Dealing with abusive adult children

Sgt. John Keating, DRPSBy Sgt. John Keating/Durham Regional Police Service

So here we are, now at the time of our life when we can relax and enjoy our own adult children and take in all the love and joy that they bring us…right?

Well, for some fortunate seniors, that may be the case; however, for many others, it certainly is not. In fact, it can often be just the opposite where our own adult children are sometimes the cause of our stress and anxiety.

As a police officer, the longer I investigate elder abuse cases the more I see and the more I am saddened by the way in which some adult children treat their parents. From verbal abuse to emotional abuse, financial abuse, and physical abuse, and sometimes just “won’t leave parent’s home or leave parents alone abuse”.

Sometimes it’s several adult children fighting over or about their mother and/or father for one reason or another and the mother and/or father are stuck right in the middle.

I find myself involved in many cases where an adult child manipulates their parent to get money from them or continue to reside in their parent’s home against their parent’s wishes.

I am a father of three children and I understand the desire to give and to be there for them when they need us.

However, what I am talking about is more than that. The issue at hand is when adult children use their parent(s) for their own benefit and the parent(s) don’t seem to have a choice. Where the adult child simply doesn’t care what their parent(s) think or want and they just do whatever they want without any consideration for their parent(s).

I receive numerous calls from senior mothers or fathers crying on the phone because their adult child has moved back in with them, doesn’t work, doesn’t try to work, sleeps all day and up all night, doesn’t help out around the house, doesn’t pay any rent, always takes money from them, has people over that their parent doesn’t know and doesn’t approve of, abuses alcohol or drugs, and more.

These parents feel they have no options or sometimes they say that there are no good options. For instance, they ask the adult child to leave and they won’t. This may mean they have to involve the police and they don’t want to do that.

If they force their adult child to leave, the child then says, “if you make me leave I will never see you again”, or, “if you make me leave I will be on the streets and you would be a terrible parent”, or, “if you make me leave I will commit suicide”, and the list goes on.

So how do you enjoy your senior years without the problems that one or more of your adult children may bring your way?

It’s a great question and if I had the answer to that, I would be the most famous police officer in the world.

There is no one answer because each and every situation is different. From my experience, the best answer is the one that makes your senior years the best they can be.

Some seniors simply put up with the abuse and carry on day to day. Other seniors seem to be able to say NO and get their life back to the way they want it.

It’s really a tough situation. Seniors will sometimes be bombarded by suggestions from others who say things like “just kick them out”. To outsiders looking in, that sometimes seems to be the logical thing to do, but when you are the senior involved and it’s your adult child, it’s not always that easy.

Here is what I would say. Each and every one of you deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. You make your choice what you want. If your adult child does not respect your choice, then you have every right to take the actions necessary to make them respect your choices. That may involve calling the police to get an adult child out of your home, or maybe calling your other children or friends to get involved to assist you with getting the adult child to leave.

Sometimes just talking to others about your problem with your adult child can help. Don’t let yourself be isolated. Look for help and assistance.

If you don’t know what to do, you can call me or you can call the Senior Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 150 languages. They will listen to your situation and provide you with support. In Durham Region, you may also contact Tammy Rankin, the Senior Safety Advisor at 905-668-7711 ext 2460.

Some seniors have told me they don’t want to call the police because once the ball gets rolling, they can’t stop it. This is not the way it is. When police respond to a situation involving the senior and their adult child, the senior is the one who directs the police. For example, if the police come and your son refuses to leave and you don’t want police to remove him, they won’t.

The time when police have to act regardless of the senior’s wishes is if the matter is considered a “domestic” situation. In policing that means the senior is complaining about a spouse – a partner they are involved with in an intimate relationship.

So, if it’s your son or daughter you call the police about, the process is driven by you, the complainant. If at the end of the call, you don’t want police to act, most likely they won’t have to; however, some circumstances may dictate that police have to act.

I hope this helps. I wish there were more concrete answers to these situations but there are not. It’s unfortunate that some seniors have to deal with this in their life. Call me, call the Seniors Safety Line or speak to some friends or family you trust to get some help.

Sergeant John Keating, Senior Support Coordinator, Durham Regional Police Service, 905 579 1520 Ext 5624

“Dignity and Respect and Nothing Less”


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