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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Mother's Day is always difficult for a child I was

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Mother's Day is always difficult for a child I was emotionally abused by my mother (blamed for everything wrong with her life, including the relationship between her and my father). When she left my father, she said that I was part of the reason she was leaving...but then she always expects me to be there for her. I am now an adult with two children. When my first child, a daughter, was little, she said to me, "she is not bad like you were as a child." I told her she could leave and not expect to see my children again until she received counseling. To my knowledge she never did. I have forgiven her for the past because I know she doesn't realize that the things she says are hurtful, but she refuses to acknowledge that she ever did anything wrong and says I don't "appreciate what she did" for me. I have let her see my children because I don't want my children to think that I deprived them of their grandmother. She wants to visit, but I told her not until she gets help.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

The dilemma for adults who are abused as children is how to handle their relationship with their parents, especially if the parent or parents continue to be abusive. The guilt about being a good child and having a relationship with the abusive parent makes it a difficult struggle.

I admire your strength in setting boundaries with your mother. Many adult children feel so overwhelmed by the abusive parent that they are unable to set boundaries, but you were clear to your mother about what she needs to do to have a relationship with you. It is your mother who is refusing to make the effort to repair the situation.

One of the biggest issues when dealing with an abusive parent is where to draw the line, particularly if you have children of your own. The rule here is drawing the line where you are not continuing to be abused. That is, you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your mother was a stranger, co worker or friend that treated you that way, you would end the contact and stay away from that person. Being your mother does not give her the right to continue the behavior.

In regards ***** ***** children, there are two things to consider, how she treats you in front of them and how she treats them. They may witness her behavior and not understand it. And leaving the children alone with her is out of the question. Because of these things, your children will come to understand there is something different about your relationship with your mother. It is natural they will ask questions and want to know more about your childhood. As you raise your children, you will also want to talk about your childhood with them. So be honest with them about your mother and her abusive behavior. Let them know why you do not want to see your mother (in a child appropriate way). Let them ask questions. There is nothing wrong with keeping them away as long as they know why. Kids are very perceptive and they understand a lot. They will not be upset if they know why and you remain open and honest with them.

Keep your boundaries with your mother. She may never see that she needs help, but that does not obligate you to have a relationship with her. The relationship you would have with her just results in more hurt and pain for you. And your mother needs to learn that you are an adult now and she can no longer hurt you.

Having the strength to deal with your mother is good, but that also leaves you with a dysfunctional mother and no real relationship. Therefore, it is important that you mourn over the loss. You want and deserve a normal relationship with your mother. But since she will not allow it, it is a loss. And it is ok to feel sad and upset about it.

Also, it may help you to go to counseling to talk about how you feel. Talk to your doctor for a referral or if you attend church, your pastor can help. You can also search on line at

Here are some other resources that may help you as well:

Adult Children of Abusive Parents: A Healing Program for Those Who Have Been Physically, Sexually, or Emotionally Abused by Steven Farmer

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck

Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Ann McMurray and Gregory L. Ph.D. Ph.D. Jantz

You can find these on or your local library may have them for you.

I hope this has helped,

TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you