Local Leaders | Mental Health: When child abuse continues into adulthood

When I began supporting parents with their kids’ behaviour, I only had an inkling of what stories I would be hearing about their own childhood experiences.

ONGOING CYCLE: Parental abuse of adult children is more prevalent than many of us realise.

ONGOING CYCLE: Parental abuse of adult children is more prevalent than many of us realise.

One of the things that I didn’t realise was how prevalent abuse of adult children really is.

Stories of parents controlling and manipulating their adult children, undermining their parenting, physical abuse, ongoing financial abuse.

Elderly parents intentionally not caring for themselves, financially or physically, not wearing or using their personal alarm, refusing to follow up with medical appointments, refusing to go into a nursing home with the expectation that their adult child will take them in.

Of course, some of the latter is about fear rather than abuse, but if you have grown up with an abusive parent, you will be able recognise the difference.

Growing up in an abusive family, you believe it will stop when you leave.

Linda Burgess

Linda Burgess

So many people from my parents’ generation got married young so they could escape.

But chances are the abuse will continue into adulthood.

Adults don’t magically develop the resources and self-esteem to stand up to their abusers.

And often adults walk into a relationship with an abusive partner, so the abuse then comes from both directions.

We don’t have enough understanding of what it is like to live with abusive parents.

Years ago I had a friend who cut off her mum because she was continuing abusive patterns from childhood.

The response from most of her friends was, “You can’t cut her off, she’s your mum!”

You know what? You can. You don’t have to leave yourself and your family in the position of continuing to live with abuse.

If you need help with this, whether you want to cut your parents off or learn to live a better life with them present, I’m happy to help you work through this.

  • Linda is an art therapist and social worker in private practice in the Southern Highlands, NSW and may be contacted at linda@highlandsholistic.com.au or 0438 400 446

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