1. Think about your childhood. Are there issues you need to discuss with your parents or things you’d like to be able to forgive?
Without realizing it, resentments, even ones that go as far back as childhood, are often at the root of difficulties in our relationships with family members. In an effort not to blame, or because we’re ashamed or believe we should just get over it, adult children often minimize the significance of what happened when they were kids. But if we all “just get over it” what difference would the quality of anyone’s childhood actually make? Why bother being a good parent if what happens to children when they’re young is no longer important once they’re grown? Childhood either matters or it doesn’t.
Exploring with your parents what went right and what went wrong creates the possibility for a more solid, mutually satisfying relationship. However, if parents aren’t available for this kind of in-depth conversation, then for your own piece of mind, it’s important to find a path to self-understanding, acceptance, and maybe even forgiveness.
2. Accept your parents for who they are rather than who you wish they could be.
Often times, adults end up extremely frustrated by their repeated attempts to get their parents to be different. “If only my mom/dad were more sensitive, more talkative, or more reasonable.” In other words, if they would change there could be a better relationship.
Unless parents realize their contributions to the problems between you, putting the onus on them to improve the relationship isn’t likely to work. The task of adult children is to figure out what can be worked through with a parent and what must be worked through on their own. Then try to accept your parents for who they are – warts and all.
3. Pay closer attention to what you like about your parents.
Focusing on what’s missing is a fairly common and compelling habit. And many adults have to work hard at seeing the glass as half full. No one’s parents are perfect. Moms and dads make mistakes. They say and do the wrong thing. They can, from time to time, be maddening. Long story short, parents are human too. So ask yourself: Is their heart in the right place? Are they funny? Generally good natured? Do they show you in their own way that they love you? As much as possible, breathe in their good qualities and enjoy them.
4. Talk to your parents about their life experiences and share yours with them.
Ultimately, people like to feel appreciated and understood by their loved ones. It helps them feel close. So talking about your parent’s life and telling them about yours can be a bond building experience. What was his/her childhood like? What do you remember about yours? How did your father meet your mother? What kind of teenagers were they? Talk together about your/their favorite memories and, if the mood is right, about the worst ones too. The more effort you put in to understanding one another the more comfortable the relationship can become.