I Was Adopted

I was five when I was told I was adopted.  I only got the gist of what it meant but as far back as I can remember I didn’t feel I belonged.  Nor did I look anything like my adoptive Mum and Dad.  They told me they brought me to their home when I was nine months old and I think the best thing I did was somehow enable my mum to get pregnant, twice in quick succession.  She and Dad had been trying for years to have a baby but it only worked once I arrived.  I suspect I must have been a last resort.

With three children under four life was hectic, tempers flared and I was usually the one to get blamed.  My parents became increasingly intolerant of me as I grew.  I wasn’t as clever as my sister, nor sporty like my brother.  Instead I was a bit dumpy and slow. 

Mum criticised me for things like my hair which was wiry and difficult to brush and told me I was too fat.  Things became much worse when I was a teenager.  I wasn’t allowed to be moody.   Whenever Dad caught me like that he would say I was being ungrateful and if they hadn’t adopted me I would be on the streets by now.  So I learnt to keep my feelings to myself. 

If I didn’t like something Mum had prepared for dinner she would then be the one to say I was ungrateful and that I could have been left to starve.   

I knew I didn’t count when they sent me to the local comprehensive while the other two went to a private school.  The budget for my clothes was far less than for them too.  Luckily my siblings weren’t actually too bad.  We were never close and didn’t talk much together but at least they weren’t spiteful to me. 

It saddens me to say that my adoptive parents made me feel they just didn’t need or want me in their life.  It is a terrible burden on top of being rejected by my birth mother.  Not surprisingly it has affected my self-confidence and made me feel unworthy or anyone’s love. 

On the other hand I was lucky to have had the experience of living in a family with a work ethic and that has done me some good.  I love cooking.  I managed to get a catering apprenticeship, which Dad helped me get, no doubt partly to get me working and out of their house sooner rather than later.  I am currently in a flat share, just about manage financially and don’t see them much.  But they left me determined to prove them wrong about me and I hope eventually get a job in a good restaurant.  I like the fact that the hours are long which will help stop me feeling lonely. 

Please join our forum to talk about this important family issue.

Father's Day

Dear Dad,

This year I wanted to send you something different on Father’s Day.  Instead of a gushing card telling you that you are the ‘best dad in the world’ I thought I would offer a list of questions that I’ve wanted to ask you for years. 

These are:

1.    Why do you regularly try to destroy my confidence?

2.    Why do you keep belittling me?  Even in front of my younger siblings.

3.    What is it about me that makes you so angry so often?

4.    How can I get you to believe in me?

5.    You have an enormous ego.  Why don’t you let me express myself in my own way?

6.    Are you the father you wanted to be and do you see yourself as a good role model for me?

It saddens me that I’ve never been able to ask you these questions face to face which I’d much rather do, but I know you wouldn’t listen. Instead you’d shout insults at me to put me down. 

I hope you can understand and respect my position and that you will carefully and calmly read my questions.

Your son

If you feel like this please see our Coping Page on the Website.

Ageing Parent


It’s difficult to know how to cope with a horrid parent once they become elderly and frail.  

Some people become more confused and scared as they age and more frustrated about losing their mobility, memory, and faculties like sight and hearing.  It’s a combination that is likely to make them to complain at length and react increasingly negatively.    

In addition the challenging characteristics they have are likely to become more pronounced and you may be the one they take it all out on.   

Also if they have lost their partner their grief can turn to anger against you. 

They might try to make you feel guilty that you are not devoting enough time looking after them and compare you unfavourably with others. 

So what can you do?

It’s painful to be talked down to by a parent who makes mountains out of mole hills, is constantly critical, irrational and illogical, but tell yourself it can help you develop a more logical and reasoned way of thinking. 

Try not to feel guilty.  Instead reassure yourself you're doing your best and that however much you do wouldn’t be enough.  

Not being available all the times doesn’t mean you are cruel and heartless.  Seek advice from your GP and local services for the elderly.

If your difficult parent is in a nursing home they may:

Insist they don’t need to be there and that you are getting rid of them.

They can also criticise you for choosing the nursing home.

In addition they can accuse you of stealing their money, especially if you have power of attorney.

