Adulthood can be an exciting time of growth, change, and learning. But it can present lots of challenges, too.
Sometimes talking to your parents seems more difficult than it used to be, and strained parent relationships make life harder at home.
If you have had a poor relationship with your parents, it will impact you in a number of ways as you grow and mature. The clearest effects are often seen in your mental health and in your relationships with others. You may feel fearful of closeness to others, or you may form relationships too quickly before you really get to know someone. You may experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as isolation, loneliness, or panic. Whatever it is you’re facing, remember that your difficult parent relationships are just one part of your life, and you can find freedom from the negative effects.
There are ways to ease the strain and negative effects to build stronger relationships with your parents.
Here are some of the ways I’ve seen relationships between parents and their adult children change for the better.
How to Change a Bad Parental Relationship
1. Remain Respectful
Stronger parent relationships are possible when you’re able to remain respectful in spite of disagreements. Dr. Kathleen Smith puts it this way on her blog post about parent relationships:
“While you don’t have to agree with any of these opinions, your parents will likely prove a lot more receptive to your choices if you treat these differences with respect. You can be honest about who you are and what’s important to you without being dismissive of their own beliefs.”
If listening to your parents speak about issues where you disagree feels impossible, there are likely lots of other things you can talk about that won’t cause as much friction. Try shifting the conversation to more comfortable topics while you find peace about your differences.
2. Remember: Nobody’s Perfect
It can be hard to confront our parents’ imperfections when we had very high expectations of them as children. But your parents make mistakes, experience failure, and have been shaped by painful experiences just like you have.
If you’re constantly disappointed by what your parents say and do, it may be time to adjust your expectations to something more realistic.
Try not to make assumptions or take things personally. Often people are frustrated and angry for a variety of reasons. Rather than assuming the worst about why your parents are upset, try asking them questions. You may find that you're wanting to better understand them puts them more at ease and decreases tension.
3. Look for Positives
Whenever possible, find the positives in your parents’ lives, their legacy, and their actions toward you. If you feel safe talking to your parents, let them know you love them and appreciate what they’ve been able to do for you. Hearing you’re loved makes a big difference for you, and I’m sure your parents would feel a great sense of relief and peace knowing you love them.
4. Keep the Faith
I know that parent relationships are different for everyone. Some are just frustrating, while others include a history of toxic or abusive behavior.
It may not always be possible to fully repair your relationship with your parents. But there can always be hope for a feeling of greater safety in the present and peace about your past.
We are here for you, and we’re hopeful your family relationships will continue to get stronger.
Are you having a hard time forgiving someone?