5 Survival Tactics that You May Utilize to Maintain a Relationship with Your Abusive Parent

Dr. Natalie Jones PsyD, LPCC
4 min readJun 23, 2021

Those who have experienced childhood abuse at the hands of a parent, have often developed ways to cope with the abuse. They move through their lives and relationships in a traumatic state; which means they are often in survival mode. When someone has been abused by their parents while growing up, it is difficult to maintain a relationship with their abusive parents in adulthood. While haunted by old memories of abuse still haunt them, they continue to be in a relationship with their parents for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: 1) the belief that you must respect your parents, 2) fear of abandonment or being alone, 3) out of habit, 4) you have been manipulated into staying in the relationship, 5) the desire or longing to be loved and accepted by your parents, 6) codependency, 7) fear of retaliation, and 8) obligation to take care of your parents. Like learning how to live in a war zone, we adapt ways to cope with a parent who continues to be abusive. Our methods of survival include:

1. Avoidance. When you are in contact with your abusive parent, you may find yourself avoiding them at times. Avoidance serves as a protective mechanism for you to preserve your energy. Essentially, if you are expecting that person to project negative energy, you try to stay away from them. For example, you may avoid telling them something about your life that you fear they may criticize or degrade. In other instances, you may avoid their phone calls, because you don’t feel like listening to what they say. Another example would be that if you are around your parent then you avoid conversation or interaction by zoning out, turning on the radio, or talking to someone else on your phone. Another form of avoidance is lack of eye contact. Refusing to look your parent in the eye when they are questioning you or speaking to you in an authoritative tone, is done to avoid conflict from your parent feeling disrespected, your feelings of shame, or to dodge a potentially hostile situation.

2. One-side communication. We protect ourselves from harmful interactions with toxic parents is that we keep our lives a secret from them. We keep everything that happens to us locked away, and only share the minimum necessary information to keep the conversation superficial and…

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Dr. Natalie Jones PsyD, LPCC
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Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC is a licensed therapist, and creator of A Date With Darkness Podcast. Visit: https://www.drnataliejones.com