Surviving

How to Escape Abusive Parents: A Guide for Adults

How to Escape Abusive Parents - A Guide for Adults | Hopeful Panda

If you’re still living in an abusive home as an adult, it’s crucial to learn how to escape your abusive parents. If you are a minor, please refer to this guide on how to escape abusive parents.

Many abusive parents trap their adult children at home using manipulative and abusive tactics to maintain power and control over them. You might feel like there’s no way out.

Many abusers intentionally make their children dependent on them or they might be dependent on their children. You might not have been allowed to get a job, drive, go out with friends, or date. You’re probably used to asking for permission for basically anything.

When you’re so used to having everything decided for you, it only makes sense that you grew physically and perhaps, financially dependent on your parents.

Abusive parents tend to keep their children trapped under their roof well into adulthood so they can continue to abuse or parentify them.

They might abuse you to the point you’re so confused, exhausted, and broken that you don’t have any energy to even try to leave. They may also use fear or guilt to keep you from leaving.

This post is a guide for adult children on how to finally escape their abusive parents. You don’t have to leave anytime soon if you don’t want to, but it’s important to at least be prepared.

Call the police if you are in immediate danger

Realize it’s abuse

Before we continue, it’s important that you realize that what you’re facing is abuse. Any form of abuse or neglect damages your sense of self, leaving you with long-lasting effects that take a lifetime to heal.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell whether what you’re dealing with is abuse, especially when your parent is good at hiding who they are from others. They also use tactics like gaslighting and blame-shifting to make you question your own reality and make you believe it’s your fault.

You might have had trouble getting people to believe you or other people you tried to confide in might have even blamed you. They might reprimand you for being disrespectful to your own parents or claim that if your parents are really so bad, you would’ve left already. I know I’ve been there many times.

Many people don’t know how hard it is to leave an abuser until they end up in a similar situation. Regardless of what anyone else says to you, trust yourself.

If you are bullied, controlled, silenced, put down, ignored, and treated as lesser than, you are being abused.

How to Escape Abusive Parents – A Guide for Adults

If you’re still dependent or living with your narcissistic parent, it’s okay. I’ve been there. And I’m not telling you to just pack your things and leave because that can create other problems. However, do start preparing for your escape.

You deserve a life where you aren’t constantly mistreated. You deserve a life where you can be free from abuse and toxicity.

When developing your escape plan, please try your best to keep everything a secret from your parents. If they find out that you’re planning to leave them, they might do everything in their power to stop you and make it more difficult for you to try again.

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1. Get support

If you have trusted friends or relatives, reach out to them to discuss how they can support you if and when you leave your abusive parents.

Unfortunately, abusers are really good at isolating you from forming meaningful relationships, so you might not have anyone to reach out to. If that’s the case, you can also find people online who used to be in a similar situation as you for tips, advice, and support.

You can also try contacting organizations or charities that work with abused individuals to connect with people and resources that can help you.

Refer to How to Find Support for Child Abuse Survivors to learn more.

2. Gather information

Try to keep a record of your parents’ abusive behavior. These can be audio or video recordings, photos, texts or emails they’ve sent you, or even your own written accounts of things they say or do to you.

Also, include any medical attention you’ve needed as a result of their abuse or witnesses for every abusive incident if possible.

Keep your record hidden from the abuser. You can keep a digital folder of it somewhere online and/or password-protect it so that even if they get their hands on your devices, they won’t be able to access it.

This record can be useful if you for some reason need to take legal action one day.

3. Save as much money as you can

A big reason you may be stuck with your abusive parents is that you’re financially dependent on them. But this is not your fault.

Many abusers intentionally created this dynamic with their children so their children will always have to rely on them. It might be hard for other people to understand or sympathize when they see you “leeching” off your parents.

However, it’s important for you to learn to be independent. To be able to achieve independence is to make money for yourself.

If you currently have a job, do your best to save as much as you can. Secretly open an account for yourself and deposit money into it. Do not let your parent know about it.

Try to look for a job if you don’t have a form of steady income.

If you’re unable to due to your parents’ control, try to work odd jobs (e.g. babysitting, tutoring, dog walking) while your parents aren’t home.

If making an income isn’t a possibility, try asking a trusted friend or relative to see if they’d be willing to lend you money. Promise that you’ll pay them back once you are free from your abuser and able to make an income.

