𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗜𝗺𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀
“You will always be my child”. “As a mother I will always worry about you”. My mother still says these words to me and my sister sometimes, even though we are way beyond our forties and have our own families. The words still get to me, and depending on my stress levels, I react more or less emotionally (to say the least).
There is a time in many healthy families where a child grows into an adult and the relationship with their parents transforms into a more friendly, equitable, relaxed relationship. However, this doesn’t always happen and the parent-child dynamic continues into adulthood.
Consider the following to help you keep control of your emotional reactions in the short run and improve your relationship long term:
✅Figure out what is specifically troubling you about your relationship with your parents.
✅You may feel that your parents still give too much unwanted advice, do not respect your opinions, guilt you into spending time with them, or disrespect your friends or spouse. Be sure to have a good sense of the particular aspect that is bothering you.
✅Try to figure out your parents’ true motivation for their actions, but give them the benefit of the doubt (i.e., that their intentions are positive). If they give you unwanted advice, you may think that they still treat you like a child and limit your autonomy. Another way to look at it is that they love you, care for you and still want to protect you from any harm. The latter perspective may help you to feel less upset next time. It may also give you insight into how you should respond to your parents. In this case, you may try to expressly appreciate their ongoing support. It can hurt to feel taken for granted sometimes, even for parents. At the same time, explain to them that you are an adult and capable, and there is no need to worry.
✅Accept that your parents are different and you are not going to change them. Otherwise you set yourself up for disappointment. They grew up in a different generation with different social norms and rules of conduct, with different technologies and ways of thinking, with parents who treated them certain ways which was probably very different to the ways of parenting today.
✅Separate from your parents emotionally (to a comfortable level). You are not your parents, and your parents’ acts do not define who you are. It may help to think of them as other adults, and not your parents. Otherwise, you may unconsciously behave in a way that is child-like and promotes a relationship dynamic that you are trying to change. Also, focus less on seeking their approval and asking for their advice. Trust yourself in decision-making, and be willing to define yourself and your self-worth through your own eyes.
✅Talk to your parents about things that make you uncomfortable. Be open and honest. Talk about how certain actions or words make you feel (e.g. angry, sad, anxious, out of control). Talk about what you need (e.g. assurance, trust, autonomy). This will help to build trust in your relationship with your parents.
✅At the same time, ask your parents how they feel about your relationship with them. Ask them what they need. Listen respectfully with the intention to understand, but not to reply or refute.
✅Establish boundaries (e.g., not to interfere with the way you are choosing to parent your own children, not to comment negatively about your significant other) and make rules that both you and your parents agree to.
What has helped you to improve your relationship with your parents?