Navigating a situation where one must “walk on eggshells” is uncomfortable for anyone. Yet, when children are compelled to do so in the presence of those who are supposed to ensure their safety, the discomfort turns into real pain. The repercussions of such an experience can extend far into the future.
In a TikTok video that has gained viral attention, psychologist Dr. Kim Sage dissects this detrimental parenting style and defines the characteristics of an “eggshell parent.”
Dr. Sage elucidates that with eggshell parents, the emotional state of the parent is perpetually unpredictable, resembling the turbulence of a rollercoaster ride.
An emotional eruption within this context might encompass actions such as name-calling, verbally demeaning, gaslighting, making accusations, issuing threats, engaging in intimidation, inducing shame, mockery, invalidation, raised voices, and even the destruction of belongings. Conversely, at other moments, the parent could be incredibly supportive and affectionate.
Because of the unpredictable nature of these interactions, children of eggshell parents often develop a state of hypervigilant to brace themselves for the upcoming unknown.
@drkimsage Eggshell parenting and emotionally unpredictable, unsafe parenting often creates a lifetime of hypervigilance in us —and a deep belief that there’s no such thing as real safety in relationships.💔#eggshellparent #toxicparent #walkingoneggshells #emotionallyimmatureparents #narcissisticparent #drkimsage ♬ original sound – Dr. Kim🦋Psychologist
Frequently, as pointed out by Dr. Sage, this pattern tends to result in a situation of parentification or enmeshment. In such cases, the child not only lacks personal emotional boundaries but also finds themselves responsible for managing the parent’s emotions and potentially even shouldering household responsibilities while fulfilling this role.
The primary issue with eggshell parenting is that it completely erodes trust.
“No matter how much ‘good love’ you give as a parent…if tomorrow that love is unsafe, if it’s hurtful, if it’s conditional…the good love doesn’t really mean the same thing,” Dr. Sage says in a follow-up video.
This dynamic tends to have a lasting impact on a child’s adulthood. It often manifests as social anxiety, an inherent difficulty in placing trust in others, and a proclivity to isolate oneself from social interactions.
In other words: “What you start to believe is that if your own mother or father or caregiver is not generally consistently safe, then no one is safe.”
@drkimsage Eggshell mothers, eggshell fathers, eggshell parents…#eggshellmother #eggshellparent #enmeshment #parentification #drkimsage #toxicparent ♬ original sound – Dr. Kim🦋Psychologist
Dr. Sage’s videos deeply resonated with countless viewers who identified themselves as having been raised by eggshell parents.
One individual recounted, “This is my family. Constantly dancing around my father’s moods and my mother’s coping mechanisms. Neither able to connect with me on any meaningful level.”
Another shared, “It was like a battlefield. You had to worry about sniper fire and bombs going off. Truly feared for my life.”
A different viewer expressed, “Anxiety. Scanning. Waiting. It’s exhausting. I spend weekends by myself by choice. It takes days to feel like me after socializing.”
Given the widespread impact of detrimental parenting styles like eggshell parenting, it’s hardly surprising that modern parents are actively seeking gentler and healthier approaches.
To break free from the cycle of eggshell parenting, Dr. Sage offers valuable guidance. She suggests that parents take proactive measures to manage their own emotions, opting for stability rather than subjecting their children to emotional turbulence. In situations of sudden emotional changes, it’s important for parents to acknowledge their actions and not leave their children to internalize the turmoil.
Much of parenting seems to involve navigating ways to avoid replicating the limitations of one’s own upbringing. Fortunately, the presence of platforms like social media and the expertise of professionals like Dr. Sage contribute to making this task a bit more manageable.