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Seniors Today conducted a survey on various aspects of senior abuse. In India, it is common for parents to live with their children. Real estate is so expensive that parents and married children are forced to live together under the same roof. In India, there is no social security and parents are sometimes dependent on their children for their life needs. Parents in India often pay for the child’s education, college and beyond, pay for the marriage and other important occasions, expecting that the children will look after them in their old age.
When parents do not have their own financial resources and are dependent on their children, they could be subject to mental and emotional abuse. When most people think of abuse, they think of physical abuse. A person who slaps their spouse, for example or someone who beats their children. Those are signs of abuse that are easy to recognise. But a lot of parental abuse is mental and emotional, and it can be just as devastating as the physical. Sometimes there could be physical abuse as well.
Here are some important ways to tell if you’re being emotionally or mentally abused.
- You Keep Getting Blamed For Everything That Goes Wrong
A common form of abuse is when a child blames the parent for everything that has gone wrong in the family. Right from not having money to enjoy the good things in life. To the circumstances in which they live, the parent gets blamed. A family member or another person manipulates the parent into doing — or not doing — something in an effort to control them. The person complies because they don’t want to hurt their kids or cause a problem. They’re made to feel guilty if they don’t agree with what the manipulator wants. That can happen with anyone occasionally, but if it’s a pattern then you are being abused.
- Your Child Cracks ‘Jokes’ That Hurt You
Jokes should be funny, not painful, humiliating, or degrading. It’s expected that a joke will fall flat every now and then, but that’s not the same thing as ‘jokes’ that are designed to hurt another person. Being teased about things like intelligence, clothing, a career, weight, or hobbies can really shake a person’s self-esteem. A child should see that those things are hurtful and stop doing them. If they don’t, their continued “jokes” could cross into the realm of emotional or mental abuse.
- You’re Ignored When You Try to Talk
There are few things that make a person feel worse than being ignored when they are trying to say something. Typically, the child or her/his spouse is doing something on the phone or laptop and if the parent tries to say something, the child continues to work pretending not to have heard them. When the person is trying to say something and is constantly ignored or overlooked, it can feel dismissive and keep them from feeling close to their family anymore. They may also stop reaching out, which could spell the beginning of the end.
- You Are Purposefully Being Excluded
When your child interacts by giving you the ‘cold shoulder’ or excluding you due to a disagreement, it’s a form of manipulation. It can become abusive and is one of the worst types of abuse based on how it makes the person experiencing it feel about themselves and their relationship. Very often, one of the children may even bring some mithai and deliberately not offer it to the older person. This is humiliating and a common form of abuse.
- Stonewalling is Another Popular Tactic
Stonewalling keeps the person being abused feeling off-balance and confused about how to be on the abuser’s ‘good side’. When someone is using stonewalling, they ‘shut down’ and stop interacting with the other person. It can make the person whose being abused feel like they’re talking to a ‘stone wall’, which is where the term comes from. Often parents and children’s staying in the same home do not talk to each other. It can reach a low where the two cook separately from the same kitchen and the old parents are left to fend for themselves. Not only do the children not talk to their parents, but they also prevent grandchildren from mixing with their grandparents despite them living together in one home under one roof. Putting up emotional walls that prevent communication and the sharing of feelings is a common form of abuse.
- ‘You’re Too Sensitive’ is Something You Hear Frequently
Very often, you are told off in an insulting manner by the child or their spouse and if you complain, you are told that you are being too sensitive. Everyone has different levels of sensitivity, and some people are much more bothered by certain things than other people would be. If a child isn’t making any effort to understand sensitivity levels and would rather accuse and dismiss them instead, they might be emotionally or mentally abusive. Often, the ‘too sensitive’ comment will be the go-to phrase anytime the parent experiencing the abuse tries to discuss how they’re being treated by their child. They’re led to believe it’s all in their head or, worse yet, it’s all their fault.
- You Feel Low around Your Children
Sometimes it’s hard to say why a child’s energy and influence in life just doesn’t feel good. Things may seem fine on the surface, but deep down they really aren’t alright. Anyone who’s making a parent or another person in their life feel small, stupid, weak, insecure, or a similar way could be emotionally and mentally abusing that person. If being around that person just feels wrong, it is probably wrong.
- It Can Happen to Anyone
While it’s more common for women to be emotionally or mentally abused, it does happen to men, as well. No one is immune, and it’s also important to remember that it doesn’t have to occur only in domestic relationships. It can also happen in family dynamics, friend groups, and situations with co-workers.
What to Do If You’re Experiencing Abuse
If you feel like you’re being mentally or emotionally abused, it’s important to consider leaving the situation or the relationship, seek counseling and surround yourself with people who are healthy for your self-esteem and mental health. It’s also important to be aware that emotional or mental abuse can also be a gateway to physical abuse.
Emotional and mental abuse can be more difficult to recognise than physical abuse, so it’s important to know the signs. Remember that, regardless of what your abuser has led you to believe, you deserve to be treated well — and no one deserves to be abused. Least of all from your kids who you have so lovingly brought up. In such cases, spend time out of the house, cultivate other hobbies, meditate and make friends with others and get your mind off the situation.