Since Borderline Personality Disorder causes erratic, disruptive emotions and behaviors, it is no surprise that this condition negatively affects familial relationships. Children are particularly vulnerable to these effects since they have limited access to social, emotional, and tangible resources. They also do not have a perspective of normal parenting and cannot limit their contact with the ill parent. Children who have a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder must navigate a constantly changing relationship with that mother or father.
Mason and Kreger in their classic book, Stop Walking on Eggshells (1998), identified the following negative effects of BPD parenting.
They have found parents with BPD—
- May be unable to adequately consider their child’s needs, wishes, and feelings
- May be too preoccupied with their personal emotional experience and overlook their child’s needs
- May substitute their worldview for their child’s (for example, if they hate peas, then their child does too)
- May resent or misunderstand their child’s viewpoint, feelings, and needs
- May ridicule, invalidate, or dismiss their child’s thoughts, opinions, and emotions
- Often act either over-involved or under-involved in their child’s daily affairs
- May require their child to be just like them and adopt similar fashions and styles
- May be easily threatened when their child has other significant attachments (such as grandparents, teachers, or playmates and friends) and ask their child to pick sides and spend more time with the parent
- Have a parenting style that often vacillates and is inconsistent
- When something goes wrong, often blame their child for the problem, causing the child to feel worthless
- Expect their child to be well-behaved in order to be loved and accepted
- Struggle to see their child in a realistic way, instead see the child as either “all-good” or “all-bad”
- Tend to oversimplify the child’s personality, (such as, “she is my smart one,” or “he’s the athlete of the family”)
- Inappropriately use their child to meet their personal emotional needs
- Can be threaten by their child’s growing independence and can experience the child’s emancipation as a personal rejection or abandonment
How does a loved one help children who are living with a parent with BPD?
Although it depends on the nature of the relationship that one has with such children, individuals who have regular contact with affected children are in a better position to support and help them. Mason and Kreger have made the following helpful suggestions:
Ø Be a positive role model by setting a good example of healthy behavior and decisions in your own life.
Ø Be a regular part of this child’s life.
Ø Be a helpful support to the parent with BPD and urge them to do what’s best for their child.
Ø Encourage the child to think for himself or herself and provide this child with new experiences.
Ø Help the child to not personalize the parent’s odd behavior or comments.
Ø If possible, seek counseling for the child.
Ø When necessary, contact the local Protective Service Agency if abuse occurs.
For more great information on this topic, please read—
Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder
By Paul T. Mason, MS and Randi Kreger (New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1998)
This is the last article in the series on Borderline Personality Disorder. A guest writer will join us for the next article. She will be providing tips on how to deal with the daily stress in our lives.