Parents are the most important people in our lives. But how many of us have a great relationship with our parents? It’s very common that you argue and fight with your parents, but what is really hurting is that you might think your parents don’t love or care about you. The fact is they always want the best for you, but sometimes they just don’t know how to express it. In this article, we’ll discuss different ways on how to improve relationships with your parents.
The parent-child relationship can be incredibly complicated and incredibly layered. Since this is one of, if not the, longest relationship that two people can have, it is fair to assume there will be ebbs and flows. The desire for a healthy relationship often exists even in the absence of communication.
Developing positive relationships is ongoing, and it should not be assumed that you will just get to have one without having to put forth any energy into creating one. Even if you believe that you currently have a good relationship with your parents, the need to nurture it will always be present if you want to maintain it.
Proven Strategies on How to Improve Relationships With Your Parents
1. Own your part
It is critical that you understand and acknowledge that all relationships have two sides. This should be viewed in terms of what you can and cannot control as well as what you are and are not responsible for, in good times and in bad.
Especially as the years go on, and you become your own person, with a life that is independent from your parents, it is on you to embrace the changes that come with that. Distance can be a large factor in the dissolution of an adult relationship with your parents, and that does not just mean physical distance.
It is important to put in some effort towards the frequency of your interactions with your parents. The suggestion of quality time and the inclusion of your parents in your life is crucial even though they are no longer the ones in control of it.
2. Spending time
There is an old saying that goes ‘love is spelled t.i.m.e.’ and this is really something to think about. Many people find that in order to define a relationship as successful, it must include an element of time spent together. Once you are grown and out of the nest, it can feel too stressful or even impossible to break away from your daily routine to spend time with your parents, but you really need to if you want a positive, long-term relationship with them.
3. Forgive and ask for forgiveness
The job of parenting does not come with a manual, and many parents did the best they could with the resources they had. Even in the most dire and traumatic scenarios, sometimes they truly were doing their best, even if their best was not enough.
Often we do not realize our parents’ shortcomings until we reach an age where we are able to digest the fact that a parent’s love is not always enough to shape the future of their children in a healthy way.
If you have any resentments that are tied to your parents, extending them forgiveness can not only foster a positive relationship moving forward, but it can free you from the burden of having to hold on to that grudge.
Alternatively, if there were things that occurred in your past that you have been carrying with you for years that you feel warrant their forgiveness, seek it out. Sometimes situations are too raw to deal with forgiveness in the moment, but after time has passed, and trust has been rebuilt, asking for, and offering forgiveness can help you build a new, great relationship.
4. Have open communication
Most parents come with this unspoken element of authority that can sometimes be a roadblock for open dialogue with their children. And sometimes their own opinions can prevent them from being able to listen objectively to their own kid. Do your best to break this cycle.
Having open lines of communication is the foundation of all relationships, and if both sides know that this relationship is a safe space, then that works to eliminate emotional distance as a result of withholding certain elements of your personalities from one another.
5. Implement the five love languages
The five love languages are not reserved only for romantic partnerships. Take the time to learn what yours is, and encourage your parents to do the same. When you have a grasp on how you best receive love and how they best show it, you can both begin to understand the ‘why’ behind some of your respective choices.
The five love languages are:
- Acts of service: When someone performs a physical task in an effort to show love. Or when the receiver feels most loved when someone helps them with a task.
- Gifts: When the act of giving gifts is how you best show that you treasure a relationship. Or when the receiver feels most loved through tangible presents and random gifts.
- Words of affirmation: When someone provides words of encouragement that acknowledge your participation in the betterment of the relationship. Or when the receiver feels motivated to participate and nurture the relationship as a result of spoken support and encouragement.
- Physical touch: When the act of physical embrace, not necessarily exclusively physical intimacy, is how you best show love. Or when the receiver feels most loved when there is an element of physicality involved.
- Quality time: When someone prioritizes the relationship through time spent together. Or when the receiver measures love through the amount and quality of time spent together.
Your relationship with your parents is not automatic. So, if you are finding that you are struggling to know why they do the things they do or why you respond in the ways you respond, consider applying the five love languages to your point of view and seeing how that reshapes your mindset.
For example, perhaps you don’t spend much time with your parents, but you shower them with gifts. Even though you are financially very generous towards your parents, you wonder why your relationship with them is not better. You love to receive gifts, so wouldn’t everyone?
The answer may be because their love language isn’t gifts. Perhaps quality time is what they value most, and your relationship would be better with them if you simply spent more time with them.
