress. Parents can be rather oblivious to the scarring effect of their actions on their children.
Similarly, physical and verbal projection of anger and violence towards, and in front of, children can cause deep-rooted psychological issues that could take a lifetime to undo.
While parents are human, they need to realise that children are their own people and deserve inherent respect and dignity that does not attach to their role as parents and caregivers.
More often than not, parents project their desires on their children with such disregard for their preference or decisions, subsequently putting them under pressure to deliver and live up to expectations they may not necessarily subscribe to.
Toxicity among parents runs deep. Sadly, we have been accustomed to being on the receiving end in silence because respect for elders demands it. We should encourage a culture of introspection among parents and for youth to be respectfully vocal about the impact of their elders’ actions on them.
The notion that parents are always right and entitled to treat their children however they please since they bore and raised them is one reason why we raise a generation that is emotionally and psychologically damaged from all the inflictions of toxic parents most are not courageous enough to call out.
When was the last time your parent apologised to you for being wrong? More often than not, their transgressions are swept under the carpet, never to be revisited, and the pile-up catches up with most of us.
How aware do you think your parents are when it comes to their emotional and psychological well-being? Often, their toxicity is a projection of their personal struggles that they need to address before it spills onto their children.
Interestingly, the impact of abusive parents on a child’s well-being cuts across all ages. The effects are felt by adults and minors at different levels.
Most of us have been victims of degrading and snarky comments from our parents who sit with us for a long time, and while we may laugh it off when the wounds no longer bleed, the pile-up has an active role in how we view ourselves and, subsequently, the way in which we address others.
Ms Nnanguttu is a lawyer. [email protected]