4. Collect important documents

If you don’t already have ahold of important documents like your birth certificate, ID, social security card, passport, and other related paperwork to prove your identity, then it’s time to gather them.

If your parents have them and refuse to give them to you, try to make copies of them when they’re not home. You can also find a way to request or apply for various documents if you have one form of identification.

Make sure you at least have enough documentation to prove your identity for when you finally move out and get your own place.

You’ll need these documents to find a place to live, get a job, and navigate your life. And it’s easier to get them before you leave than to return afterward for them.

5. Prepare for your move

Start developing a plan for moving and prepare ahead of time.

Preparation is key here. The more prepared you are, the easier the transition will be. Map out as much of your move as possible and hide or erase every evidence of it from your parents.

Build your credit

If possible, try to build your credit if you haven’t already. If you are moving out, it’s important to have a good credit score.

A good credit score is necessary to be able to rent or buy a home and/or borrow money for any other reasons.

Arrange a place to live

Once you have enough money saved up with preferably a steady income and decent credit, you can look at places to rent for yourself. Or you can find a roommate.

If that’s not possible, perhaps you can move in with someone you trust that’s willing to take you in for the time being or as a roommate.

But definitely have a stable place ready before you actually leave because you don’t want to end up on the streets.

While shelters are an option, they are not sustainable for the long term. They are also not the safest, so it’s still best to have a safe and stable place ready.

Figure out your living expenses

Once you figure out where you’ll stay when you move, it’s time to figure out your living expenses.

Whether you’re living by yourself or with somebody, there will be bills along with the expenses of daily living.

Factor in rent, utilities, internet, phone, food, and other essentials for when you move so you know whether you will have enough income and savings to cover it. If not, plan or adjust accordingly.

Learn over 100 little ways to save money.

Plan what to pack

When the time comes to move, you might not have enough time or freedom to pack. It’s best to pack when your parents aren’t home, but that might not be possible. And there’s always the possibility that they’ll catch you packing, which they probably won’t react well to.

So plan ahead and prioritize certain items. Make a list of things you need to pack in order of priority.

For example, top priority items might be important documents, money, some essentials, and maybe sentimental items. Low-priority items might be inexpensive things you can easily replace.

If you have time and the ability to, keep going down the list. But if it’s too dangerous, just pack what you need and bolt.

Figure out your moving expenses

Make sure you have enough saved up to actually move.

Many places require the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Also factor in possible travel costs, moving costs, and money for furniture, appliances, and other necessities.

To save money on initial moving costs, take full advantage of places like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to find cheap or free furniture, appliances, and other household items. Don’t hesitate to also look into food banks and pantries for free groceries and food.

Set up important things early

Once you have a place and moving time in mind, try to set up the important things.

Forward your mail to your new address, change your address on important accounts, and set up things at the new place like utilities and internet.

You wouldn’t want any reason to have to return to your parents and you also wouldn’t want them to get their hands on your mail.

Me and my partner’s mail was still being sent to my parent’s home after we left. And my mother opened every one of them and even stole money from us. We never saw those mail again.

So it’s crucial that every mail is set up to be forwarded to your new address. It’s also important to notify all family, friends, and your work of your address change so they won’t send anything to your parents’ place.

6. Don’t say you’re leaving

Do not tell your parents you are leaving or give any indication or hints that you are or will be. If your parents find out, they might do everything in their power to make you stay.

And if you stay, their abuse will likely get worse because “how dare you try to leave”.

Remember, they’ve been abusive this whole time. No matter what they say or promise or do, don’t fall for it. Abusive people do not change.

How to Escape Abusive Parents - A Guide for Adults | Hopeful Panda

As you go through this process, you can use the Escaping Abusive Parents printables bundle you can download for free on the Freebies page. You can use the various resources and printables provided in the freebie alongside this guide to help you prepare and plan for your escape.

It won’t be easy

Leaving your abusive parents might be very difficult and might seem impossible if it’s something that never really crossed your mind and not something you’re prepared for.

Normal, loving parents prepare their children for the outside world while offering support, guidance, and encouragement.

Meanwhile, when you have abusive parents, you’re taught that the world is a scary place and that no one’s on your side.

When it feels like you’re alone, it only makes sense to cling to your parents, your only source of comfort in the world, even if they hurt you.

