5 signs you grew up in a chaotic home

5 Signs You Grew Up In A Chaotic Home

March 5, 2024

In chaotic households, you don’t know what will happen or what someone will do next.

“Household chaos” refers to the level of organization in the family home. A chaotic household lacks routine, predictability, or structure and often has high levels of stimulation or background noise. In chaotic households, you don’t know what will happen or what someone will do next. As a therapist, I’ve noticed that there is physical/logistical household chaos and emotional household chaos. Some families only have one; many have both.

*Before we dive into this topic, I want to clarify that this is often a systemic issue, not just a parent failure, especially for low-income or single parents. Many of these parents are trapped in a cycle where they must choose between going to work, cleaning the house, taking an extra shift, or being on time to pick up their child. The stress of being unable to manage your time and the ensuing chaos leads to more chaos.*

5 Signs You Grew Up In A Chaotic Home

1. No one ever knew what would happen next.

Chaotic homes are very unreliable. This may mean that the adults were physically unreliable or emotionally volatile/unreliable. You may have sensed anything could happen, and no one was ever completely safe. The adults in your home may have been erratic or had trouble managing their emotions. This is very common in homes where the parents struggle with emotional immaturity.

2. There was no sense of routine; you were always late and/or missed appointments.

Every single home with children will struggle with some level of chaos or with maintaining structure. In homes with high levels of chaos, there is no sense of routine, and you always feel like you’re playing catchup. Adults may remember always missing appointments, being late, not having a bedtime, or having no routine around tasks like dinner, bathtime, or homework. The adults in the home may have consistently seemed frazzled, confused, or aloof. They were unaware of what needed to be done in the house or how to complete those tasks.

3. Your home was overwhelmed by mess, clutter, or dirt. No one ever knew where anything was.

Household chaos refers to the level of organization in the home. In some chaotic homes, there is overwhelming mess, clutter, or dirt. The family members may also have needed help finding items that they need. This is not the chaos or mess you will see in a typical home during a busy or challenging season of life, but a more consistent and overwhelming mess that the family cannot escape from.

4. Never knowing where your next meal is coming from or if you’ll eat. Bills going unpaid, being evicted, having the power turned off, etc.

This is one of the most disruptive forms of household chaos. It is extremely destabilizing for a child to grow up in an environment where they have food insecurity or where they cannot rely on the adults in their life for safe shelter or housing.

5. No rules, or the rules are very inconsistent. You didn’t know who was in charge or who to look to for direction.

Children who grow up with inconsistent caregivers or various adults in the home may have felt unsure about who they should listen to or who was in charge. Adults who were in and out of the foster care system as children or who lived with several different caregivers may have experienced this chaos.

If you grew up in chaos, it may be impacting you in adulthood. You can continue repeating those harmful patterns or learn to find peace.

We focus on a new topic in the Calling Home community each month. Throughout March, we'll be answering questions like:

  • How Do I Stop Managing Other People's Emotions?
  • What Makes A Childhood Chaotic?
  • Why Is It So Hard to Build Healthy Relationships After Growing Up in Chaos?
  • Why Does Stability Feel Unsettling When You Grew Up Around Chaos

Members of The Family Cyclebreakers Club will also get access to weekly I Grew Up In Chaos groups with other members.

Group registration is now open for all members.

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