When co-parenting with someone with borderline personality disorder, it is essential to put your child’s needs first. Educating your child about the condition can help them make sense of the situation and develop an understanding of what it means for a child’s needs to come first and avoid the child feeling emotionally responsible.
The people around the person with BPD are also negatively affected, and it can be particularly tough on children. If you are co-parenting with someone suffering from the disorder, how can you counteract the impact it might have on your child?
Being raised by a parent with BPD can have detrimental effects on a child’s development, mental wellbeing, and happiness. Therefore, if you are raising a child with someone who has borderline personality disorder, it is crucial to educate yourself about it as much as possible. It will help you and your child develop strategies for dealing with a borderline parent.
How Do We Co-Parent with Someone Who Has BPD?
When co-parenting with someone with borderline personality disorder, it is imperative that we put our child’s needs first. It is vital to protect our children from the effects of the illness as far as possible. As it is unlikely that our child will have stability while spending time with the diagnosed parent, it would be good for us to try and create as much stability as possible.
It is also essential to educate our children about the disorder as much as we can. It can help greatly in preventing the child from developing the condition themselves. It may also help counteract any adverse effects the behavior of the borderline parent may have on the child’s development.
We can explain to them what the disorder is and its symptoms and provide them with strategies to handle situations during which the symptoms flare-up. It would also be good for us not to paint the other parent in a bad light and to explain that the parent loves them but is suffering from a disorder.
If possible, it would be good if we could try to convince the parent with BPD to get help. If we can manage to convince them to get help and healing, it will significantly reduce the risk of the child developing mental health disorders and can help the child to develop a healthy relationship with the parent.
What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
The disorder is defined as follows by the National Institute of Mental Health: “borderline personality disorder is a mental health illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. This loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how people feel about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.”
Some signs that someone may have the disorder are as follows:
- They fear being abandoned and will go to extreme lengths to prevent it.
- Their relationships are unstable. They may place a loved one on a pedestal for one moment and then suddenly view the person as being evil.
- Their self-image and self-identity change constantly. For instance, they may view themselves as being a terrible person at one point and then non-existent a few minutes later.
- They can lose touch with reality and go through periods of paranoia brought on by stress.
- They may be impulsive and engage in unsafe driving, binge eating, abusing drugs, gambling, unprotected sex, quitting their job suddenly with no other job lined up, and spending all their money on one shopping trip.
- They may hurt themselves or threaten to do so, which can also include suicidal attempts.
- They can have varied mood swings, which can last from a couple of hours to days at a time. They can either be intensely happy, irritated, anxious or feel shame during these times.
- They may experience constant feelings of emptiness.
- They can have unfair outbursts of severe anger usually directed at those closest to them.
If a parent with BPD does not seek treatment, it can negatively affect their child. The following section will look at the consequences of having a parent with an untreated borderline personality disorder for a child.
The Consequences That Untreated BPD Can Have for a Child
Children of a parent with untreated borderline personality disorder have an increased risk of developing the condition themselves. The disorder can be passed down either genetically or developed due to environmental factors such as neglect, abuse, invalidation, and trauma. It can also be caused by a combination of both genetics and environmental factors.
The child is also at risk of developing other mental health disorders such as substance use disorders, antisocial personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and alexithymia. Growing up with a parent who has BPD can impact the child for the rest of their life.
Parents with borderline personality disorder may also try to prevent the child from developing their own ideas or individuality. If a child’s opinion or feelings on a matter are different from that of the borderline parent, they are often shamed. The child is also constantly in fear of getting into trouble, which can even potentially result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Due to their fear of abandonment, a parent with borderline personality disorder often relies on the child to meet their emotional needs and does not provide for the child’s own. It essentially results in the child taking on the role of the “parent” and the parent taking on the role of the “child.” The older the child gets, the more reliant the parent may become on them.
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Dangers Of a Child Feeling Emotionally Responsible
When a parent relies on their child to take care of their emotional needs, they often neglect the child’s own emotional needs. It tells the child that their parent’s needs and wants are more important than their own. As a result, the child never gets the chance to develop their own personality and identity and may struggle to find their place in the world as adults.
It can also cause the child to:
- have low self-esteem
- be anxious
- develop an intense need to please others even to their own detriment
- be indecisive
- blame themselves for situations that may not even be their fault
You will often find that such a child (and even once grown-up) will constantly apologize for things that happen irrespective of whether they are to blame.
When a child grows up and gets to the point where they would like to start having a little more independence, the parent’s fear of abandonment kicks in and they will try to stop the child from spending time without them. They often do it by making their child feel guilty for leaving the parent on their own to spend time with their friends.
As a result, the child starts to feel emotionally responsible for the parent and may cancel plans they have with friends. They may eventually even stop making plans altogether. Once the child reaches adulthood, they may also end up delaying or never even getting to the point of moving out and starting their own lives because they do not want to disappoint the borderline parent.
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Being raised by a parent with untreated borderline personality disorder can have dire consequences for a child’s development and mental wellbeing. It increases the likelihood of your child developing the condition and other mental health disorders, such as alexithymia (problems with feeling emotions), which can impact them negatively for the rest of their lives.
If we are co-parenting with someone who has borderline personality disorder, we must educate ourselves and our children about it. It will help us reduce the possible consequences the disease can have on their development. It would also be good to try to convince the parent to seek help for the disorder.