They may call the bank or the police or/and tell the staff how hateful you are.

Take what your parent says with a spoonful of salt. 

Elderly people often make false accusations.  It can be a sign of dementia as well as how horrid they are. 

They may also complain about a member of staff and how they are being treated.  It is hard to know if this is a genuine complaint and whether or not this is justified.

Speak to a senior member of staffand perhaps ask if one of the staff could pop in during your visit so you can both see how your parent behaves. 

It might also be a good idea to keep a diary of your visits and anything you have discussed that might become significant.   

Two Types of Parental Neglect



There’s a significant difference between your parent’s benign neglect and their unkind neglect. The former is a way of giving you space to develop and grow at your own pace.  Your parent will, for example, have let you wander off to explore your environment, help yourself to something to eat and not ask too many questions about what you’ve been up to.

Your are unlikely to feel abandoned because when you’ve been with your parent you get lots of attention and feel loved. You also have the sort of relationship where you can suggest you do something together and they will happily agree. 

Unkind neglect, however, is when your parent is too distracted by their own life to give sufficient attention to your needs. 

Their job may involve long hours and regular travel and you have often been left at home on your own or with a minder, who may deal efficiently with the practical side of your life but not give you emotional support.  At one level this may suit you as you wouldn’t  want to confide in someone who is neither part of the family or a special friend.  

A good parent with a demanding job will ensure they carve out special time with you to keep the relationship close. Unfortunately some parents become so unused to making your needs come first that, even when they are home, their computer, iPad, mobile and their social life takes priority over you.  They are distracted when you talk to them and so busy with themselves that any affection they do show is likely to be fleeting and rather mechanical.   

This means you may not get that vital emotional support from your parent either.

Recognising that they are not very interested in you is difficult to manage and getting their attention for any length of time can be so difficult that you learn to keep your feelings to yourself and become quiet and inward.  .

It  can have a long-term affect. 

So what can you do?






   OUR SUGGESTIONS:  Believe that you are lovable and that if your parent doesn’t appreciate you others will.   Try not to suppress your feelings too much.  Instead share them with someone you trust like a teacher or a close friend.   Enjoy yourself with friends, get involved with all sorts of activities like reading, dance, exercise and music. Try to learn new skills too.  Reassure yourself you that you will have plenty of opportunities in the future to develop a more fulfilling life. 



Believe that you are lovable and that if your parent doesn’t appreciate you others will. 

Try not to suppress your feelings too much.  Instead share them with someone you trust like a teacher or a close friend. 

Enjoy yourself with friends, get involved with all sorts of activities like reading, dance, exercise and music. Try to learn new skills too.

Reassure yourself you that you will have plenty of opportunities in the future to develop a more fulfilling life. 



The day you get married is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. You have found a partner you love and who loves you and this is the day to celebrate with family and friends.

The reality is that the path from the proposal to the wedding can be fraught with difficulties and stress.  Even in happy, supportive families there can be issues over who is being invited, the venue and the overall cost.

If one of you has a horrid parent it can be far worse.  We have heard terrible tales that include one side making the other pay for some of their guests as well as their own.  Or one side insisting they make decisions and this includes choosing a future daughter in law’s dress.  It can get so heated and intense that you feel sidelined and overwhelmed.    

It is also possible that your horrid parent will seize the opportunity to control every detail of your special day.  In addition they may endlessly criticise your partner or/and you, insisting they can’t see what one of you sees in the other.

There is also the worry about how they will behave on the day itself.  One mother of the bride burst into tears when she saw her daughter walk down the stairs at home in her bridal dress.  Then promptly left the house.  Apparently she felt jealous and couldn’t cope.   During the celebrations they could also snub your partner’s family or cause trouble with a relative they didn’t want you to invite.  They can even tell you they may not come at all, offering the pretext that the event is taking place too far away, or so and so will be there and they don’t want to see them.  Then keep you in suspense about their final decision until the last moment.


We recommend

Well before the wedding you try to rise above any rows and distance yourself by taking some of the steps we recommend in our Coping page.

You confide in your spouse about the concerns you have about your horrid parent so they can support you.    

