The impact of toxic positivity in parenting on children’s well-being

November 28, 2023

Toxic positivity refers to the belief that people should maintain a positive attitude regardless of the adverse situation, no matter how bad that situation is. However, while a positive attitude can be very helpful in coping with difficult situations and generally having a good life, taking this attitude to extremes can causes harm on the long term.

Toxic positivity in parenting refers to the inclination of parents to dismiss or downplay their children’s negative emotions and experiences, emphasizing only positive aspects. This approach often stems from well-intentioned desire to shield children from hardship, but it can unintentionally create an environment that stifles emotional growth.

The negative effects on children:

  1. Invalidation of emotions: parents exhibiting toxic positivity may inadvertently invalidate their children’s emotions by promoting an environment where only positive feelings are deemed acceptable. Children might feel unheard or misunderstood, inhibiting their ability to feel, express and process complex emotions.
  2. Stunted emotional development: the constant emphasis on positivity might hinder children’s emotional development. They may struggle to navigate and understand their feelings, lacking the necessary tools to cope with life’s changes.
  3. Strained parent- child relationship: parenting rooted in toxic positivity can strain the parent-child relationship. Children may become reluctant to share their struggles, fearing judgement or dismissal. This communication breakdown can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of trust.
  4. Unrealistic expectations: constantly projecting a positive image can set unrealistic expectations for children. They may grow up believing that it is not okay to experience setbacks or hardships, potentially fostering a sense of inadequacy when faced with real-world challenges.

Breaking the cycle:

  1. Encourage open communication: parents should create an open and non-judgemental space for their children to express a full range of emotions. Encouraging dialogue about both positive and negative experiences fosters trust and emotional resilience.
  2. Validate emotions: acknowledging and validating a child’s emotions is crucial. Instead of dismissing negative feelings, parents can help their children navigate these emotions, teaching them healthy coping mechanisms.
  3. Model healthy emotional expression: parents serve as powerful role models. By demonstrating healthy emotional expression and coping strategies, they can instil valuable skills in their children, allowing them ti approach challenges with resilience and adaptability.

While maintaining a positive atmosphere is important in parenting, it is equally crucial to recognize and address the full spectrum of emotions. Toxic positivity, though well- intentioned, can have lasting effects on children’s emotional well-being. By fostering open communication, validating emotions, and modelling healthy expressions of feelings, parents can create an environment that supports their children’s growth and resilience, ultimately preparing them for the complexities of life.

Delia Ciobanu

IBSB Student Counsellor