How To Heal A Difficult Relationship With Your Parents

Written by Pettina Stanghon

A relationship with a parent is one of life’s most delicate bonds, the nature of which can have far reaching impacts on each of us. The dynamic of this pivotal relationship usually changes significantly as we become adults. This ideally involves parent and child moving towards a mature adult relationship, moving beyond that of caregiver and child.

Although for some, the parental tie brings up feelings of aggravation, tension and uncertainty, with time and energy many parents can become a source of great emotional nourishment and support.

Some people choose to live separate lives to one or both parents. Others, for good reasons, feel the best decision is to establish distance in their relationship. Yet for many, the parental relationship is a relationship worth investing in.

For those interested in building a more nourishing relationship with their parents, here are some ideas worth considering.

1. Work through resentment on your own first.

Rather than pushing negative feelings about your parents aside, examine them closely. Initially, it's best to do this work on your own or with a friend or therapist. Study any scenarios on your mind from your parent’s perspective. What was their intent? Did they have your interests at heart or theirs?

Sometimes this exercise is enough to shift, or at least process, feelings of resentment. If you want to speak with your parents, this will help you communicate in a neutral way with less emphasis on blame. It will also ensure your parents are more likely to respond in a receptive rather than defensive way.

2. Treat your parent with the respect you would give a good friend.

It can sadly be easy to take parents and their love and support for granted. Remember parents need and deserve our gratitude and care. Treat them with the respect and interest with which you would treat a dear friend!

3. Polish your boundary-setting skills.

Setting healthy boundaries can be key to avoiding unnecessary irritations and resentments. Whether this be establishing ground-rules about calling before visits, the regularity of visits or the decisions you make in raising your own children, it's entirely possible to set these parameters in a firm yet loving way.

4. Manage your own expectations.

It's important to keep your expectations realistic. It's not always possible to resolve an issue after the first conversation, so treat the process as a marathon and not a sprint. Come from a place of acceptance and make sure you are listening to your parent's point of view. This can also help to stress that you're interested in building a new dynamic to help you relate to each other on a different level.

5. Invest energy in new rituals.

The types of activities you engage in with your parents should evolve as you do. Why not begin a new ritual you can share that can serve as a positive bonding experience? The key word here is new – find a different way to connect that reflects your shared growth.

This will help add extra dimensions to your relationship that will make it richer and will give you a shared activity to look forward to.

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