15 Reasons Why Children Can Never Forgive A Toxic Parent

15 Reasons Why Children Can Never Forgive A Toxic Parent Shutterstock

The relationship between a parent and child is complex, and that’s putting it lightly.

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It’s a bond built on love, trust, and the expectation of unconditional support. However, when a parent is toxic, that bond can be irrevocably shattered, leaving deep wounds that may never fully heal. While forgiveness is often championed as a virtue, there are instances where it simply isn’t possible or even healthy. Here are 15 reasons why some children can never forgive their toxic parents, no matter how much time passes (and often rightfully so).

1. The pain inflicted was too deep.

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Toxic parents can inflict wounds that go far beyond the physical, Choosing Therapy acknowledges. Emotional abuse, neglect, and manipulation can leave lasting scars on a child’s psyche. These wounds can fester for years, impacting their self-esteem, relationships, and overall well-being. Sometimes, the pain is simply too profound to ever fully forgive.

2. The trust was irreparably broken.

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Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and when a parent betrays that trust, it can be impossible to rebuild. A child who has been consistently lied to, manipulated, or emotionally abandoned may never feel safe enough to trust that parent again.

3. The parent never acknowledged their wrongdoing.

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Forgiveness often requires acknowledgement and remorse from the person who caused the harm. If a toxic parent refuses to take responsibility for their actions, denies the child’s pain, or blames them for the problems in the relationship, it can make forgiveness feel impossible.

4. The parent continues to exhibit toxic behavior.

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Forgiveness is a process, not a single act. If a toxic parent continues to engage in harmful behaviors, it can make it difficult for the child to move forward. The ongoing pain and hurt caused by the parent’s actions can make it impossible to let go of the past and find peace.

5. The child has reached their limit of tolerance.

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Everyone has a breaking point. For some children, the ongoing toxicity from a parent becomes too much to bear. They may reach a point where they realize that maintaining a relationship with their parent is detrimental to their mental and emotional health, and that forgiveness is simply not an option.

6. The parent never apologized sincerely.

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A simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough to heal the wounds inflicted by a toxic parent. A sincere apology involves acknowledging the harm caused, expressing remorse, and taking steps to make amends. If a parent offers a hollow apology or refuses to take responsibility, it can feel like a slap in the face and further hinder the healing process.

7. The child has developed a strong sense of self-preservation.

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Growing up with a toxic parent can force a child to develop strong survival mechanisms. They may learn to prioritize their own well-being above all else, including maintaining a relationship with their parent. This sense of self-preservation can make it easier to walk away from a toxic situation, even if it means cutting ties with a parent.

8. The child has found healing and happiness elsewhere.

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For many children of toxic parents, finding healing and happiness comes from building strong relationships with other supportive figures in their lives. This could include friends, partners, mentors, or even therapists. These positive relationships can provide the love, support, and validation that was missing from their relationship with their parent, making forgiveness feel less necessary or important.

9. The parent’s toxicity has caused lasting trauma.

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Trauma can have a profound and lasting impact on a person’s life. It can manifest in a variety of ways, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even physical health problems. For some children of toxic parents, the trauma they’ve experienced is so deeply ingrained that it makes forgiveness feel impossible. They may need to focus on their own healing and recovery before they can even begin to consider forgiving their parent.

10. The constant gaslighting has taken its toll.

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Toxic parents are often skilled manipulators, twisting reality to fit their narrative. The constant gaslighting can leave a child doubting their own memories, perceptions, and sanity. This erosion of self-trust can make it incredibly difficult to forgive, as the child struggles to distinguish between truth and manipulation.

11. The child has internalized the parent’s negative messages.

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Children are like sponges that absorb the messages they receive from their parents, Psychology Today points out. When those messages are consistently negative, critical, or devaluing, they can become ingrained in the child’s sense of self. This internalized negativity can create deep-seated feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt, making it hard to believe that they deserve forgiveness or a healthy relationship with their parent.

12. The parent’s behavior has had a ripple effect on other relationships.

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A toxic parent’s influence can extend far beyond the immediate family. Their behavior can damage the child’s relationships with siblings, extended family, and even friends. The child may struggle to form healthy attachments due to the learned patterns of dysfunction and mistrust. Forgiving the parent might feel like condoning the harm caused to their entire support network.

13. The child has witnessed the parent’s lack of remorse towards other people.

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Toxic parents often exhibit a lack of empathy and remorse, not only towards their own children but also towards other people in their lives. Witnessing this pattern of behavior can make it hard for the child to believe that their parent is capable of genuine change or remorse. This lack of faith in the parent’s ability to evolve can make forgiveness feel futile.

14. The child fears repeating the cycle of toxicity.

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Growing up with a toxic parent can create a deep-seated fear of repeating the same patterns in their own relationships. They may worry that they’ll unconsciously become like their parent, perpetuating the cycle of dysfunction. Forgiving the parent might feel like giving them permission to continue their harmful behavior, and the child may choose to distance themselves to break the cycle.

15. The child has simply moved on.

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Sometimes, time and distance create enough space for a child to move on from the pain of their past. They may have built a fulfilling life, found love and support elsewhere, and simply don’t feel the need to revisit old wounds. Forgiveness, in this case, might feel like an unnecessary burden, a reopening of scars that have finally begun to heal.

Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.