Parents abused by their children are unlikely to reach out for help or even discuss their situation as parents often feel responsible for the abuse. However, abuse is never right and accepting abuse from an adult child and remaining passive helps no one.
Families with a history of abuse are often psychologically enmeshed and no one in that family has a clear understanding of where they end and another begins. Boundaries are the markers people need in order to treat one another with respect. Abuse is extreme disrespect and a family can’t function properly without mutual respect. enmeshed families are chaotic. as one person’s problem is everyone’s problem and emotional dramas play out sometimes, on a daily basis. Those who are viewed as the weakest in these family situations are likely to suffer the most abuse. Child abuse and elder abuse are at heart, the same problem as the weakest members of an enmeshed household are likely, to be targeted by stronger individuals in the family and abused as a way for those individuals to gain control in a family that functions as one person. The person who rises as the dominant controller may govern the family through manipulation, or emotional abuse, or psychological abuse, or physical abuse, and may combine two or more forms of abuse in trying to control the family dynamic.
We live in a dysfunctional world made up of millions of dysfunctional families. The only way to create a healthy societal structure is by building healthy families and healthy families have to be made up of healthy individuals. Survivors of child abuse or any kind of abuse will pass the problem on to the families they create if they don’t get help before hand. Many survivors are unaware of the importance of personal boundaries and don’t even know what they look like. Even if they refrain from committing the abuse that they endured upon another, they are likely to pull their children too close and create another enmeshed family situation. Even though these survivors don’t intentionally hurt their children, I believe, that one will emerge as the dominant controller who seeks to govern the family through some form of abuse. Abuse survivors are likely to also, experience elder abuse at the hands of one of their children. At this point, it may seem that it is too late but it is never too late to get help for yourself and for those you love.
It is never okay to abuse someone, not even if that person was abused, themselves. If your adult child is abusing you, you do that child no good by allowing them to hurt you. The level of abuse determines what action should be taken; but it is important to take action because elder abuse tends to increase as the parent becomes older and weaker. At the extreme end of the spectrum, it can even end in murder. If one’s life is in danger, then the law should be involved. However, most cases of elder abuse aren’t that extreme and getting help for your own abuse symptoms can be the starting point. When our children are grown, we can’t force them into counseling but if they are unhappy, it may be possible to coax them into counseling with the parent or into individual counseling. Being open about our own problems can help an adult child see that they do need help. As a victim of elder abuse at the hands of an adult child, it is important to begin putting those personal boundaries in place, to define yourself as an individual responsible for your own well-being and happiness; and begin to end the unhealthy enmeshing that plagues families with a history of abuse. Boundaries help create the kind of mutual respect that can bring abuse to an end.
It is important to treat children with respect if they are to learn to respect others. If a parent commits the crime of abuse against their child, they must take responsibility for their actions. This has to be done for the sake of the child and can’t be only a ploy seeking to stop a current elder abuse situation. It isn’t abuse when a grown child wants to talk about their childhood and how they were treated. It’s uncomfortable to hear and if a parent really cares about their child and has sorrow for the wrongs they committed, they must be willing to hear what their child has to say, as many times as they need to say it. Doing so demonstrates respect for the child and paves the way for them to begin respecting the parent.
If an adult child is an alcoholic or drug addict they may engage in abusive behavior that may have nothing to do with the family situation. A parent can contribute to this problem by enabling their child by giving them money or allowing them to live at home while doing nothing but imbibing the drug of their choice. Saying, “yes” can be the easy way out in the moment but it paves the way for elder abuse as the child’s substance abuse increases. Tough love isn’t easy but often, it is the right thing to do. It may not end in the way we want it to end but adult children must suffer the consequences for their actions or they will never truly, become adults. Good parents do what is good for their child even if it makes them unpopular with that child.
There is so much disrespect in our culture, today. We live in an environment of abuse and even the entertainment we enjoy, depicts abuse of the most extreme kind. Our children are bombarded from infancy, with images of violence and sexual objectification. A picture is said, to be worth a thousand words and I don’t know if any parent has enough good words to negate so many negative images. I do know, that because of this current toxic culture, we must try harder and then keep on trying to give our children a better view of themselves and others. The heroes in movies are often, the most violent of all. The culture is becoming more and more chaotic as people don’t recognize the personal boundaries that create an atmosphere of mutual respect. If this is to be corrected, it has to start at home. If you are currently the victim of elder abuse, and your child is purposely hurting you, don’t let shame keep you from getting the help you need, to end it. Shame is an expression of pride and sometimes, it is required to give up one’s pride in order to do what’s right for you, your child, and the society we, collectively, create.