You keep telling yourself that your horrid parent is grabbing their last chance to control you, and that you have the support of someone special who is on your side. 

You focus on the fact that you can life your life as you choose and make your own home an oasis of peace and harmony.   One that will be very different to what  you endured as a child. 

On the day itself refuse to let any nasty remark or bad behaviour spoil things.    Let yourself float in that special bubble of happiness that belongs to brides and grooms and accumulate as many positive memories as you can.   

If there are a few small issues remember that however important your wedding day is, it is only one day and just the beginning of your life together. 

Do send us your story all about your wedding via our website or forum. 


It’s that time of year again when exams are looming.  It’s a period of stress and worry, especially if you feel you are at a significant cross roads in your life and so much depends on getting the right result. 

Concentrating on revision is demanding and draining too and inevitably more difficult if, during these crucial times, you also have to cope with your horrid parent.   

Loving families go all out to make whoever is taking their exams feel supported. Unfortunately a horrid parent can take advantage of the fact that you are under pressure and be even more critical. They might make nasty comments to undermine you too by saying how useless you are, compare you unfavourably with themselves, or your siblings.  They can even ask why you bother at all as ‘no-one’ will give you a job. 

If your exams also signal that you will soon leave home, they might also seize the opportunity to exert further control.  They can threaten to stop your allowance until the exams are over,  or ground you so you can’t go out, ignoring the fact that everyone needs some time off.  So want can you do?


See our COPING page about looking after yourself with good and regular habits.  It will also help you try to tune out of your parents’ criticisms and avoid arguments.  It’s very important not to get involved in verbal battles, you won’t win and it will just add to your stress.

Keeping your room tidy is a very low priority during exam stress but it might help lower the tension at home if you confined any mess to your bedroom and it didn’t spread out to communal areas like the kitchen and living room.

Work out a revision schedule that works for you. There are lots of good tips on the internet to choose from.

Plan to revise at school, in a library or with a good friend who also wants to study to cut down on the amount of time you are at home.

Make plans for once your exams are over to give you something to look forward to.


Choosing The Right Words

Many people who have seen our website have written to us describing their self-centred horrid parent with clarity and insight. Some, however, have gone further and stated that their parent hadNarcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.

It is totally acceptable for a qualified mental health professional to diagnose a patient with one of these disorders, and some horrid parents fall into this category.  But anyone who does not have a professional qualification should exercise caution.  A horrid parent can function well socially and hold down a good job while still behaving badly with their child.  Something that makes it difficult for a professional to diagnose a  mental health disorder.   

It is understandable to want to neatly categorise what is wrong with your horrid parent.  Not least because you need all the help you can get to make sense of what you have been through.


We would instead like to encourage you to use your observational skills to describe various aspects of your horrid parent’s behaviour.  Writing down the details of what you see and what they do will build up a dossier you can refer to.  This will help give you a better grasp of the problems so you can focus on ways to copewith your difficult parent.   See the coping section on our website. 

Instead of offering a medical diagnosis we use the term ‘self-obsessed’ on our website when describing a parent’s unpleasant, irrational and manipulative behaviour.  It can also be described as ‘narcissistic’.

We also believe that noting and sharing your experiences with sympathetic people, perhaps through our forum can help you feel less alone and better understood than relying on a medical diagnosis that may or may not be accurate. 

The Good Parent


What are  the obligations of your parent who is  kind and caring and obviously loves you? 

One obligation is to keep you safe. When you have one horrid parent and a kinder one, the kind one should be able to help you if you are being emotionally attacked by your difficult parent.  This includes supporting and protecting you when you are under threat.  It means not being passive in the face of a tirade directed at you and giving excuses for their partner’s bullying rants. Unfortunately this is often not the case. 



It is important to remember that parenting is a joint venture between two adults.  While parents need and often want to present a united front, if one of them is being horrible then the other parent has an additional responsibility to be supportive of you.  If they find it too challenging to do so in the heat of a row, then they certainly should  as soon as possible afterwards.    

When a child is regularly under attack from their horrid parent, they will often be grateful that at least they have one parent who is kind to them.  But is this enough? It may be hard to criticise this kind parent, but if they don’t stick up for you, understand your plight and protect you, you are entitled to ask why not?