It might not make sense to other people why you would hang onto the very thing breaking you down. They might not understand how hard it is to leave all that behind.

They don’t realize the amount of energy, effort, courage, and strength it takes to leave something you’ve known your entire life and to basically start over with no one to guide you.

People with normal, loving parents can go out into the scary world with years of preparation and their parents’ support and encouragement. They also have the option to return whenever it gets too scary out there.

But people with abusive parents don’t have that privilege. Once they leave, they’re all alone with no knowledge of how to survive on their own and nowhere to return to if they don’t make it out there.

Take your time to be prepared

When you think about how someone leaving their abusive parents is like leaving a child out to fend for themselves, it makes a little more sense why people have such trouble leaving.

I know how hard and scary it can be to escape your abusive parents. And I know saying that it’s better for your well-being and your health doesn’t really help.

You’re not guaranteed a better life just because you leave the toxicity behind. The world is hard out there so it makes sense if you’re scared or reluctant.

So take all the time you need. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Teach yourself what your parents never did. Learn to be independent. Grow your support system.

And once you’re ready, whenever that might be, take that first step.

Taking that step into the outside world without your parents is incredibly difficult and terrifying. But know that once you can do that, you can finally do what you want to do and be who you want to be. You can finally live your life.

Escaping My Abusive Mother

Back in 2018, my partner and I called CPS on my mother. That same day, my siblings were taken away. My mother and her boyfriend said they'd kill us if they saw us again. So we left and stayed with a relative.

We tried to find a place to stay but we struggled because many places required certain income levels we didn't meet. But with the help of my relative, my partner and I found a place that didn't need background checks or income requirements. They were also willing to let my siblings live with us. I couldn't believe how lucky we were.

When I finally moved into the new place with my partner, I felt free, even with the difficult circumstances surrounding us. At least I was able to go home without worrying or dreading what my mother might say or do. I no longer have to anticipate unpredictable tantrums and verbal attacks.

As silly as it sounds, it was nice being able to arrange things the way I want to. It was nice being able to slack off doing chores for a bit without worrying I'll be screamed at. It was nice being able to put my things around the home without worrying it'll be taken or thrown out.

After a bit of back and forth with CPS, I got my siblings placed with me. Finally, it felt like everything was in place.

We're finally able to sit on the couch and not have to worry that someone would start yelling at us for hogging it or simply for existing. We can watch what we want without it being met with complaints or criticisms. 

We can hang out together without worrying it will upset her. And we can visit whoever we want without having to sneak around or lie about where we're going. We no longer have to walk on eggshells and be on constant alert.

That tiny apartment was like 500 square feet with a tight kitchen and one bathroom for the four of us. It wasn't the most comfortable but it became a safe space for us. We finally felt like we were home.

Read more about my journey in getting custody of my siblings

After Your Escape

Escaping your abusive parents means leaving the fog they cause in your life.

Once you’re away from them, you can see things clearer. You will likely feel a significant shift in your life and your mood. All the damage might already be done. But at least they can’t do it anymore.

Do not go back

Once you’ve managed to leave, your parents might use every technique possible to try to get you back. Don’t forget that they can be expert manipulators.

Even if you are struggling on your own, it’s likely best not to go back because again, if you return, it will likely be worse than it was.

If you choose to remain in contact with your parents, learn to set some boundaries. However, just because you can interact with them fine doesn’t mean you can live with them.

Living with someone is completely different than simply hanging out or talking to them.

Remind yourself why you left

There might be times when you may feel tempted to return to your parents. You’ve known them your whole life and you’ve depended on them. But whenever that feeling comes up, remind yourself why you left.

Write things down if you need to. Think about all the abusive behavior you’ve experienced from them. Or look back at the record you kept of all the abusive things they’ve said or done to you. Remind yourself why you need to leave that behind.

Seek help and support

Unfortunately, just because you are physically away from your abusive parents doesn’t mean your mind is. You’ll still need to go through the process of healing to truly free yourself from them. It may be hard but it is possible.

Abuse, especially from your own parents, can do a lot of damage to your sense of self and psychological well-being.

If you’re able to, consider seeking professional help. You can connect with a certified therapist here. A professional can help you process your experiences and develop tools to heal. They can also guide you to helpful resources to help you achieve independence.

Support Hopeful Panda

Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation or becoming a member. Your support helps me continue providing free content for all. Thank you!


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