Getting Along With Your Parents
Getting Along With Your Parents
Navigating a healthy adult relationship with your parents can sometimes be difficult. On one hand, they might still attempt to treat you like a child. On the other, you may begin assuming a more parental role as they age. Sometimes we want them to still nurture and care for us, and in other instances, we want to be treated as independent adults.
You and your parents are not the same people. They are unique and so are you. They might have different values, beliefs, interests, and priorities than you, and that’s natural. Healthy adult relationships can appreciate both the similarities and differences. However, this knowledge does not mean there won’t be challenges. Here are some examples of how we might encounter problems with our parents:
- Disagreements on how to parent and raise our own children
- Being financially dependent on our parents
- Differing core values and beliefs (political, cultural, spiritual, etc.)
- Arguments on their future medical care or living arrangements
- Resentment over childhood issues
- Continual complaining or criticism
Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Having a healthy adult relationship with your parents is possible and a worthwhile investment. The following are guidelines on how to begin accepting your parents and building a mutually beneficial relationship:
Don’t fix- It’s acceptable to set boundaries and tell your parents what you do and don’t tolerate in your home and with your children. Be mindful though that your parents are who they are. So think about what it would look like to accept them without trying to change them.
Don’t blame- Try being empathic with your parents. Be objective about who they are and their family history. Avoid blaming them for your problems, as this won’t benefit you or your relationship.
Respect their freedom- Making assumptions about your parents’ lives is never helpful. They might not want to babysit your children every time you go out or fix an appliance when it breaks. Take responsibility for your own life. Respect that they are adults too, and they value independence just like you do.
Practice honesty- Your parents can’t read your mind. Be honest about who you are, what you want, and what’s important to you. It’s unfair to expect them to know unless you tell them.
Don’t focus on approval- When you were a child your life may have centered on your parents’ approval. As an adult you need to decide what kind of person you want to be and what’s important to you, whether your parents agree or not. It’s natural to desire your parents’ approval, even as an adult, but this approval is no longer necessary for your life decisions.
Grow up- Asking your parents to do things you’re capable of doing isn’t mature. If you want to be treated like an adult, it’s important to act like one.
Don’t ask for advice- Unless you really need your parents’ insight, don’t ask for advice. Often we ask for counsel when we’ve already mentally made our decision. This opens the potential for conflict if they disagree with your pre-determined choice.
Practice forgiveness- Allow yourself to make mistakes. You might disappoint your parents, but making choices is part of adulthood. Forgive yourself and move forward.
Share activities- Spend time doing things you and your parents both enjoy. What activities are mutually beneficial and strengthen your relationship? When you can look forward to time together rather than dread the interaction, your relationship with them will improve.
Build a legacy- Consider helping your parents preserve their history and memories. You might learn things about yourself or gain a greater understanding of their background. Photos, videos, and written memoires capture a legacy to share with other family members and grandchildren.
All relationships experience conflict, and the parent/adult child interaction is no different. Even though it might seem easier to cut all ties, this isn’t wise. Though it might feel better in the short-term, shutting out your parents will not resolve emotional problems.
You should handle conflict with your parents like you would with any other adult that you respect. Good communication, as you would have with a friend or coworker, is vital. Problems are not necessarily character flaws, and they can be opportunities for growth and change.
The transition from the parent/child to the parent/adult child relationship doesn’t need to be stressful. The turbulent adolescent years are over, and it’s possible for your relationship with your parents to blossom even more. Though you are grown never assume your parents aren’t interested in the details of your life. Share your dreams and goals just as you would with another friend. Investing in a healthy adult relationship with your parents is beneficial and worthwhile; so take advantage of the opportunities while they are available.
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