How to Detect and Deal with Emotionally Abusive Parents

By Michael Adeyanju |
|7 min read

The very first relationships in our lives are with our parents. We love them with all of our hearts. They also definitely love us. But this very love and care for us can make them do things that are not helpful. In their utter love and protectiveness towards us, they may become so constraining and limiting that they end up causing us emotional distress.

Besides, we must always remember that our parents are just like any other regular human being with many flaws and drawbacks of their own that may unknowingly lead them to become emotionally abusive parents. But the thing is, experiencing emotional abuse as a child is not a trivial matter. It can have severe psychological effects and have the potential to determine how you will behave as an adult.

So, it is of paramount importance that you are aware of the signs of emotionally abusive parents from an early age and are equipped with essential knowledge of how to deal with such issues.

Signs of Emotional Abuse from Parents

Well, the signs are very obvious when you see it objectively from a third person's perspective, but when you are the one going through it, things are not always so clearly visible.

Most of the time, a child is not aware of his/her emotionally abusive parents. Even for an adult who went through emotional abuse as a child, it is not easy to detect the effects they are now experiencing in their lives. However, no matter as a child or as an adult, uncovering the suffered abuses is very important for a healthy and prosperous life.

So, let's have a look at some of the most common signs that your parents are emotionally abusive.

Always over critical

In this era of modern competitiveness, most of the parents want their children to be the best. And in doing so, they end up becoming constantly critical to their children. Not being attuned with reality, they may view the simple mistakes of a child as grave blunders and criticize the innocence out of them. Such treatment leaves deep-seated self-doubt in the child's psyche that can haunt them throughout their life.

Privacy invasion

A similar evil that parents often end up doing is invading the privacy of their children in a bid to protect them from perceived dangers. This, too, can have a potentially negative impact on your mind as you feel dominated and a lack of trust. This may impair your future ability to confidently make decisions for yourself or trust others.

They ignore your emotions

As a child, we often experience unstable patterns of emotions and emotional outbursts. Handling these emotions calmly and attentively as a parent is crucial for the positive psychological formations of the child. But many parents often do not give proper importance to this and just ignore their child. This leads to the feeling of isolation and lack of self-worth in the child and persists even after growing up.

Verbal abuse

There are all kinds of parents on the planet. So, it is inevitable that there will be emotionally or psychologically disturbed parents who end up violently abusing their children with verbal slurs. Although they may do such things in the heat of the moment, such abuse stays with a child forever.

Public humiliation

Parents may think that humiliating their child in front of others will make them behave or learn from mistakes. But instead, it ends up damaging their confidence and makes them resentful to life and others as a whole.

Comparing with others

It is one of the common weapons of parents when they think that their children are not doing well enough in school or in life. They start comparing you with the neighbor's kids, your cousins, or your high-scoring friends. You may not know, but it is classified as a textbook case of emotional abuse. By doing so, your parents are not only making you emotionally bitter towards yourself but also towards the people they are comparing you with.

Passive-aggressive behavior

It is one of the subtler forms of emotional abuse that you can face. Your parents may become suddenly distant from you or behave coldly out of nowhere. In their minds, it is due to something that you have done. But to you, as a child, it makes no sense, but brings pain.

You are pessimistic

Another telltale sign that you experienced mentally abusive parents is that you are a bit higher on the pessimistic side of things. When as a child, you never could satisfy your parents or you felt that you were never good enough, you gradually grew a pessimistic view on life.

You seek attention

This is another similar effect of the emotional abuse parents inflicts upon us. We get stuck in the cycle of constant attention-seeking. We are searching for the attention that we didn't get as a child.

You repress emotions

Another prominent sign that you may have encountered mentally abusive parents is that you find it difficult to cope with your emotions or you do not confront your emotions. It happens because as a child, you never got proper responses from your parents to your emotional needs due to their abusive patterns.

How to Deal with Emotionally Abusive Parents

Dealing with the emotional abuse parents inflicted upon you can be tricky, whether you are a child or an adult. However, a clinical approach can help you to move past the trauma. Here are some practical steps that you can take.

Recognize the cause of abuse

The first step is to know that you are or were abused. Then, the second step is to recognize the causes of your parent's abusive behavior.

Keep a tab on their behavior and detect exactly what triggers the abuse. Then, try to avoid the triggers to bypass abuse or step away whenever they are triggered.

Know that maybe your parents themselves are suffering from emotional turmoil and hence are behaving badly with you. Be present with them, be patient, and try to make them feel good.

Talk to your parents about your feelings and emotions in a straightforward way. Tell them that you do not like what they are doing to you.

Keeping distance

When you feel that your parents' behavior is becoming too much to handle, you better keep the distance from them for a while. Go to a friend's place or any other place where you are welcome.

Always remember that there's an option to cut ties if it is unbearable. You can even seek legal help if that is the case.

Seeking help

If things get out of hand, it is always a good idea to let any other trusted adult know about the situation.

If as an adult, you are dealing with the effects of childhood abuse, it is best that you seek professional help from a therapist.

You can also discuss with your trusted friends and family members, who can make you feel loved and trusted.

It is not your fault

Abusive parents are seldom aware of their abusive behaviors. Most often, they think that such behavior will be good for their children's future.

It is likely that your parents also thought the same. So, try to reconcile the conflicting thoughts within you, try to forgive your parents, and know that it was never your fault.


To sum up, you must remember that childhood emotional abuse is a serious thing and must be dealt with care. You must be aware of emotional abuse suffered and take action to move away from trauma. See the

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