Sometimes young people in this situation feel intensely sorry for the gentle parent, particularly when the tables turn and the nasty parent shouts and behaves badly towards them.  The difference is that the parent is an adult and you are a child.   They may do nothing because they are scared, but that is their decision not yours.

If your love for your gentle parent is heavily mixed with feeling responsible for protecting them, they are probably failing in their parental duty towards you. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but it is important to be realistic and accept that although you love your kind parent they have let you down.

What do you think? Do add your thoughts on our forum.

Do You Feel Guilty?

It often happens that one parent is horrid while the other is not.  This can make your home life easier while you still live there.  But it’s very different once you leave for good,  particularly if you can no longer tolerate the horrid parent and cease all communication.

Cutting ties with your family is likely to make you feel guilty.   You may worry that if you are not present your horrid parent will harangue your gentle parent.   You also don’t know if your gentle parent will dare go behind their partner’s back to see you and keep up the relationship.   

You may miss your gentle parent horribly too and need their love more than ever.   This can make you feel more rejected and responsible for what you believe the good parent  now has to put up with day by day.  

Perhaps you feel you are between rock and a hard place.  This is why before you take a drastic step to cut one parent out of your life, you need to face the possibility that  your decision might affect both parents.  You also need to think through how to manage your guilt.  



Our advice is:

Work out exactly what you feel guilty about.  If its the thought of leaving the nice parent to the mercy of the horrid one remember that how your parents relate to each other is their business and responsibility.  Not yours.  You might never want a relationship like theirs but they might have come to terms with it for all sorts of reasons and even if they haven’t it’s their problem not yours. 

If you don’t think you can manage your guilt, think very carefully before you break away.  It’s easier to cool a relationship down and distance yourself from it, especially once you leave home, than break all connections with one parent.  There is little point to lead yourself into a worse frame of mind than the one you are already in.

If you do break away try to stay positive if your nice parent doesn’t see you immediately.  There may be lots of things for them to work through.  Ring them occasionally on their mobile not on the landline, and try to plan a way to get together.   

Try to talk to someone you know who has had the same problem.   See our resources page for a helpful website.   

If neither stay in touch, build your life as best you can and don’t blame yourself for what you have done.  

Do join the discussion on the forum.

Springtime Holidays

Holidays mean different things to different people but for those who have a difficult parent it can be filled with dark clouds rather than sunshine.  

For those of school age, especially if they are boarders, the thought of enduring long days at home with a horrid mum or dad is extremely stressful. Undergraduates worry too that they will find home-life even more uncomfortable and inhibiting than before they left.  And that they will be criticised for everything they do including spending too little or too much time at home.   

Offspring with partners and children of their own can be anxious too.  Visiting a difficult, unpredictable parent can feel like treading on eggshells and that at any moment you will be put down and crushed in front of your own family.

So how can these holidays be managed?


Your horrid parent may have got used to having their home to themselves and having their children back can make them feel annoyed, resentful and irritable. You will know from experience that the slightest thing can set them off and lead to a row or barrage of criticism and complaints. This may include putting excess pressure on you over your exams and try to monitor and control everything you do. 

So it’s worth taking steps to diffuse tension before it builds into a row.

Use the situation as an opportunity to be more responsible.  Clear up after yourself and particularly avoid leaving a mess in the kitchen or bathroom.  It might not stave off arguments, but it’s a good habit to get into.





Unfortunately some horrid mothers will see everything and anything you do as an excuse to find fault with you.  If the atmosphere gets you down, a good way to escape is to go to the local library and study for your exam.  Or meet up with a friend for some joint revision. 

It also might be worth trying to get some paid or voluntary work to help keep you out of the house.  You could seize the opportunity of the spring-like weather to take lots of exercise.  And catch up with friends outside the family home.

Do also look at our coping strategies on the website.

If you have come home at the end of your term at university or college try suggesting some new house rules.  It might help your horrid parent back off a bit if you work out a rota that includes you cooking the occasional family meal, washing up or taking the dog out for a walk.


