Expect some anger ..
As survivors go through their healing, there is likely to come a point when they express some resentment, blame or outright anger towards you. They are trying to understand that the abuse was not their fault - an important part of the healing process. And in that process, they will look both at the abuser who committed the abuse, and at their parents who failed to prevent the abuse. They may even be angry with God. They need to go through this phase because it is a way of taking the burden of responsiblity for the abuse off their own undeserving shoulders.
It can be tempting to jump to your own defence and justify your actions of yesteryear. But perhaps it is simpler to accept that you were not perfect - no parent is - and express your regret that you were not able to do more back then, and apologise.
It's not always easy for a parent to ask a child's forgiveness, even when - or perhaps especially when - that child is now an adult. But with that one act of humility, you can restore to your child the belief that s/he is worthwhile, after all.
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A supportive parent can be one of the most powerful contributions to an adult survivor who's working to heal from his or her childhood abuse. Askios hopes the information and ideas presented here will help you to help your adult child.
Getting past the "what-ifs" ..
It's common for parents of survivors to feel overwhelmed with guilt when you find out the impact of your children's childhood experiences. Widespread awareness of the long-term effects of child abuse is only now coming to public attention. With little information and few resources, most parents ten, twenty or thirty years ago, had no idea how to handle such a situation.
Some of you were so relieved if your child was molested but not raped, that you failed to see the traumatic experience for what it was: abuse. And your children grew up believing their pain, and therefore their selves, were not important enough to you.
Some of you distanced the abuser from your child, and assumed this was enough. You thought your child would eventually forget and move on.
Some of you found it hard to believe your child, when s/he told you what was being done. Some of you took the side of the abuser, simply because he had strategically gained your trust: such a nice, helpful person could never do such a thing. Could they?
Some of you were ashamed. Scared of what the world would say. Worried about things like family honour. Future marriage proposals. Virginity.
Most of you had no clue that were millions of parents in the same situation as you, with the same pain, fear and worries. And none of you realised that your reactions back then, added to the trauma of your child.
To ignore, pretend, forget, or simply not recognise the child's experience, is to create a new abusive experience for him or her: the sense of betrayal and lack of protection from those who love and care for the child, often has more devastating effects than the abuse itself.
If you are here today, reading this, you are probably realising now, seeing the impact that childhood trauma still has on your adult child. And now is when the "what-ifs" can weigh you down with their hopelessness and regrets. So don't go down that pointless path. Because today we DO have the information and the resources, and you can be a valuable source of healing help to your adult son or daughter.