I Never Knew How Abusive My Parents Were Until I Had Kids

Childhood shapes us in profound ways, often defining our views on love, relationships, and parenting. But for those who grew up in abusive homes, the echoes of their past can be a daunting challenge when they become parents themselves. Recently, in a Reddit thread, individuals shared their heartfelt experiences of recognizing and grappling with the abuses they suffered in their childhoods as they navigate parenthood.

The Awakening

The thread was initiated by a user who shared a poignant account of growing up with an extremely emotionally abusive mom. The user stated, "She would constantly criticize me as a child, never told me she loved me, starved me if I didn’t want to eat something, gave me the silent treatment if she was mad, & got great pleasure in humiliating me in front of others".

Another user, trueknottorrence, echoed this sentiment, revealing, "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I also feel this way about my family situation. I would never treat my children the way I was treated. I haven't spoken to my mother for several years. Don't get me wrong I am not the perfect parent, but I recognise what abuse I suffered now the boot is on the other foot".

No Contact: A Difficult Decision

For many, the realization of their parents' abusive behavior led to the decision to cut ties—a process known as 'going no contact'. Several users discussed the emotional toll of this decision. User ttaradise shared, "I’m on year 4 of no contact. Do you still have bad days? Even though I know “special days” would just be filled with stress or worse, I can’t help but sometimes wonder if maybe I made a mistake by going no contact".

One user shared their struggle with emotions on special days, while trueknottorrence mentioned, "I miss the idea of a mum rather than her specifically... I know I'm denying my child a grandparent but then I remember why I'm doing it. I have some bad days, but they are lessening".

The Turning Point

Many users described the turning point that led them to cut contact—when they saw their parents starting to treat their own children in the same abusive way they were treated. One user shared, "I also cut my mother out. I tried to give her opportunities multiple times that always ended up with her doing nasty, hurtful shit while telling everyone that would listen how it was everyone else's fault and she was the victim. My sisters were able to see past it and realize they needed to cut her out, too. But it was lonely when I was going it alone. I think what made me do it was I watched her start to do the same shit to my nieces/ children. I didn't want them exposed to that".

Learning to Be Better Parents

Amid the shared stories of pain and struggle, a powerful theme of resilience emerged. Many expressed a desire to break the cycle of abuse and be better parents to their own children. User PrincipalFiggins noted, "I think a perfect parent is one willing to break cycles like you. Thank you".

One user revealed their intention to admit when they're wrong and try to learn and improve, saying, "I never wanted a perfect parent - I just wanted one who could admit when they were wrong, learn, and try to do better. That’s what I’m tryingto be now. I’m only human, but for my kid I can try. I want to admit when I’m wrong, apologise and move forward trying to do better. That’s all I ever wanted".

Recognizing the Impact and Seeking Help

Some users mentioned the psychological effects of their abusive childhoods, such as developing complex PTSD, which often doesn't present until adulthood. One user shared, "My husband developed complex PTSD from childhood abuse and neglect that didn't present itself until we had children and he truly realised how awful he had it".

Several users advocated seeking professional help to deal with the aftermath of childhood trauma. Recommendations included EMDR or ART therapy, as well as joining supportive communities online like r/emotionalneglect and r/parentingthrutrauma.

The Road Ahead

These stories illuminate the profound effects of childhood abuse and the resilience of those who've experienced it. They remind us of the importance of recognizing the signs of emotional abuse and providing resources for those affected. Further support for those dealing with these issues can be found from professional counseling and support groups, as well as resources online. It's a topic that requires more attention, empathy, and support from society. As one user rightly points out, "no one should have to navigate these experiences alone".