If you are visiting your parents with your own family don’t let yourself get involved in an argument, as you won’t win.   Try to stay calm and objective and weigh up the needs of your family with those of your parents.  If things are not going well, cut the visit short.  You don’t have to justify yourself for leaving early.  Once you are a self-supporting adult with a home of your own you can just say you need to go.   

Overpowering Mum


My mother’s behaviour is outrageous.  I’m eighteen but she treats me as if I was a day-dreaming five-year-old and clueless about life.

Over the last six months several of my T-shirts have gone missing.  I bought them with some money I earned working weekends in the local ice cream shop.  When I eventually asked her if she’d seen them, not an easy thing to do, because I knew I would open myself up to a stream of criticism, she had the cheek to say she’d thrown them out as they didn’t suit me. 

I was furious.  What I wear is nothing to do with her if I buy it with my own money.  I stormed out of the house even though it was pouring with rain I ended up walking around the local shopping centre until I calmed down.

She got her own back as soon as I came back. 

I’d left my mobile behind in my rush to get away.  It had rung while I was out and she’d answered it.  Harry, my new boyfriend, had phoned to check all was okay for tonight and she told him I had already gone out and must have forgotten about seeing him and as I’d left my mobile at home there was no point in him calling again. 

THANK YOU MUM!  When I tried to call him his phone rang out without going to the answerphone. 

Mum’s behaviour is overpowering and crushing.  She  makes me feel I have no  value as a human being and I can’t choose for myself what I like and dislike.  I just don’t know how to deal with her.  It’s too humiliating to ask my friends as their mothers seem to respect them and see them as proper people with their own views.  My mother’s disapproval rating of me is sky high,  even though my nature is quite conventional.  I can’t wait to be financially independent and leave home.  Then, hopefully I will have the courage to ignore her.


In this situation we recommend you try your hardest to manage your anger and not react or retaliate.  It won't help. Also rushing out in a hurry means you are likely to forget something essential like your phone, keys or money. See our Coping page on the website for lots of ways to deal with angry feelings.

Once you are 18 you could start making plans to move out. This sort of intrusive and overbearing parent will not let up so you need to protect yourself as well as your possessions.


Competitive Dads

Is it possible to love and really not like your parent at the same time?

Sometimes I really don’t understand myself.  When visitors come my father is the life and soul of the party.  He tells brilliantly funny anecdotes about himself.  His laugh is so infectious that you just have to join in too.   He makes sure everyone’s glass is kept topped up and comes across as a really good bloke.

I love him when he’s like that and feel so proud.  But he has a much darker side I find hard to cope with.  He always has to win.  Even when I was small he didn’t give me a chance and his approach is the same whether we are playing a ball game, cards, or something like Monopoly.    

 When I do win despite trying not to he gets incredibly angry.  He’ll shout at me, tell me I am useless and that there is nothing about me he is proud of.   Nor does he give me a chance to justify myself.


Do join our forum to talk about the blog.

Siblings and a horrid parent

Unfortunately there is no escape from a horrid parent whether you are their only child or one of several.  The only thing that changes is how they demean you.  

A difficult parent can single out one child, within the family, belittle them and constantly find fault with whatever they do.  They may manipulate one or all the children to set them up against each other.  Or keep changing the child they pick on as the mood takes them.  This is particularly undermining as none of the children know where they stand and they may all feel vulnerable and insecure.   Or they might pick on all the siblings except for one ‘star’ child who in their eyes can do no wrong. Whatever the situation, it is unbearably unfair to see others favoured and it leads to intense feelings of rivalry and jealousy.

Just as no two families are the same, siblings react to each other in many different ways.  They can be tremendously supportive and soften the pain that a horrid parent can cause. A kind older sibling might be tender and caring for a younger sibling, read them stories and comfort them when they cry.


Or they can gang up and bully the sibling in question, making that sibling’s childhood even more unhappy. They might call that sibling unkind names, put them down by laughing at their efforts and sneering at their failures.

Followers of our website have revealed some shocking but true stories of how their parent behaved.  For example in one family three of the four children were sent to private schools while the fourth was not. The reason she was given was: ‘you’ll never amount to anything.’ 

