Many of my adult conversations plummet into a quasi-group therapy session of sharing stories about dealing with our parents.
Although, these conversations aren’t meant to be competitions about who has the most challenging parents, I have to say I win these conversations every time hands down.
Most of my adult journey has been about coming to terms with my relationship with my parents and figuring out how to live separately from their views and opinions.
If there is anything I have learned from these parent discussions is that I’m not alone.
But being a child to parents can be pretty tough at times, too.
My journey of dealing with my own challenging parents has been long and at times arduous. Along the way I have learned a thing or two—or should I say three—I would love to share them with you here.
#1. Let go of childhood expectations of what the relationship with your parents should look like.
A lot of our suffering with our parents comes from a childhood fantasy about what we want our relationship with our parents to look like.
Now that we are adults we sometimes feel like we have the power to make this childhood fantasy happen.
We can convince ourselves that through our own changes in attitude or communication that we will be able to manifest a whole new relationship with our parents. If this has worked for you, then more power to you.
In my experience of trying to communicate with my parents for the past 20 years, the changes I want in our relationship are different than reality. I have observed only the slightest amount of change manifest.
Although it might seem like I’m giving up, I prefer to see my new choice of not trying to change my relationship with my parents as acceptance and forgiveness. I’ve had the courage to just to see the relationship as it is and not what I want it to be.
Now I can interact with my parents from a place of reality, not fantasy.
#2. Soften into the tenderness.
There many things that happens when I’m interacting with my parents that I don’t enjoy. I cringe up and hide myself away, immediately retreating to my teenager shell of wishing everything would just go away.
But there are moments that are also full of love and tenderness. In the past I was so deep in that shell that I couldn’t even come out to see the nice moments.
I still go into my protective shell sometimes, when I feel like I’m being attacked, but when I see that there is love and caring I try to come out and soak up the light and soften into the tenderness.
#3 Accept our parents for who they are.
A few years ago, during the middle of some particularly hard feelings about dealing with my parents, I thought to myself, “What do I want from my parents, anyways?”
The answer that came was. “I want them to accept me for who I am.”
A fair enough answer I thought.
Then I had to ask myself a harder question. “Do I accept them for who they are?”
My parent’s job isn’t to change me and my job isn’t to change them.
I might not always agree with their choices or what they say but they don’t appreciate being judged any more than I do.
Some people believe we chose our parents before before birth so we can learn certain lessons during our time on earth. Chosen or not these are the people we have for parents and the more we struggle against them the more we are the ones who end up suffering.
Finding ways to let go, soften and accept helps us to loosen up the hard edges around dealing with our challenging parents—it may make the whole situation less challenging too.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock