How to Love Your Parents as an Adult
(even if they Are Getting on Your Nerves)
ShoomKloom Editorial Staff
Why can she just not stop telling me what to do as if I am 6 years old (I am actually 47)?
Being back home at my parents place is the ultimate test.
No matter how much I prepare or tell myself that this time I will not be triggered and react – there she is again in full flavor: my mum
Again she is telling me: ‘You must eat your eggs without salt.’
Next thing I know is her shoving the newspaper right under my nose. My mum wants nothing more than me reading that article she found – even though she knows I never ever read the paper.
Mum is my mum. As she has always been – and always will be.
The problem is not my mum, my dad or your parents. They are how they are. They are set in their ways – just as we are.
Fact is that we are a different generation from our parents. As adults we may see and experience the world in a totally different light. Your parents may have grown up during times of war. We grew up with computers and smart phones.
Now, here is the question:
How is it possible to have a healthy relationship as an adult with your parents – even and especially when you are different?
This blog will show you:
With little personal anecdotes, scientific background information and questions you can ask yourself.
Plus – 5 practical steps for you to try out next time your are with your parents.
The Battle between Adult Children and Parent Generations – Beliefs, Behaviors and Material for Eternal Conflict
With our parents we have the longest history of all. We know each other since we were born. Some of us were smothered with so-called love (overbearing parents). Others may not have received the love they needed (abandonment issues).
Our parents may still be a couple (in love) or have been divorced (in hate) when we were still little kids. This has an effect on the relationship with our parents.
There are as many stories as there are parents and children and the ways of how we deal with them vary:
We might spend a lot of time with our parents and all is nice and friendly on the outside. Yet inside the conflict is bubbling. We get easily annoyed while we keep trying not to.
Others are carrying the aggression more up front. And some of us might even be estranged and have ceased all contact to their parents.
None of it is better.
But no matter what the story is, in dealing with our parents (or avoiding it), communicating via the phone or internet, visiting them for holidays or birthdays we all face the same issues.
We all want the same:
We want to love our parents. Yes, you are reading it right. We want to be able to love them.
We might think and deeply believe that all we need is to be loved by our parents. That our relationship would be better if they would just love us and accept us as we are.
This is where we are giving away our responsibility – for love and for being an adult. It is not about your parents loving you. It is about your love-ability.
You loving your parents and with that – loving yourself.
Want to check Out Your Tendencies?
We all have learned and internalized ways of how to deal with our parents. So before (or while) meeting them again you might use one of the following self talks:
Can you see it? I can.
Or what about these?
• They have no clue how the world works today
• Their ideas are so outdated
• They are such old hard liners
• They are just ignorant
• They want to make me do something I hate
• They think they know better although they have no idea
Scientific Facts about Adult Children and Parents Relationships
A study by the University of Texas found that parents experience a more positive relationship with their adult children if – in their view and evaluation – the children are on the right track in achieving adult milestones.
Obviously it is up to the judgment of the individual parent what the appropriate milestones are and what it means to be on target.
Parents seem to be more happy when children are achieving their parents dreams.
The thing is that parents often want one thing and children another. That by itself opens up so much room for tension and conflict.
At the same time they are bonded by blood love. And so they keep trying to find a common ground.
Compromising however leaves both parties not fully satisfied.
Possible areas of tension between parents and grown up children
Another co-study of the University of Michigan, Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University examined the various areas in which relationship tensions appear.
Relationship tensions include unsolicited advice, contact frequency, personality differences, child rearing, and past relationship problems. Individual tensions include job/education, finances, housekeeping, lifestyle, and health.
The researchers were surprised to find that „families with older adult children reported more intense relationship tensions.“ This result was the opposite of what had been expected.
We prepared some free eye opening questions for you. Answer them and see that loving your parents can be easy.
What Has It All Got to Do with Me?
When I was younger it was my goal to impress my parents. For me that meant trying to be the best in school and sports.
I thought my parents knew. I thought they had the key to life’s happiness in their hands. That, as long as I followed along their advice, I would make it.
When I finally realized that they had no clue what was right for me I was so disappointed. And all I could come up with at that age was to fight with them big time.
I didn’t speak to them for a year, blaming them (in therapy) for my life issues.
It is possible to have a healthy relationship with our parents.
Honest answers might reveal that we are living a very outdated version of a child parent relationship. Or, that we are still acting as if we are 6 years old.
You want to know the truth?
Here is your chance:
• What do I really want from my parents?
• Are they able to fulfill these needs?
• Is wanting to change them beneficial to anyone?
• What does it give me to continue the battle?
• Am I truly interested in their advice?
• Do we need to agree?
• Am I trying to convince them that my way is the right way?
• Do I genuinely want to have no tension?
• Am I so used to how it is that I want it to stay that way?
5 Steps to Learn to Love Your Parents
Step#1: Take love responsibility for both of you
When you realize that – no matter what else – your parents gave you the gift of life you might finally understand:
Without your parents you would not be able to experience this life’s miracle.
Being grateful to your parents makes all the difference. It softens, relaxes, humbles. In true appreciation tension and war have no space.
Step#2: Listen carefully and watch yourself
When you are listening to what your parent has to say to you, allow yourself to listen fully. At the same time watch your own thoughts.
Recognize the tendency of your thoughts to wonder off with their own story (in an immediate internal response). See how old thought patterns are arising as a reaction to your parents words.
Step#3: Let the old impulse pass without acting on it
When you see yourself wanting to react on an impulse (as you have done so often in the past) – don’t do it. Be gentle with yourself and your parents by not following the old trail.
It will be a surprise and opening for everybody. Your parents are used to you acting as you always have.
In one moment of you not doing so – a free space is opening up.
Step#4: Allow the surprise to arise fully
When you do not (re)act as you always have, there is a surprise moment. And in this surprise moment is space for new conversations, exchanges, a different approach to the same situation.
Here, fresh love has a chance.
It might feel a bit strange at first. Possibly a moment of silence.
Don’t be worried.
Something will happen soon enough. Give it the time it needs.
Step#5: Appreciate the new in your relationship
Old habits die hard. It is likely that – as this is one of the most intense relationships you have – you might fall back into acting the old way.
That is normal. You have done so for a very long time.
Make it a custom to appreciate each „new moment“. Congratulate yourself for not following the old pattern.
One moment is enough to begin with. And with each new one your capacity will grow.
Good luck! And let us know in the comments how it is working for you.
I am sitting with my mom in my parents house at dinner. She talks about this new miracle sponge.
I see the onset of my reaction. There is the unspoken thought:
‘What the f*uck are you talking about? Can you not see that this is so meaningless? Can you not be different and worry about the right things?’
It all boils down to me wanting her to be like me (or like I want her to be). And there is the urge to act on it.
This is my moment of choice.
I recognize my freedom to not follow my urge. To forego the battle. To not follow the impulse to change her and her views.
And instead to settle in this silence which arises when I stop fighting.
That is the key to my happiness.