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January 21, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Coping with an emotionally disturbed daughter

Question:

I am 66 and have lived with my 30-something daughter for 8 years. She has three young children, 13, 11, and 9. The 11 year old is autistic and cannot be unsupervised. Her husband cheated so he is gone. She has raged at me for all those years, evicted me from her home more than once. She grudgingly backs off because she needs my money. I pay $600+ per month and am available for child care anytime she wants it, usually a portion of every day and sometimes all day. She doesn't appreciate that at all and criticizes me daily for something I didn’t “do right”. The home situation for her is difficult. She has crippling anxiety and she takes it out on all of us. She rages at me or her children at least once a day and calls me names, puts me down and threatens to evict me again.

I had nowhere else to go when I became disabled with heart failure. I am now on permanent disability. She took me in and I was grateful. However, her mental and emotional abuse has become so bad that I have gone to live with my sister 400 miles away. When I told her she lost her mind and verbally attacked me for hours. When she left the house I grabbed what I could and am temporarily at my brother's. As soon as I can get the rest of my belongings I'll go to live with my sister. God bless my siblings!

Since my daughter is so out of control and so angry, I worry about these kids a lot. She blames everyone but herself for everything. We stress her out by our "bad" behavior so it’s our fault she rages. She refuses to get help. She says there is something wrong with us not her. I think she may have some kind of personality deficit but don't anticipate her doing anything about it.

1. How do I maintain a relationship with her and protect myself?

2. What can I do about my grand-kids? She and the thirteen year old are already scuffling and screaming at each other. She will not even consider backing down to deescalate their confrontations and says she will keep going until he submits. He is already bigger than her. Those kids break my heart. I fear for their safety and future. They don't understand why I don't live there anymore. She is currently blocking our contact to punish me.

3. Are there techniques I can use, books I can read? I feel very helpless and think her family's future is very grim. I want to know what I can do, if anything, to make this situation better.

Thank you so much for your time.

"jmingram," 66-year-old woman

Answer:

My dear, I can see that you have chosen a course of action, which is to stop being abused, and to look after your own survival. I think this is wise, and you are amazing to have put up with this terrible situation for 8 years before needing to withdraw from it. Your first duty is your own survival, and you are now doing something about it.

I read two worries in your words. The title of your cry for help says that despite everything, you still wish only the best for your daughter. And the second is your knowledge that for 8 years, you were your grandchildren's protection from her, and when you go, they'll be worse off.

The second one is certainly a terrible dilemma. However, it seems to me that they are being traumatized on a regular basis even with you there. And what happened during those past occasions when she had evicted you? For that matter, you said she is stopping you from seeing them.

In the last analysis, your daughter is their parent, not you. With you gone, there is a chance that, perhaps for the first time in her life, she may take responsibility for her actions, acknowledge that she has a serious problem, and therefore be motivated to do something about it.

There is the concept of enabling, best understood with regard to gambling. Imagine a man who gambles away all his pay, so his mother gives him $100 so the kids have something to eat. He then gambles the $100 away. So, she buys food for the kids. That still means he has more money to throw away the next time. The only way she can avoid enabling his addiction is to step back, even if that means the kids go hungry. Then, and only then, he may admit that he has a problem.

The same is true in your situation. For the past 8 years, your love and support has "enabled" her to deny that she has a problem, and so to continue with it. Without you as a backup, she may realize she needs to wake up.

There is a child protection service where you live. There are also various support groups and help for autistic children. Before leaving the state, you might check out what help is available for your grandkids. There are no easy solutions in this situation, but I think you are doing the best that anyone could.

Bless you.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counsellor.

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