Teenagers Vs. Toxic Parents

Teenagers Vs. Toxic Parents

Ayla Wize and Morgan Martinez-Gee



Emotional abuse is known as one of the most common forms of adolescent abuse, along with being one of the hardest forms of abuse to identify. The CDC in fact has released a statement that “1 in every 7 children experience abuse”, but that the actual estimated amount of emotional abuse is much higher. Often, the victims facing emotional abuse do not realize that they are being abused- whilst the abuser believes that what they are doing is right. Adolescents, particularly teenagers, must understand what emotional abuse actually is- so as they can recognize if they are being abused themselves.

The victim will often not realize that they are being abused, as emotional abuse is not often discussed in society. Often, the victim is told that they are ‘overreacting” or “being sensitive” to actual abuse. For instance, a now deleted Reddit post had stated that the user was “unsure” if they were overreacting to their situation, where their mother had made several comments about the user’s eating habits (the user had stated that they were 5’5 and one-hundred pounds), stating that the user “ate as much as a boy” and didn’t “need to eat so much”.  The user felt that the underhanded comments were a form of emotional abuse, but was unsure if this is a “normal” occurrence for everyone. What the user did not realize is that they had been effectively desensitized to the abuse, as those comments (which yes, are a form of abuse, intentional or not) have been made frequently. “A good way to gauge if you are being dramatic or abused is if you have to keep thinking about it- if you have to continue thinking about it, then you’re probably not overreacting.” is what an anonymous member of the journalism team stated when being asked about the difference between an overreaction and abuse. 

Furthermore, emotional abuse also takes the form of underhanded comments. The most common phrases that abusers use on their victims (as researched through a survey by a member of the journalism staff) can include unwarranted comments about the victims weight (such as, “you eat as much as a boy”, “how can you even stand to eat that much?”, “Look how skinny you are!” and “Are you really gonna eat that?”), about the victims looks (such as “you’d look so much better with/without makeup”, “Your Mom/Dad looked so much better at your age”, “Are you really going out like that?” and all kinds of slutshaming), personality ( such as “you never want to hang out with us” “you are such a horrible child” “I wish I never had you”), and general life. It is important to realize that if your family or friends are constantly insulting you, if they never seem to actually like you, then you need to ask yourself: “Are these people really treating me as a human being, and do I feel good about myself when I am around them?”

If by some chance the abused decides to confront the abuser, it is important to note that often the abuser will try to twist the narrative into the abuse being the victims fault. Take the popular T.V show Dr. Phil (which deserves its own article)- a show known for its exploitation of those who are struggling with their lives. The show’s most popular episodes are those which are concerning “out of control” teenagers and children, and the show often vilifies the child instead of the parent. For instance, in one particular episode of the show, a fifteen year old girl was woken at three in the morning by strangers (who were Juvenile Transporters), grabbed and forced out of her home into a van, despite protests from the child. The show completely vilified the teenager, who irregardless of previous actions, should not have been put through this. In the end, no matter how right or wrong she was in previous situations, she was a child, who was being kidnapped (despite the parents condoning it, this still counts as what many call “legal” kidnapping), and will likely be traumatized for the rest of her life. But this serves as an example of how an abuser will attempt to vilify their victim, as the abuser will continue to condemn the reaction the abused has to the abuser’s actions.

However, what about parental abuse, which is the most common form of adolescent emotional abuse? If it is a parent’s responsibility to be sure that their child is safe and feels safe, why is it so hard for so many adolescents to state that they do feel safe or okay in their homes? Despite the multitude of reasons stated previously in the article, it is also important to remember that the victim, in this situation, is moreso willing to forgive the abuse, as there are conflicting emotions concerning it- on one end, it is your caregivers, people who you have known for most (if not all) of your life, but on the other end, abuse is abuse.

To further understand the complexities of this situation, a member of the Journalism staff conducted multiple interviews with adolescents, who wish to remain anonymous.


Morgan’s Portion:


“What do you think the separation of toxic parents and [teenagers] are?” 

“It’s very complicated. Maybe the teenagers see something as toxic when it isn’t. When a parent is overly controlling, trying to change the child, that’s toxic. If a teenager wants an outlandish tattoo, that’s just a normal parent.” (Anon, 16).

“I feel like [having the] ability to form your own opinion. Parents have more knowledge but if that translates to teenagers not having valid opinions, that’s bad.” (Anon, 17).


“What are your experiences with it?”

“Being not straight and going to counseling for that, that’s bad. My dad just not liking [their friends] for no reason.” (Anon, 16).


“How do you think this separation happened?”

“It has to do with parent’s parents. Like generational trauma. Like [promise to] be better but they just end up the same or worse.” (Anon, 15).


“What do you think was normalized in this context that you hate?”

“Parents getting riled up on wanting teenagers to change their appearance. Like you should be able to express yourself, but within reason. Like, no ass tattoos at 16. If they’re not hurting themselves, then they should be able to do that.” (Anon, 16).


“Do you think these [teenager] reasons are valid?”

“Yea. I mean teenagers can’t control their hormones and stuff. [The parent and child] should have a conversation about that stuff but yes.” (Anon, 16).


“What do you think are the hardest things for teenagers to do?”

“Figure themselves out and finding a stable footing with friends and jobs and stuff. And just figuring out how to deal and cope with stuff.” (Anon, 18).


“Any final thoughts?”

“I think that the best thing is to just communicate. A parent with strong beliefs should compromise with the child, and vice versa. They should just communicate. Some parents don’t communicate [and] some teenagers don’t communicate.” (Anon, 16).


As mentioned in the interviews, it is also important to see things from the parents perspective- they are likely leading a stressful life, and caring for their children is hard. In trying to shape their child into a functioning member of society, they project their own insecurities about the child onto the child, leading to a stressful dynamic which benefits no parties. They make mistakes, and sometimes, they do not always realize that what they are doing could be abuse. However, it should not be up to the child to pay for their parents’ mistake. In this regard, it is important for the parent and child (as outlined in the interview) to communicate with each other to avoid this dynamic. 

The parent’s side is seen throughout the media, so this article is made to bring attention to the less seen side of the argument. There are plenty of ideas to chew on, so we urge you to look more into this topic. If you or a loved one is experiencing any type of abuse, please use the resources below.


CPS:  720-777-6919

Crisis Line: 1-844-493-TALK (8255)