You’ve made it to adulthood. Congrats. You’ve survived the tumultuous days of self discovery and the worry filled nights of what drama awaits you in school tomorrow. Now you are in charge of your own life; Where you live, what you eat, which people you choose to spend your time with. You are an adult, but you’re still somebody’s child. Chances are, if your parents are still around, they want to know things about your life and offer guidance and support in the best way they know how. The transition between your “kid relationship” and “adult relationship” with your parents is not always a smooth one.
Here are some important ideas to keep in mind:
1. Create and maintain the boundaries that feel comfortable for you. This is probably the most important point. Now that you’re all grown up, you have a choice of when you want to see your parents, how often you want to talk to them, what information about your life you want to share. Empower yourself to say things like, ” I will share more information when I’m ready” and “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk right now.” If you didn’t have a choice about these things when you were growing up, chances are you are probably stuck in those same old patterns. Setting boundaries is a great way to create new relationship dynamics.
2. If you want respect, demonstrate it. You’re an adult now, so act like one! Your parents are still your parents so no matter what they say or do to drive you crazy, you are in control of your own behavior and the best way to earn respect is to model it with your own actions. Acting like an adult means maintaining a calm tone of voice, communicating your needs without vulgarity or yelling, and taking the other person’s feelings into account even if you disagree. Ultimately, these are the same things you will want from your parents so start setting the tone for these patterns to develop. It can take some time, so try your best to practice patience.
3. Understand your parents’ limitations and try to accept them for who they are. Most of us didn’t grow up with Carol and Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch as our parents, but lucky for us, we probably didn’t have Frank and Monica Gallagher from Shameless either. If you’re like most people, you probably had parents that fell somewhere in between those two extremes. You mostly had what you needed, but your parents likely made some mistakes that may still be impacting your life today. Maybe this is part of what is getting in the way of the relationship now. A good thing to keep in mind is how emotionally understanding and developed your parents are; Are they capable of complicated feelings such as empathy and remorse? Some people are just not capable and if your parents fall into those categories, it is in your best interest to try and accept them for who they are. You will feel better that your unrealistic expectations are gone and you will grow emotionally as well. After all, “holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” In the end, it will only hurt you.
4. Free yourself from living up to their expectations. So you’re not the doctor your parents wanted you to be, you’re not practicing the religion they devote their lives to, you didn’t fulfill their wishes of being grandparents or throwing a lavish wedding that they can invite all their friends to. It’s okay! Now start believing that. Feeling like you have disappointed your parents will keep you stuck in the patterns of either constant resentment or always trying to please them. Neither of those two areas are where you want to be. If you are satisfied with your life and what you have accomplished, share that happiness. Ultimately your parents want you to be happy and the more you accept yourself and exhibit that inner happiness to the outside world, the less of a disappointment you will be in their eyes. If you really feel this is an ongoing issue, confront your parents about it directly. Sometimes talking these feelings out can help your parents and yourself to understand the impact of their thoughts and feelings.
5. Be the parent for yourself that you didn’t have and take care of the parts of you that still need nurturing. If you want the job done right, you will need to do it yourself! What exactly does this mean you may wonder? It means takings the steps in your own life to develop yourself fully emotionally. This can be done either on your own with some soul searching through yoga, tapping into your passions, or with the help of a therapist. Therapy is a great method of identifying where you may be “stuck” developmentally and/or emotionally. You will be able to gain more empathy and love for your own faulted parts. The more you take care of your own emotional needs, the less you will rely on and likely be disappointed by others. As an adult, your well being is now YOUR responsibility.
As the ruler of your own world, you set the limits, you have the say, and you hold equal part of the responsibility of maintaining a healthy adult relationship with your parents. Having your parents in your life has the potential to feel like a blessing, so do your best to not make it a burden. The power is yours.
For more information on repairing relationships with loved ones, please visit my web site Alyson Cohen Therapy .