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Surviving a Borderline Parent: Navigating the Ups and Downs of BPD


This article will provide support, guidance, and coping strategies for individuals who have a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder, helping them navigate the challenges and maintain their well-being.


Borderline personality disorder can severely impact children who look to their parents to provide them with a strong identity. A borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that makes it difficult for individuals to manage their emotions. This can lead to:

  1. A negative impact on children
  2. Increased impulsivity
  3. Changes to how a parent feels about themselves

This can make surviving a borderline parent difficult.

psychotherapy with parents

Identifying BPD symptoms in parents

Borderline personality disorder in parents can manifest with symptoms like:

  • A parent who constantly seeks approval from their children or other members of the family
  • A parent who gets depressed or Moody if they don’t get their way
  • A parent who makes their children feel like they’re never good enough
  • A parent who lashes out without any cause with borderline rage
  • A parent who has a pattern of unstable friendships or even intimate relationships
  • A parent who has fears of Abandonment and distrust
  • A parent who goes back and forth between loving or hating people
  • A parent who makes their children feel like the children need to take care of the adults

This can be difficult for children with borderline personality disorder parent because they might not realize when symptoms are actually those of the condition and when they reflect a child’s performance or a parent’s feelings toward them.

Challenges faced by children of borderline parents

Children growing up with a borderline parent can struggle with immense emotional problems, especially when they are younger. Many children feel as though they have to walk on eggshells because they don’t know what mood a borderline parent might have at any given moment.

Children who don’t know how to deal with a parent with borderline personality disorder might feel like surviving every day is a struggle. And even surviving a borderline parent can create an unstable mood of fear, struggle, conflict, and placating family members.

Parents might move back and forth between being supportive or dismissive, attached or hostile. Sometimes parents can even be abusive. As a child gets older, these extreme mood swings might get worse.

How to deal with a parent with borderline personality disorder: coping strategies

If you have a borderline personality disorder parent, there are some coping strategies you can use for dealing with a borderline parent.

Establishing Boundaries and Self-Care

If you are surviving a borderline parent, it’s important that you prioritize self-care. A parent might not do that for you if they are a borderline parent. This self-care can include:

  1. Getting regular sleep at the same time each night
  2. Exercising at least thirty minutes per day
  3. Eating healthy
  4. Avoid drugs or alcohol

Self-care also extends to emotional self-care. This can mean avoiding too much toxicity, meditating, having a healthy support system, and establishing boundaries with your borderline parent. If you need to leave the home or the room because of toxicity, do so.

dad and son conversation

Communication Techniques for Difficult Conversations

Dealing with a borderline parent can be overwhelming if you don’t have good communication. Difficult conversations are difficult for a reason. Sometimes they make us uncomfortable, and we don’t necessarily want to upset a borderline parent and cause an outburst by having a difficult conversation.

But you need to be able to stand up for yourself, assert yourself respectfully, set healthy boundaries, and learn how to talk to one another.

Seeking Professional Help and Support

In some cases, you might need professional help and other forms of support. Borderline personality disorder in parents can get worse with time, but when you seek professional treatment, family therapy can teach you both how to communicate and cope with the symptoms.

Recognizing and Coping with Emotional Manipulation

Tangentially, professional therapy can help you recognize what emotional manipulation looks like, and then you can cope with the emotions that manipulation from a borderline personality disorder parent might manifest within you.

Setting these boundaries, especially with a mental health professional, can help you recognize when it’s happening and prevent it from getting worse. Working to improve your self-esteem and putting self-care first can help you cope with it.

Understanding the Role of Validation and Empathy

Empathy and validation play a significant role in figuring out how to deal with a parent with borderline personality disorder. As is the case with any mental health disorder, empathy is your ability to put yourself in their shoes and figure out how they actually view the world.

How your parents might view the world in the middle of an outburst is not necessarily reality, but understanding what they are feeling inside can make you more receptive and supportive even if you don’t experience those symptoms yourself. Validating how they feel can be an important stepping stone in good communication.

emotional outburst

Handling Intense Emotional Outbursts

If you can understand your parents’ triggers, you can avoid intense emotional outbursts. But when they happen, borderline rage can last for hours or days.

If your parents are struggling with a BPD episode of emotional outbursts, you can’t necessarily stop it, and they won’t be able to control it if they aren’t seeking professional help. So what you can do is put yourself first by:

  1. Listening to calming music, maybe even with headphones that block out other sounds
  2. Exercises, perhaps taking a walk away from the house or doing yoga
  3. Finding support from other people, like family members or friends
  4. Using mindfulness techniques to meditate and understand that the emotional outbursts are not really about you and you can still love and support your parent

Managing Unpredictable Behavior and Mood Swings

When your borderline personality disorder parent has unpredictable behaviors and mood swings, it can significantly disrupt daily function and emotional health. You, as a child, can’t do much to manage those other than recognize triggers and try to avoid them.

But if a parent is triggered from somewhere else or something else, the best thing you can do is let your parent know that you love them and support them. The only thing you can control is how you respond to mood swings.

There’s no cure, but the more you keep a stable home environment and educate yourself about borderline personality disorder, the more you can avoid destructive or harmful behaviors that worsen a mood swing.

When there is an emotional outburst, it’s tempting to isolate yourself and stay away from your parents, but you might need to stay in touch with other people, join support groups, take care of yourself physically, and manage your stress. Put yourself and your mental health first.

Summing Up

Surviving a borderline parent is not something you should have to do on your own. There can be many patterns of borderline personality disorders in families, and even as an adult, if you have a parent with borderline personality disorder, you can benefit from professional therapy. Psychotherapy can help you better understand your parents, process some emotional trauma you may have experienced growing up, and learn how to better cope with your parents moving forward.



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