Living with a Parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder

Growing up can be difficult for everyone, but it's especially difficult for children who have emotionally unstable parents. These parents struggle with giving their children what they need for healthy development. Children who grow up with a parent that has Borderline personality disorder (BPD) face an unhealthy amount of instability, emotional turmoil, and manipulation, which shapes how they develop and how they turn out later in life.

This article will discuss why children with BPD parents walk on eggshells and how this affects their development. We'll also discuss ways to recover from the negative habits that come with living with a BPD parent.

BPD parent signs

  • They seek approval from their children.

  • Always want to have it their way.

  • Showing symptoms of depression when things don't go their way.

  • Oscillating between loving to harsh, distant, and even abusive behavior.

  • Periods of extreme rage without a proper reason behind it.

  • Substance abuse, including drugs, alcohol, and other vices such as gambling.

  • Self-harm and/or repeated suicide attempts.

  • A chronic pattern of idealization and devaluation (splitting) of their friends, family members, or romantic partners.

  • A pattern of unstable or unhealthy relationships.

  • Lack of boundaries with their children.

  • An exchange in roles between parent and child.

  • A codependent relationship between parent and child.

  • Ongoing fears of abandonment.


How BPD affects parenting

A child needs safety when going through the changes that adolescence brings along, and while healthy parents are able to bring this type of safe space for the child to grow in, a parent with BPD will have a harder time creating such space.


An environment where these BPD parenting signs are an everyday occurrence is not a healthy environment for a child to grow in. As a result, the child doesn't develop good relationship skills and is often afflicted by a lot of emotional distress. This is because they will tend to mimic patterns from their childhood. If they got used to being a people-pleaser because their parents always had to get their way, they will most likely end up in relationships where they always need to satisfy their partner. It can also occur that they mimic their parent's behavior and treat other people how they've been treated. But whichever way it turns out, it's both unhealthy.


As a result of the inevitable toxicity of the relationships and the lack of healthy modeling for emotional expression, the child of the borderline parent will likely be plagued by emotional distress later in life.


Other common characteristics of a person that grew up with a parent suffering from borderline personality disorder are:


Psychological instability: Because of the turmoil they withstood while growing up, the emotional distress caused by it often leads to suffering from psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, and/or substance abuse.


Low self-esteem: BPD parents cannot always give unconditional love to their children. This causes later problems with self-worth and self-esteem.


Poor impulse control: children learn from their parent's behaviors; if the BPD parent is not able to control their reactions and impulses, the child will most likely mimic those behaviors while growing up.


Guilt/Blame: Children of BPD parents grow up thinking they have something to do with their parent's behaviors. Self-blame is common in these children. The children grow up thinking they were difficult kids and that they are partly the reason why their parents acted the way they did. The blame persists later in adulthood.


Lack of Self-Identity: Parents with BPD can disrupt the important phase of life where teenagers form their identity; they can do this by being overly controlling and by punishing the child for expressing their emotions. The child grows up to be distant from their identity because they do not feel safe showing their true emotions while growing up.


Healing from a borderline parent

BPD is a complicated disorder that can have lasting imprints on both the sufferer and those close to them. Often BPD sufferers cannot control their unhealthy habits, but it doesn’t mean you should suffer because of this. No matter how much the behaviors of your BPD parent traumatized you, there are always ways to heal and move forward. It’s important to know that IT IS possible to overcome the difficulties experienced while growing up with a BPD parent.


Growing up with a BPD parent does not have to steal your identity from you. Many children of parents with BPD grow up to be compassionate and accomplished people. It is crucial to educate yourself on BPD to prevent misunderstanding caused by certain behaviors. Another important aspect of healing is setting boundaries with the BPD parent and constantly reminding yourself that you are NOT responsible for how they feel. If you learn about the triggers of your BPD parent, it could help in avoiding arguments and misunderstandings.


Be compassionate towards your younger self; you were doing your best with the tools you had. Journaling your thoughts and emotions could help you to get a better understanding of yourself. Changing habits or the way you react to certain behaviors can be challenging, and it will take a long time, but it is for your own good. Seek therapy when necessary; a therapist can help you cope with certain habits you adopted as a result of trauma.


You can read more on Do Parents Cause Borderline Personality Disorder?