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What About The Adult Kids?

Sent: Friday, October 29, 1999 6:41 PM
Subject: My Abused Kids

Dear Dr. Irene,

Thank you for some wonderful insights into the world of the abuser and the codependent.  You have not, however, addressed the adult children of verbal abuse.  I have a son and a daughter, ages 21 and 24, who grew up with a verbally and emotionally abusing father.  Although I made an excellent salary, I believed I needed to stay with him for the sake of the children.  Three years ago my husband left all of us.  We have had no contact with him since then...no visits, phone calls, letters or money.

My decision to stay and his ultimate departure so suddenly has had disastrous effects.  My daughter, very bright, beautiful, and a college graduate, is verbally abusive herself, is hyper-sensitive to any criticism, and is extremely judgmental and controlling.  She is currently dating a man much like her father.

My son has flunked out of college, is quite charming but given to sudden outbursts of physical violence.  He is also somewhat obsessed with thinking about/reviewing the incidents of abuse by his father.

Both children are working and living on their own.  What can I do at this point?  I thought that my husband's leaving would have a releasing effect on all of us, but we seem to be experiencing an after effect.  Can you help us? Katie

Dear Katie,

Thank you for your kind words.

Can I help? Yes and no. No, I can't help your kids. They are adults who need to help themselves. Yes, I can help them to the extent that reading this site opens their eyes to some of the work they need to do.

Your kids had lots of training. By the time they were in adolescence, they were very, very well trained. By the time your husband left, your kids were programmed. 

This site does not focus on the effects of abuse on children per se. The focus is on adult victims and perpetrators. All adults were once children who were taught by their expert parents. The focus is to help adult children recognize that they have a problem to fix - so their kids don't get "trained."

The best you can do for your kids (of any age) is to own your mistakes and to fix yourself. Though your kids are no longer children, you can still model self-efficacious behavior. You can suggest they get counseling, but unless you have fixed some of yourself, you are less credible: the pot calling the kettle black.  

Don't drive yourself crazy with not having left their dad. Had you left, today you would be wondering if you should have stayed. I always tell my parents, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." No home is perfect; you did the best you knew how to do.  As a parent, it hurts to watch your children's pain. Yet, every child inevitably grows into an adult with some scars, some more, some less- as you did. Life is such that it offers each adult many, many opportunities to take their deficits and  transform them into  strengths.

 So, try not to sweat it. Love them, and focus on all the good stuff you gave them instead.   

My best regards,  -Dr. Irene

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and
must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from
your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos, Copyright© 1999. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at Doc@drirene.com. 


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