How to handle verbally abusive grandparents

Written by rachel terry
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How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
Create a plan, before you face your verbally abusive grandparent. (Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Grandparents should be your biggest fans. People always expect grandparents to be loving, kind, and generous, so it's very difficult to deal with a verbally abusive grandparent. Perhaps your grandparent has always been verbally abusive, or maybe your grandparent has recently become critical and mean, as Alzheimer's has set in. Either way, it's very difficult to deal with a verbally abusive grandparent. You'll need the support of siblings, parents, or friends, and you'll need some tactics to diffuse tense situations.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Plan ahead of time to stay in control, if your grandparent resorts to verbal abuse. When you're alone and have time to think, make at least three plans to deal with the verbal abuse: One of your plans should suit the situation.

    How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
    Plan ahead for verbally abusive situations with your grandparents. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Repeat what your abusive grandparent has said. It's very difficult to think of something to say when you've just been insulted. Instead, repeat the hurtful comment. For example, if your grandmother says, "You're worthless and no good," repeat exactly what she just said: "You said I'm worthless and no good." Often times, the verbally abusive grandparent doesn't realise how awful they sound until their words are repeated back to them. At the very least, repeating their words will keep the conversation reflective instead of adversarial.

    How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
    Repeating the abusive person's words can diffuse the situation and cause reflection. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Completely ignore the hurtful comment and change the subject. If repeating the insult didn't turn the conversation away from the attack, don't respond to any more abuse. By ignoring the hurtful remark, you send the message that the remark was so unimportant that you didn't even process it.

    How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
    Ignore hurtful comments. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Recognise that verbal abuse from a grandparent could be a sign of Alzheimer's disease. If your grandparent was always kind and friendly toward you in the past and suddenly becomes angry and mean, he or she may be facing the altered reality so common to Alzheimer's patients. If you suspect that your grandparent has changed, speak to your mother or father about this, so the family can get help.

    How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
    Watch your verbally abusive grandparent for signs of Alzheimer's. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  5. 5

    Avoid telling your grandparent what to do. People tend to resent younger people who tell them what to do. Even though you may have your grandparent's best interest in mind, try to phrase your gentle reminders in ways that will preserve your grandparent's dignity.

    How to handle verbally abusive grandparents
    Help your verbally abusive grandparent to preserve her dignity. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Involve the rest of your family in dealing with a verbally abusive grandparent.
  • Look for support from siblings and parents.
  • Don't argue back or retaliate with hurtful phrases of your own.

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