Dealing With Abusive Parents

We do not always have the opportunity to choose our parents. If you are in a family with an abusive, weak or troubled parent, there are steps you can do to protect yourself and your siblings. Remember that you alone are responsible for creating a happy and fulfilling life for yourself. Below are some tips that may help.

Create a good sounding board for yourself to give your life some needed perspective: Start a journal and ensure that it will not be read by your parent. The objective is to heal yourself, become stronger and remove toxic behavior from your life, not hurt your parent.

Start to distance yourself – this is the hardest part but sometimes it is necessary: Imagine you are from another planet and you are observing a parent’s dialogue and patterns of destructive behavior. What are the triggers? How do you respond to the outbursts or drama? Write this all down in your journal. Start with your behavior towards them. Are you feeding the behavior in any way or adding fuel to the fire? If you are then stop immediately.

Reflect on whether it is healthy to keep a daily relationship with the parent: Some people are so toxic and damaging to be around that they can unknowingly destroy you. If this is the case you need to leave the relationship for a short while and keep in touch from a distance. You should consult with your Rabbi before taking this step as it may be a drastic one and you will need a halachic authority to advise you on the necessary steps so that you are still being mekayem the mitzvah of kibud Av’ V’em without destroying your life.

Believe that being a child of an unhappy person is very hard and give yourself the room to be happy and create a life. Start one step at a time becoming more independent. In the long run, what your paren thinks of you is NOT who you are. The distorted opinion of you or your siblings do not count much if you can understand how hurtful and destructive it is.

Avoid the trap of guilt. It is the number one reason people stay in destructive relations.