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How to Break Away From Abusive Parents Once You Are an Adult

by Jill Avery-Stoss

No matter how old you are, protecting yourself from abusive parents is an exhausting and overwhelming act. However, once you've reached adulthood, you are more autonomous and have more options. You do not have to be dependent on them to meet your basic needs, and now you are legally able to distance yourself from them. You can successfully break away from their control by honoring yourself and cultivating healthy, loving relationships with others.

Ask for Help

See a mental health professional. Growing up in an abusive home can result in an incredible amount of trauma. You may experience low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, poor social skills, nightmares, flashbacks and even physical ailments. A qualified counselor or therapist can help you understand the dynamics of abusive families and how they may affect you, as an adult. You can also learn healthy coping mechanisms and other means of self-care. This knowledge can help you separate from your parents emotionally, and will give you confidence in your ability to stay away from them physically.

Get Support

Maintain a strong support network. Surround yourself with trustworthy family members, friends, and perhaps peers in a support meeting or religious group -- you will need to identify those in your life that can take care of you in ways that your parents did not do, or even to replace certain roles that your parents did fulfill. For example, you may need someone drive you home after you have your wisdom teeth removed. You may need someone to care for your pet while you are out of town. It is especially important to have emotional support and to have to opportunity to reciprocate by caring for others in their times of need.

Be Assertive

Set boundaries with your parents. Should you be unable to completely terminate your relationship with your parents -- due to obligatory family functions, for instance -- prepare yourself for unexpected or unsolicited contact. Keep communication as civil as possible, and terminate it when it becomes abusive or inappropriate. You may verbalize your boundaries by saying, "I do not deserve to be treated with disrespect. This conversation is over." Practice setting healthy boundaries with your counselor or therapist.

Embrace Your Feelings

Give yourself permission to process your emotions. You may have a great deal of anger toward your parents, and you may also feel angry with yourself. While you did nothing to deserve the abuse, it is normal to feel as though you are to blame, even though you are not. It is also normal to feel intense sadness -- you probably love them dearly, even if they have been cruel to you. Although your feelings might be painful, working through your feelings will help you heal..

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

Photo Credits

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