Okay, everyone, I need your insight on this one. I know someone who is struggling with a parenting issue I hope I never have to deal with: an abusive adult child.

Someone with whom I am very close- you might say she’s like a mother to me- is being held hostage by her adult son.  This kid, this man, moved back into his parents’ home a few months ago, after quitting a succession of jobs.  He sleeps all day, eats their food (when he deems it edible), and verbally abuses her and her husband regularly.  He is either a complete…um, jerk… or someone who is very sick.  Either way, he’s wreaking havoc in their lives.  I want it to stop and I wish I could help.

I’ve tried listening and being supportive.  I have forwarded articles and called a mental health facility.  I have spoken to their other family members.  I’ve tried, over the years, to tentatively reach out to the young man himself.  Aside from the concern I have for his parents, I want him to get help, to thrive and find happiness.  I’ve known him his whole life and it’s still hard for me to reconcile the rosy-cheeked toddler I remember with the raging young man he’s become.  But, ultimately, I have to admit that I am powerless to change the actions (or inactions) of others; change has to come from them.

I understand and empathize with how difficult this can be.  I was in an abusive relationship for well over a decade and leaving it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I know that my closest friends struggled to understand why I stayed, just like I struggle to understand why this family doesn’t throw this young man out on the street.  (I say young, but I mean- he’sthirty.)   From a distance, I look at this guy’s behavior and think, “I’d be damned if put up with that kind of crap,” but the truth is I did put up with crap just like it, hoping the whole time that something would change.  Fooling myself into believing that if only ____x___ would happen, everything would be okay.

The most insidious thing about this kind of thinking is how it normalizes the behavior- that it makes unacceptable actions seem acceptable in light of certain events.  The thing that those of us on the outside can do, I guess, is speak plainly and recognize abuse as abuse:  when someone punches walls or breaks doors, he/she is abusive and destructive.  When someone is continually cursed at and called names, that person is being abused.   None of this is ok and the effect will linger after the situation is resolved.   I only hope the resolution comes quickly because I know from experience that this is a terrible way to live.

I wish I could write more thoroughly about this topic.  I’d write about entitlement, about arrested development… I’d research the myriad causes and cures for narcissitic personality disorder, or whatever disorder fits the bill.  But, I really just wanted to get this off my chest and get your feedback: two of the greatest perks of blogging.  So, please- talk to me.

Readers: Do you know someone who has experienced something similar?  Is it still happening?  What steps did the parents take to resolve the situation?  What help did they receive from outside the family, if any?  What advice do you have? 


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