6. Build boundaries
Boundaries often get a bad rap. Many believe that boundary setting implies that it is in response to one having been violated. However, this is not always the case and is not the exclusive reason a boundary may exist.
Boundaries simply allow you to let loved ones around you know how they should interact with you to maintain the best type of relationship.
For example, if you arrange with your parents to meet for a meal at 6:30 pm. However, they don’t show up at the restaurant until 7:15 pm and do not make any effort to let you know that they will be late. It is okay to address this and build a boundary around this. You can tell them that you would have appreciated them advising you that they were going to be late, and when they continually don’t show up on time for your catchups, it feels like they don’t value you or your time.
When your parents begin their journey with you, they are free to do what they please. This is almost never true as you develop your adult relationship. It is essential to be clear about what is and is not acceptable in terms of their involvement in your life. Being clear with your expectations is a great way to set the tone for a healthy relationship with your parents because everyone understands up front how you want this dynamic to look.
If you want a better relationship with your parents, you need to be compassionate. Same as when you were younger, they are likely just trying to stay close to you. Even when their attempts to do so are ill-fated, give them some grace.
Navigating the adult lifestyle choices of your children does not come with a road map, so even when their advice was not solicited, hear them out but remember that you are now an adult and can make your own life decisions. You can still listen and show respect without having to ultimately follow their suggestions.
Specifically, if your relationship with your parents is challenging at best, you need to have consistency with your boundaries. It might be hard or even painful to assert yourself in this way, but if you want your parents to take your boundaries seriously, you need to enforce them consistently.
Don’t feel guilty
It is okay to have boundaries, so try not to feel guilty if you do. If they are created to honor your own well-being or that of your parents, then even when it is uncomfortable, do not assign guilt to that discomfort.
7. Seek their guidance
A sure-fire way to grow the bond between you and your parents is to seek their guidance when it feels comfortable for you to do so. From the start, a parent has an innate desire to be needed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, parents are often the ones helping children cope with disaster, so they have come to be very familiar with this need.
So, more often than not, when their adult children come to them for advice, this can positively trigger that need. Some parents struggle to find their place in their kids’ day-to-day once they are all grown up. Inviting them in can also help define their role in your life and show them that you honor their status as your parent even though you do not necessarily need to be parented at this stage.
8. Find common interests
Think of your relationship with your parents as any other relationship that you have, and find some ties that bind you to them that have nothing to do with genetics. If they have a hobby, see if they would like you to take it up as well, so that you have something to do together. Conversely, if there is something that you are interested in, share it with your parents and suggest potential ways that they can be involved.
Asking your parents about their own lives is a great way to grow closer. If you reframe your relationship without the authoritative lens of parent and child and try to get to know them as a person, not just as mom or dad, your parents will be encouraged to view you as the same.
9. Approach conflict with respect
It is more important that you approach conflict with your parents and conflict resolution with respect, and tact, than it is that you attempt to avoid it. Life is short, and your parent will not be here forever. When there are struggles, remember your boundaries, honor your own mental health and safety, and try your best to act with love and empathy.
10. Know your limits
As the child of your parents, you might feel that you must settle for how things are, or how they always have been, but that is not true. If things happen inside your relationship with your parents that warrant a change, work together to achieve it, but know your limits. This can be both needed and difficult if you are the child of a parent who struggles with addiction. Breaking free from addiction is not instantaneous, and you should expect setbacks.
Sometimes you can offer all the support, love, trust, and advice on an ongoing basis, but the relationship cannot sustain the weight of their addiction. This is an extreme example, but it is worth mentioning because accepting the shortcomings of your parents and/or your childhood trauma can be life-changing. Understand your own limits and choose to seek help for the areas of your life that have potentially been affected by your parent’s unhealthy behavior.
We cannot pick our family, but we can pick how we include them in our lives. If the bond between yourself and your parents matters to you, then live in a way that supports that desire. Keep an open mind about how the relationship might look and choose to be flexible with it.
You’ve likely dreamed of how you and your parents would share your lives together during your adulthood. However, things don’t always pan out exactly how we wish they would. You can still have a great relationship with your parents even if there has been hurt or distance in the past/present. It may just take some time for you and them to learn how to build new boundaries as adults and how to be involved in each other’s lives in a healthy and compassionate way.
Choose to actively work on implementing the strategies shared in this article to begin improving your relationship with your parents today. Don’t rush the process, and remember that building a long-term, healthy relationship will sometimes take time.