estrangement guides

Surviving the Shadow of the Golden Child: Thriving in Estrangement

In the complex web of family dynamics, the presence of a “Golden Child” can cast a long shadow over the lives of their siblings, leaving lasting impacts on their mental and emotional well-being. The term “Golden Child” refers to a family member who is often favored and praised excessively by their parents, while their siblings, known as “Scapegoats,” bear the brunt of blame and criticism.

For Estranged Adult Kids (EAKs) who have experienced life as the “Scapegoat” or have grown up in the shadow of the “Golden Child,” navigating the aftermath of such toxic family dynamics can be challenging. However, it is possible to rise above the past, heal from the emotional scars, and thrive in estrangement.

Understanding the Golden Child Phenomenon

The concept of the “Golden Child” is prevalent in families with narcissistic or dysfunctional parents. Such parents often project their unfulfilled desires and aspirations onto one child, idealising them as the embodiment of perfection and superiority. The “Golden Child” is treated as the family’s pride and joy, receiving excessive attention, praise, and support.

On the other hand, the “Scapegoat” is often assigned the role of the family’s problem child. They are blamed for the family’s issues, criticised constantly, and made to feel inadequate and unlovable. This dynamic creates a stark contrast in the treatment of siblings and leads to the “Golden Child” feeling entitled and the “Scapegoat” feeling like a perpetual failure.


The Impact on Estranged Adult Kids

For EAKs who have grown up as the “Scapegoat,” the emotional wounds run deep. They may have experienced emotional abuse, neglect, and constant gaslighting from their parents and Golden Child siblings. These experiences can lead to feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Estrangement from the family becomes a vital step for many EAKs as they seek to break free from the toxic cycle and heal from the emotional trauma. However, even after estrangement, the lingering effects of the Golden Child dynamic can continue to affect EAKs’ self-perception and relationships.

The Stigma of ‘Bad Children’

One of the most hurtful stigmas faced by estranged adult kids is the notion that they are somehow ‘bad children’ for choosing to distance themselves from their parents. Society tends to assume that estrangement must be the result of wrongdoing on the part of the child, rather than acknowledging the possibility of abusive or dysfunctional family dynamics. Addressing this misconception is essential in building healthier and more supportive relationships with others.

estrangement guides

Thriving in Estrangement: Healing from Golden Child Trauma

  1. Seeking Professional Support

Recognising the impact of Golden Child trauma is the first step towards healing. EAKs can benefit greatly from seeking the guidance of a therapist or counsellor who specialises in parental estrangement and trauma. Therapy provides a safe space to explore past experiences, understand their effects on current behaviours, and develop coping strategies.

  1. Setting Boundaries and Self-Care

In estrangement, setting firm boundaries becomes essential for EAKs to protect their emotional well-being. Establishing boundaries with toxic family members, including the Golden Child, helps in preventing further emotional manipulation and hurt. Engaging in self-care practices such as mindfulness, exercise, and hobbies can also aid in healing and personal growth.

  1. Embracing Authenticity and Self-Worth

EAKs may have spent years suppressing their true selves to fit into the roles assigned to them in the family. Embracing authenticity and recognising their self-worth is a powerful way for EAKs to reclaim their identity and build a healthy sense of self.

  1. Connecting with Supportive Communities

Finding support from others who have experienced similar family dynamics can be empowering. Online communities like Breakaway’s Reddit page r/EstrangedAdultKids offer a safe space for EAKs to share their stories, gain insights, and find validation in their journey.

  1. Building Healthy Relationships

As EAKs heal from Golden Child trauma, they may also learn to build healthy relationships with others outside their family circle. Surrounding themselves with supportive and understanding friends can create a strong support system.


Surviving the shadow of the Golden Child is a challenging journey for Estranged Adult Kids. However, with determination, self-compassion, and professional support, it is possible to thrive in estrangement and create a fulfilling life beyond the toxic family dynamics. Recognizing the impact of Golden Child trauma is the first step towards breaking free from its grip and embracing a path of healing and growth. Through self-discovery and empowerment, EAKs can reclaim their identity and build a future defined by their own choices and values.