Yesterday, in the comments section of an earlier Toxic Mom Toolkit Post entitled “Ten Reasons Adult Daughters Stay Connected to Toxic Mothers” I told someone this:
You are not the first to face this problem. So many daughters of toxic mothers struggle to be good daughters and sisters. It’s just natural to want to help your family. Of course, you are concerned about your younger siblings and no doubt your Toxic Mom will use them as pawns to keep you close. If she sees you doing well she may say you cannot contact your siblings – another power play to hurt you.
May I suggest that you sit down with a piece of paper and make two columns: What will happen to my siblings if I stay & What will happen to my siblings if I go.
Can we really make such an important decision based on a comparative list? I think so.
What’s important is being honest with yourself about what you are deciding.
I told this poster: It doesn’t sound like you are running away from problems. You sound like you’ve given this good thought and you’re not being super emotional about it (although I know it must be so hard to think of leaving).
The best thing you can do for younger siblings is set an example of how an adult deals with difficult family members. You can leave your mother’s home and still stay connected to your siblings and support them by talking on the phone, making time for them for face-to-face time, encouraging them with school and other commitments.
Your siblings will see that it is possible to live without the mamma drama. If your side-by-side lists make you really afraid for your siblings, you might consider talking to their school counselors or arranging for them to have mentors at school or other support. They need to know that it’s not them, that it’s your mother who creates problems. They need a mature adult figure to look up to for strength. That’s what you can do for them as you start building an independent life. You will be in my thoughts. I’m proud of you for figuring this out at such a young age. Be Brave.
I loved her quickly posted response:
Thank you so much for your reply, I will sit down and construct two lists. I’ll find a way to contact my siblings when I leave, I just hope they won’t be turned against me and if they are (at least) they might understand why I left in the future.
I also suggested that this young woman put that list in an envelope, seal it, date it and keep it. If down the road a sibling accuses this person of just disappearing and leaving them in their mother’s clutches, at least this list can be spread out on the kitchen table. It might be the platform for a healing discussion.
- Encourage and support their dreams.
- Find ways to communicate your commitment to helping them. You could give them a special token, visit them at school or sports events, or mail “no reason” cards to express your love for them.
- Plan face-to-face time. Show your kid sister how to try new make up at a department store. Buy tickets for a sports event for your brother. Or take them both to a free concert.
- Special outings don’t have to be expensive. Visit a library or take them out for cocoa on a frosty day.
- If your contact is limited, never miss an opportunity to express your love and support. Look into their eyes and tell them you know how hard it is and that you are there for them.
If you show your siblings that they matter and that they deserve to be happy that’s enough. They may not understand everything now but instilling confidence and showing them they are valued is what you can do for them now.