Child to parent abuse: ‘My daughter made threats to kill me’

Child to parent abuse explained
One mum shares her experience of parenting an abusive and violent child.
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Around 10% of families experience child to parent abuse (CPA), including physical violence, threats, coercion, stealing and damage to property.
 
Here, the mum of a young teenager explains how CPA affected the whole family, and their struggle to find support.

‘She regularly verbally abused us’

My child was 13 when she started to be abusive towards me, her father and her siblings. It started off with her pushing boundaries, but it soon escalated into physical violence, emotional abuse, controlling behaviour, intimidation and threats, including threats to kill me.
 
She had no diagnosis of additional needs, although she had experienced childhood trauma.
 
As things escalated, we started to avoid being alone with our child, and we stopped leaving her in a room together with her siblings. Money and other items were stolen, and she regularly verbally abused us and called us some of the most horrific names.

‘I had to give up my job’

We stopped going out as a family, and didn’t dare have anyone over as our child’s behaviours weren’t just displayed in front of us, but in front of other people, too. I had to give up my job, and was threatened with fines as she stopped going to school.
 
We asked, talked, and begged our daughter to stop, but in the end we found ourselves not parenting her fully or trying to get her to change her behaviour: it was the only way we could avoid incidents and keep ourselves safe.
 
Hiding in my room and barricading the door from my child to stop her potentially killing me sounds far-fetched, like something that you would see on TV, but this was not a drama, soap or film: it was my life.
 
We had to make risk assessments daily and made numerous safety plans. At one point, my partner and other children had to leave our home due to the risk she was posing them.

‘Nobody seemed to know what to do’

Realising my daughter’s behaviour was abusive and asking for help was not easy, but even though she had made threats and researched how to kill me, we were given no support. We were told that because we as parents were not a risk to our children, there were no safeguarding concerns. No one looked at the risk to the rest of the family from my daughter.
 
Even at crisis point, nobody seemed to know what to do, but everyone was quick to point the finger at me and say that I shouldn’t be fearful of my own child, and all I needed to do was parent properly.
 
If my partner had been treating me like that, I would have been believed and supported, but instead, I was blamed, shamed and judged by the people who should have helped.
 
The incidents didn’t stop; rather, they escalated to the point that I made the heartbreaking decision to ask that the local authority to accommodate my daughter. It was something I’d never wanted or expected to have to do, and I would have given anything to have had a different choice.

‘Knowing I’m not alone makes a huge difference’

To any parent out there who’s in a similar situation, I would say to reach out to those around you. Make a safety plan, and if you feel comfortable, talk to a neighbour who could raise the alarm for help if need be, or who could look after any other children in an emergency.
 
If it’s safe to do so, keep a log of your child’s behaviour so that you can show any professionals who you approach. It may also help you identify a pattern or any triggers.
 
Be prepared to talk your child’s school or other education setting, their GP, who may be able to make a referral to CAMHS, and even the neighbourhood policing team: not to criminalise your child, but to see what support they can offer.
 
Look at what’s on offer locally and nationally, and see what services are available for others in your family. PEGS – a not-for-profit organisation that supports families with CPA, including through one-to-one support, counselling and drop-in groups – has been such a help for me; just knowing that I’m not alone, not judged and that others understand has made a huge difference.
 
Remember, CPA is not your fault, and it’s not okay for your child to behave like this.

Support with child to parent abuse

  • PEGS: a not-for-profit organisation which offers one-to-one support, counselling, drop-in groups and support programmes depending on your family’s needs
  • Family Lives: a confidential and free helpline service
  • Refuge: an organisation supporting women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse
  • Who’s in Charge: a nine-week programme for parents experiencing CPA
  • Samaritans: a 24-hour listening helpline service
  • Childline: help and advice for children and young people under the age of 19
  • YoungMinds: mental health support for young people, with a parents’ helpline
  • YoungSibs: online support for young people who have a disabled brother or sister
With thanks to PEGS for supplying this case study.