The relationship between a parent and an adult child can be complex and, at times, fraught with challenges. One of the lesser-discussed issues in these relationships is the potential for emotional abuse to start occurring, abuse where the adult child is the perpetrator and the parent, the victim.
Spotting emotional abuse from an adult child can be tough, but there are signs and tactics to watch out for that can bring to light the child's manipulative motives.
A Child's Control
Parenting an adult child is a whole other ballgame compared to young children. These adult children have a lot more power now that they're all grown up, and though that's usually a good thing, it can sometimes result in the adult child abusing their parents after years or decades of being cared for.
Abuse at the hands of an adult child is a subject that's not often talked about, as the focus on abuse typically centers around partners or parents and their minor children. However, the reality is that parents can also become victims of abuse at the hands of their grown children. Recognizing the signs of such mistreatment is crucial for the well-being and safety of a parent at risk.
1. Constant Dismissal
Emotional abuse is often insidious. It can start with small, seemingly insignificant actions or comments that chip away at a person's self-esteem. Parents might notice that their adult child frequently dismisses their opinions or even makes derogatory remarks about their choices, lifestyle, appearance, or any other factor.
This belittling behavior can leave parents feeling undervalued and disrespected, questioning their own judgment and worth. Another sign to be aware of is the manipulation of emotions, where the adult child may use guilt, shame, or fear to influence the parent's decisions or actions.
2. Tactful Isolation
Isolation is another tactic used by abusers to gain control over their victims. In the context of an adult child abusing their parent, this can manifest as the child criticizing the parent's friends or other family members, suggesting that they spend too much time with others, or even outright forbidding contact with external support networks. Feeling indebted to their child, a parent may listen to this misplaced guidance.
This enforced isolation not only reinforces the child's control but also undermines the parent's ability to seek help or gain perspective on the situation at hand.
Many parents naturally feel inclined to help their children, regardless of age. However, in an emotionally abusive dynamic, the adult child may exploit their parents' goodwill, making excessive demands for financial or emotional support. When these demands are not met, or even when they are, parents may be met with criticism and blame.
This relentless negativity can strain the parent's resources, potentially leading to a constant desire to appease the child to avoid conflict, one that drains them of anything they have to give. This can also extend to frequent, unjustified blame a child places on a parent for things that aren't their fault, just to get them to feel bad and want to make up for it.
It's never easy to admit that you're being abused, especially by your own child. However, recognizing the issue at hand is the first step towards change. Parents must establish and enforce healthy boundaries, communicate their needs clearly, and seek external support if their child still refuses to change their behavior. Whether it's through therapy, support groups, or confiding in trusted friends, parents need to remember that they are not alone.
You never want to accuse your child of doing something so evil, but sometimes it's simply true. In this instance, you must forget their connection to you and treat them like you would someone abusing a dear friend of yours by arming yourself with the knowledge and confidence needed to end their control over you.