IS YOUR ESTRANGED ADULT CHILD NASTY AND VERBALLY ABUSIVE? In this article, you will learn how to set boundaries when you are estranged from your adult child.
If your adult child is nasty, berating, and abusive, it can be highly stressful and unmanageable. When your adult child is out of control, your most significant support has essential communication skills.
Your ability to stay calm and have a set plan for when they speak disrespectfully will help you manage how the conversation progresses. It can be unsettling unless you have learned to develop and maintain boundaries.
Boundaries are knowing you are responsible for your actions alone. Boundaries provide a fence around you, not a wall. Having boundaries means you get to decide what is within the limit and what stays out. Boundaries can be changed when circumstances allow for a different approach.
Healthy boundaries allow us to determine what we do and who we spend time with. Physical, emotional, time, material are a few boundaries. Boundaries provide a fence for us so we can align with our choices.
Boundaries with your adult children that treat you disrespectfully are essential. Healthy boundaries are clearly stated, can be adhered to, and are easy to remember. With adult children, boundaries are a parent’s method of creating a fence around what is permitted and what is not. Your relationship is not fair. Your estranged adult can decide when and how he will speak to you and see you. You still get to decide what works for you.
Your adult child may be a psychological mess and, as a result, acts out. On the other hand, there may be a long-standing dynamic between you. Often, adult children-parent conflict occurs when communication skills are lacking by both parties. Whatever is the cause, finding empathy is critical in understanding your adult child if you desire to reconcile someday.
Empathizing does not mean you agree with their behaviors, thoughts about you, or accusations. Finding empathy is the process and practice of seeing through their lens.
Your adult child may be experiencing problems in his relationships or job. Sometimes they are troubled about various stressful sources and feel so unnerved they look to blame someone. Their lack of insight may result in you becoming their punching bag. Being disrespectful, rude, or demeaning is never appropriate regardless of their emotional state. Practicing healthy boundaries will begin to alter the dynamic of your relationship.
Finding empathy allows us to gain insight into what is occurring within your adult child so we can find clarity. Remember that finding compassion for them will build your foundation skill to communicate and ultimately set an atmosphere where reconciliation can occur.
How to Communicate When Your Adult Child is Disrespectful
When your adult child is troublesome, difficult to be around, and easily charged, we can assume they struggle with inner turmoil. They may be blaming you for things in an overly exaggerated and self-absorbed fashion. They may have little insight into their role in the relationship’s breakdown.
They may have depression, anxiety, and trouble keeping friends. Your adult child may be angry. Perhaps they are internally out of control. They may cause difficulty in their environment frequently. They may be manipulative and hostile. Indeed, for parents, it isn’t easy to keep calm.
When parents are pressured and upset, they may resort to using guilt and returning fire with fire. You may want to criticize and demean. Your ability to model behavior and apply love with limits is vital. Joshua Coleman describes the Five Common mistakes parents make when estranged. Parents believe the estrangement is all about them, and they use guilt to motivate their adult child. They return fire with fire during the conflict, they think the estrangement struggle can resolve quickly, and they believe the relationship should be fair.
Consider how taxing estrangement is and how much it has already cost you. You did the best you could. Now, you can move forward by applying a boundary to address the relational stress and alter how you relate with each other in the future.
Dr. Joshua Coleman, in his book, Rules of Estrangement, suggests the following guide to create a boundary plan:
1. Be calm and state what you are willing and unwilling to do without criticizing, attacking, guilt-tripping, and returning fire with fire. Learn how to get yourself relaxed by practicing diaphragmatic breathing. This technique, when practiced regularly, will provide a baseline of calm. You are most able to be nonreactive when you are centered.
2. Validate and try this “I understand why you feel this way, but I cannot do what you have asked.”
3. Inform them with as much calm as you can muster that their agitated, demanding, demeaning, and disrespectful behavior makes it very difficult for you to listen and be attentive.
Tell them that you want to hear them, and you are sure it is important for them to be heard, but you are not willing to do so when they are hostile and intimidating.
4. If they try to blackmail you, do not allow it. Refuse to engage on their level of assault.
Try this: ” No, I am not willing to do this, but I am willing to do __________.”
Or “No, this is not something I am willing to do.”
5. Find your empathy and let them know that you understand why they feel the way they do. Try this: “I can see why you feel this way, but___________.”
Resist the temptation to return insults or criticisms. Remember, you are modeling behavior and growing your skills.
6. Ask them what it is they specifically would like from you. You can wait to respond and tell them you will get back to them if you are caught off guard. When you know how you can help them or if you want to help them, then respond. You will need to respond honoring what is appropriate for you without guilt or intimidation.
7. Model your skills without trying to control them. Keep your emotions in check and refuse to allow them to move you into chaos or agitated behaviors.
Setting a boundary requires a calm, intentional demeanor. Naturally, it will take a lot of energy to practice and follow through. You have been in stressful, difficult circumstances before you can use that same strength with your adult children. Be sure to learn communication skills but also to do daily self-care. Estrangement can cause chronic stress and impact one’s psychological and physical health. Practicing self-care will fill your reservoir so you can respond instead of reacting.
If your adult child is nasty, berating, and abusive, it can be highly stressful and unmanageable. They may be incensed that you try anything different. It is essential to keep your ground purposefully and respectfully. It is common for them to react.
When your adult child is out of control, your most significant support has critical communication skills. Your ability to stay calm and have a set plan for when they speak disrespectfully will help you manage how the conversation progresses. It can be unsettling unless you have learned to develop and maintain boundaries. This article discusses How to Set Boundaries When You Are Estranged With Your Adult Child.
- Agllias, Kylie. Family Estrangement A Matter Of Perspective. New York, Routledge, 2017.
- Coleman, Joshua. Rules of Estrangement. New York, Harmony Books, 2020.
- Morin, Marie. Feeling Heartbroken and Alone? How to Pick Up the Pieces When You are Estranged. eBook. 2022.
- Morin, M.L. [Morin Holistic Therapy]. (2022, January 4 ). What is Family Estrangement? You Are Not Alone.
- Morin, M.L. [Morin Holistic Therapy]. (2021, September 8). Diaphragmatic Breathing: 5 Minute Deep Breathing Exercise for Beginners.
- Morin, Marie. How to Deal with Estranged Family During the Holidays (2021, November 21) Sixty and Me. https://sixtyandme.com/estranged-family-holidays/
- Pillemer, Karl. Fault Lines Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. New York Penguin Random House, 2020.