Mar 2024
What can I do if my parent is emotionally abusive ?






I remember  when I was doing my placement at a Victorian High school there was a young girl there who was shy , quiet and looked perpetually sad. She was flagged for support and came into my room. She walked with stoop as if she was trying to minimize who she was as if to say,

“ Don’t look or talk to me as I  don’t count”.

I could sense immediately that she was not happy. She proceeded to tell me that she was yelled at a lot by her dad, HE told she was useless and would not make it in life  and that she had been dragged out of the car by her hair  a few times. She felt small and worthless, and I could see that this girl had a very low self-esteem. I immediately called child protection , the police arrived, and the parents were notified. The upshot ? It was summarized that she had just been subject to “ hard discipline “ she had told the police that I had exaggerated what she said to me.

Nothing was done. I was the bad guy, and I did not have access to that child again. I’m sure she would have had a sound telling off, if not been hit for confiding in me .

I rang police protection regarding another child whose father frequently punishes him by saying he will cut him off if he has an argument with him and has even threatened suicide when he gets angry. This is the dad not the child…. yes I know !!

Child Protection said as they both lived in two different states nothing could be done and was them told how to coach the boy to set boundaries. He’s 15 !! and I had been doing this with him forever.

I rolled my eyes and hung up. I then proceeded to support my client by yet again telling him to defend himself despite his fear of standing up to his dad and risking losing him.

This time after 3 years of working with this boy , I made sure he understood  that this was emotional abuse and he needed to hear that . We worked together on language he could use to create safe boundaries with Dad .



What can you do to help yourself if this is you ?




Recognize the abuse: It’s important to recognize that what you’re experiencing is not okay and is considered emotional abuse. This can include manipulation, verbal attacks, criticism, and other behaviors that are harmful to self-reflection: Try to understand what might be causing this feeling. Is it related to a specific event, a relationship, or something else in your life? For this boy it was making him aware that his dad did have mental health issues and that his dad would always love him despite him setting boundaries around what he could say to him. Dad getting mad was not a reason for him to not stick up for himself and that Dad would learn that he had to treat him with respect or he would not talk to him on the phone .

  • Seek support: Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Sharing your feelings can help you feel less alone and more understood.


  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices like mindfulness meditation or yoga can help you connect with the present moment and reduce feelings of emptiness.


  • Take care of yourself: Engage in self-care activities that help you feel grounded and supported, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.


  • Consider professional help: If the abuse is severe or ongoing, consider seeking help from a therapist or counsellor. They can provide you with support and strategies to cope with the abuse.


  • Know your rights: Understand that you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. If the abuse continues, consider seeking legal advice or support from authorities.


  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your parent to protect yourself from further abuse. This may include limiting contact or avoiding certain topics of conversation.


Its a good idea to set up your boundaries well before there is a conflict. For example when you are in a good place with your parent, you can quietly and gently bring to their attention how you feel when they abuse you and criticize you.

Its important they become aware that what to them may seem like guidance , support or direction from them is actually coming across as critical and put downs.  Remember perception is reality and what may seem like care from their end is not how you are receiving the information. Parents often emulate what they learnt as children from their own parents and some habits can be heard to break especially if it is unconscious . Making your parent aware that what they are doing and saying is hurtful is important and something they truly need to know  . They need to really understand that this is having  a big impact on you ! You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and if not, you do not have to put up with poor interpersonal relationships . It needs to be clear what you will do i.e. hang up -if they proceed to abuse you .

If your parent says yes they will be more mindful , but they don’t change, then remind them in the moment. If  they don’t stop then remind them of the rules and hang up . Keep doing this over and over again until you see change in them . You teach people how to treat you and they will get away with what they want if you are not firm and clear with your boundaries .

Take your power back and have that conversation , you are worth it !!!!