Children of abusive parents don’t just suffer at the time the abuse is taking place, but later on in life as well.
It’s not surprising that being a child of abusive parents leaves such long-lasting scars on one’s soul. Consider that as children we are forming our most important attachments and establishing our own identities. So any experiences, whether they are good or bad, will have a long-lasting effect on our psyche and mental health.
I can only speak from my own knowledge but I also have three siblings. Despite the fact that we all grew up in the same household, we had very diverse experiences. I have two older sisters and a younger brother, and we were all treated very differently. My older sisters came from a previous marriage. My father then married my mother who went on to have me and my younger brother.
My mother treated my two older sisters like slaves, ignored me and doted on my younger brother. Not surprisingly, it affected us in different ways.
Here’s what I can tell you about the struggles that children of abusive parents have, in particular, myself and my siblings:
Children of abusive parents can become people pleasers
During the abuse, my older sister would do anything to please my mother. Any money she earned would be spent on flowers or chocolates for her. She would buy presents for her when it wasn’t her birthday, she would do anything for a scrap of attention. Bear in mind my mother was abusing her on a daily basis.
Later on in her life, my sister became known as a people pleaser. She would never raise her voice in disagreement and would be the one who always went along with other people’s plans.
Children of abusive parents can become complete opposites of their abusers
When my older sister went on to have her own children, she went completely against my own mother’s rules. My mother would dole out lists of chores to my two sisters. They would have two pages of chores to do, I would have about half a page, my brother, who was an epileptic, would be told to ‘take his tablet’.
My sister always believed that children should not be used as slave labour and never asked her kids to do any of the household chores. Hence their rooms were always a tip, she did all the housework and struggled to keep up with the washing and cooking.
My oldest sister is now the nicest person I know. She is just five years older than me but has been more like a mum to me than my own mother.
Children of abusive parents are afraid of confrontation
My middle sister got the worst of my mother’s abuse. This was because she would never let my mother see her break down or cry in front of her. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she asked to see my two sisters in hospital. She saw them separately and asked them to forgive her. My eldest sister did, but my middle sister did not.
It is a surprising outcome that the sister that always stood up to my mother then went on to have confrontation issues when she was older. She would do anything to avoid an argument as it brought up painful memories of the abuse. Nowadays, my sister has conquered this fear and is practically intrepid.
Children of abusive parents develop a hard exterior
My middle sister won’t let anyone into her life unless they have proved their love and loyalty. She has a hard exterior that protects her because of the past abuse from my mother. We had a rocky time when my mother died because my sister was, understandably, relieved that she was gone, but she was my mother and I didn’t know how I was supposed to react.
It took us a long time to reconcile our feelings about the subject. Even now I have to remember that my sister values certain things such as regular phone calls, constant contact and remembering birthdays.
It is not enough for me to go a few months without contact, as I do with some of my best friends. My sister regards loyalty as wanting to be in touch. Another remnant of abusive parents. These days, however, my sister has allowed her softer side to shine through and her natural kindness is what I notice more and more.
It is possible that children of abusive parents develop phobias
I don’t actually know if this is true, but I will blame it on my mother anyway. My mother abused my two sisters but ignored me. She had a strict routine that had to be followed.
For instance, every teatime, one of us had to make her a cup of tea, in her favourite bone china teacup, made to her specification (weak, lots of milk with a dash of boiling water on top). One day as I was carrying the tea, I dropped the cup. I expected an uproar, but she just said, ‘Don’t worry, it was an accident’. I knew then that somehow, I was immune from the abuse.
When she died, I did not know how to react. She was an evil woman who abused my two lovely sisters but ignored me throughout my life. It stressed me out.
Then one day, coming back from a holiday, I had the first of many panic attacks. I developed a travel phobia. I believe that I developed a phobia because the only time my mother showed me any attention was when I was sick. Then she would lavish me with attention. Having a phobia means that you relinquish all responsibility and go back to a childlike state where someone else has to take care of you.
Many narcissists have had abusive parents
Was my brother abused or wasn’t he? My sisters would argue that he wasn’t. He was never beaten, locked up in a room, burnt or punished. But he was spoiled, made to think he was special without actually having to do anything and allowed to get away with murder. And we sisters were not very nice to him.
Consequently, he grew up with a much-skewed view of women in general. This turned him into a narcissist. I think he had no choice, given his circumstances.
I’m sure I have just touched the surface where it concerns abusive parents. If you have any experiences you feel you can share, we would appreciate your input.