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Dysfunctional Muslim Parents: What Shall I Do?

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A

Reply Date

Mar 27, 2017

Question

Both of my parents are Muslims, but they are dysfunctional and my dad needs therapy. My dad used to commit zina then converted to Islam. He lied to my mom. He said he owned a multi-millionaire business with his brother. My mom believed him and married him, but turned out it was a lie. 90 percent of the time, they fight. My dad doesn't take responsibility and he has the maturity of a child. My mom spits, hits and insults me, my dad, and my sister because she thinks she is motivating us by this behavior. She is from Lebanon, and thinks that if she insults us she is motivating us and she spends most of her time arguing with my dad and staying at home even though she has a BS degree. I believe that the best way to deal with my dad is counselling or trying a different approach, but my mom just insults me when I try to bring up ways for us to be a better family. She is not enjoying life. Neither is my dad. How do I help my parents enjoy life and be happier? How do I convince my mom to go to college again? Maybe she will be more energetic since she is meeting new people and learning something new.

Counselor

Answer


Dysfunctional Muslim Parents: What Shall I Do?

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum dear sister,

Thank you for placing your trust in us and in our ability to propose a solution to your current solution.

It is very saddening to hear of the current situation you are in. However, your sincere interest and initiative to seek help for the betterment of your parents at such a young age is commendable. It shows that you as a daughter are very responsible and sensible. It also shows the immense love you have for your parents.

In your situation, I don’t think that what you say regarding professional help or lifestyle changes will make any difference to either of your parents. Their behavior towards you clearly indicates that they do not value or respect your opinion. Although they do want the best for you, their habits and attitude regarding child rearing is severely skewed. They need guidance.

Primarily, I believe your mother’s opinion about visiting a counselor is a result of the culture she was raised in. Whereas most of those living in the West consider getting help to restore life and relationships quality as a benefit and a logical step in the right direction, people in Eastern countries generally view visiting a counselor, a psychologist, or even a therapist a taboo. They perceive it very differently than those living in the West.

Therefore, the first thing you must do is to seek guidance from Allah (swt). He is the ultimate controller of hearts. Make excessive du’aa’ after each prayer, especially during sunset and at Tahajjud. These are the times at which du’aa’s are promised by Allah (swt) to be accepted.

Next, you and your sister must work together as a team to handle your parents. You will need to be insensitive to any insults, disrespect, and hard times your parents may give you. You will need to be calm, patient, sincere, and very forgiving, but most importantly, happy and accepting. Your parents can very well learn from your example.

In order to get them to reevaluate their lifestyle, what you can do is perhaps speak to a relative or a friend of your mother or father. Sometimes, if someone they respect, trust, and frequently converse with make a suggestion, they are likely to follow through.

You can start off by approaching someone who you think would be a good fit for this job. Someone who is not likely to spread rumors or judge. Someone who is knowledgeable about the religion and sincerely wants to help. You can consider asking them to encourage your parents to attend religious gatherings, invite them over for dinners, or visit them on a regular basis. If you can’t get your parents to visit others, you can try to get others to visit them. Although they are not seeing a professional counselor, they are nonetheless getting beneficial advice. This is can be considered an alternative and a different approach to receiving counseling. It is possible that they may gradually improve or decide to seek professional help.

Sometimes, dear sister, dysfunctionality results from a lack of a social network. Social isolation is dangerous. It leads to depression, lack of motivation, mental health issues, physical health issues and eventually dysfunctionality. It impacts the entire family and threatens positive growth.

Next, you can also help them psychologically. Perhaps, to motivate your mother, why don’t you praise her studies, her knowledge, and her qualification? You can even talk to her about your day to day life, your struggles, or share funny stories with her. You can also do the same for your father to motivate him. Speak to him about his potential. List the set of skills he owns, his past successes, etc. Try doing an activity with him.

The third thing you can do in addition is whenever you and your sister are insulted, you can turn those insults into motivating factors for your mother. For instance, if your mother says, “You are not capable of achieving x.” Respond by saying, “Perhaps you can help us. Perhaps you have what it takes to get us where you want us to be.” Likewise, it has a new meaning to her insults.

You will need to realize that effective communication can bring out the best in people. You need to learn how to converse with them such that their thoughts and their views on life change. Eventually, their outlook will change. Remember, patience and composure is key when handling anyone. Your parents’ behavior will definitely not change overnight. The least it will take is a few weeks or months.

Furthermore, you and your sister can workout, watch motivational videos or religious videos in the most accessible part of the house. Perhaps in the living room, where you parents can see what you are doing. This can potentially have a positive effect on your parents, and it can potentially be an indirect invitation for them to join.

Most importantly, you and your sister should take care of your own health and studies along the way. Do not sacrifice your physical health or mental health while trying to help your parents get back on track.

In order to relieve yourself of the pressure, please workout at least a few times per week and eat healthy. You and your sister must make sure to destress by doing fun activities together. After their life is back on track, your parents will need healthy and successful daughters to spend the rest of their lives with, in sha’ Allah.

This will be very hard for you as such a young girl; however, where there is a will there is a way. Since your intentions are sincere, Allah (swt) is surely with you and will certainly ease your affairs.

I sincerely pray that Allah (swt) eases all your troubles, improves your parent’s behavior, and grants you a worry free life soon, in sha’ Allah.

Salam,

***

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About Madiha Sadaf

Madiha Sadaf in an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa, enrolled in BSc. with Major in Biology and Psychology with Minor in Health Social Sciences.

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