The environmental instability and unpredictable relationships borderline parents have with their children leave their children feeling insecure, fearful, and hypervigilant about their own behavior. Children of borderline parents feel the world is an unpredictable place in which they are never truly safe and cannot fully trust that others will be able to meet their appropriate needs with consistency and calm. Because borderline parents often alternate between dramatic neediness and white-hot angry outbursts, their children must always wonder and worry which of these two emotions they will have to cope with next. Often, when the child cannot fulfill their parent’s unrealistic emotional expectations, anger results. Children of borderline mothers and fathers live nervously on edge, desperately hoping to avoid the next onslaught of parental rage.
Borderline parents are unable to differentiate between the expectations of an adult-to-adult relationship and a parent-child relationship, and routinely place unhealthy adult demands upon their children. This causes their children to feel as if the weight of the world is on their shoulders, and that there is no adult to help them with it. In fact, the BPD mother or father is the very person who’s expecting the child to do the impossible, and who will be upset when the parent’s shifting and unreasonable expectations aren’t met.
Children of borderline parents are not disciplined consistently or kindly, and the expectations placed upon them are much too high. The families of borderline parents are highly dysfunctional and unpredictable. Children may be threatened with abandonment as a form of punishment. The borderline parent’s angry outbursts and temper tantrums are unsettling and irrational. This causes their children to feel there is no control possible.
Borderline parents parentify their children heavily, making the child responsible for the child’s own experiences and needs, and for the parent’s as well. Life for children of borderline parents is continually confusing, overwhelming, unpredictable and upsetting.
High-quality psychotherapeutic treatment and some medications can moderately improve the functioning of people with BPD.