Another parent let two of their daughters learn to drive when they were seventeen, but left out the third who was told ‘you are so stupid you will probably kill someone.’

These examples and countless more help reinforce the truth that it is not a child’s fault that he or she has a horrid parent.

If you are the one singled out for endless criticism, one way to cope is to try and share positive times with your siblings, but it only works if they are sympathetic towards you.  If instead they gang up against you, as hard as it is you need to drawfrom yourself the determination to build up your self-esteem and confidence.  Try talking, carefully at first, to a trusted adult. It may also help if you can develop an emotional distance from the family while also reminding yourself that what you are experiencing as a child will not last forever. 

See our What Makes a Horrid Parent and the Coping pages on the website for more suggestions.    


Do join our new Forum with your comments. 

Only Child and a Horrid Parent


1.  An only child holds all the hopes and dreams of a horrid parent and their one chance for vicarious fulfillment second time around.  There is no sibling to help relieve the pressure.  

The nasty parent might insist you follow a career they hankered for but never achieved,  regardless of whether you have the talent or interest to pursue it.   They might nag you to be slim when they themselves are overweight,  marry someone rich when they are financially struggling and anything else from doing well in exams to keeping the family name going.  Being permanently under the watchful penetrating eye of  horrid parent is very stressful. 



Try not to get involved in such arguments however annoying they are.   Instead  listen quietly, nod wisely or say something neutral like:  ‘Yes, I understand how you feel.  I’ll seriously think about it.’  It’s a way to mark time until you can leave home.

At the same time keep reassuring yourself that like your parent you have just one life, and you have the right to choosehow to live it. 

Once you are independent you can follow your own path.  This doesn’t mean the criticisms and insults will cease, just that the parent’s  power over you will diminish.    

2.  A single child can only share their thoughts about their difficult parent outside the immediate family. 

Keeping your feelings to yourself, either because of loyalty to the family or because it is difficult to trust anyone with such a sensitive subject, can make you feel lonely.  Look at our Coping page.   

A positive aspect is that you learn to rely on yourself from an earlier age than most, learn to make your own decisions work through problems.  Spending a lot of time at home on your own will also help you learn to entertain yourself. 

3.  An only child is likely to be responsible for their parents as they grow older,  make major decisions about their welfare and deal with the practicalities.  This  can be especially difficult as the nasty parent is ungrateful and rude.


Think about this demanding and tricky issue from time to time so you develop a general idea of how to cope and the responsibility involved.   Try not to abandon your parent when they become dependent as managing the situation in ahumane way helps you avoid a guilty conscience once they have died.  Doing the right thing also means you are less likely to pass on their bad behaviour to the next generation.   But there are limits.  Do what you feel is necessary, but don’t let your obligations intrude too much into your own life.  If looking out for them is a problem, it can help to think of them as a cantankerous old person you have chosen to visitrather than a parent.  The advantage of not having any siblings is that although you get to do all the work, you don’t have anyone arguing about your view. 

4.  If as a child you associated mainly with adults be prepared for it to  take practice to interact with your own age group.  It can also be difficult to relate to small children until you have your own.


Try to get involved with group activities, anything from sport, charity work, following a hobby.  It gives you something in common to talk about.  It is also a good learning space to watch how others interact and learn from that.  

5.   Your home environment is one where your horrid parent’s view is the only one possible on world issues, personal matters and behaviour.  


Outside your home you might need to learn how to negotiate disagreements without resorting to being unpleasant:  that there is more than one way to solve a problem and that other people’s viewpoints are as valid as your own.

Listen to what others have to say, then present your view calmly.  Don’t copy your horrid parent and verbally destroy the person you are talking to because you disagree with them.   

Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean your can’t have a relationship with them.  Don’t cut off friends automatically after an argument.  Every worthwhile relationship has its ups and down.  Write a list of the good things about any friendship before ending it.  Try to be a peacemaker outside of the home even if this isn’t possible with your parent. 

Learning how to argue with confidence while respecting another’s view ismore rewarding than  an uncontrolled, irrational outburst and far less draining.    


Do let us have your comments on our new Forum