Wendy Fredricks, a psychotherapist at the Spadina Therapy Centre in Toronto, shares some tips on how to achieve a healthy, lasting adult relationship with your mom and dad.
1. Stay the adult
When you spend time with your parents, it's natural to feel your inner child wanting to come out to play; but in order to present yourself as the adult you are, you must keep that inner child in check.
"We all become the child again as soon as we walk through our parents' front door," says Fredricks. "A competent 35-year-old investment banker may suddenly become an irritable teenager who likes to be looked after, but resents being told what to do."
If this dynamic sounds familiar, you may need to rethink the way you act around your parents. If no effort is made to change the way you are perceived (as an adult, not a child) no change will ensue. "If one wants an adult relationship -- and this is true of any relationship, not just the relationship with your parents -- one must stay the adult," Fredricks explains.
2. Shed some light on your life
Being honest and straightforward about what's happening in your life may make it easier to connect with your parents as equals. "If you want to be seen as a fully functioning adult, sharing what is going on in your life will help. It will certainly reinforce that you are an individual who has a full life outside of their childhood and family," says Fredricks.
Page 1 of 2 -- Find advice on getting your parents to treat your decisions with respect on page 2
Without sharing some degree of personal information to help your parents understand that you have an independent life, including your own relationships, pursuits and career choices, your conversation is limited to what your parents already know about you: your childhood.
"If the only thing you discuss is your childhood and family, the likelihood you'll be seen as the child who grew up in that household rather than the adult who moved out is much greater," says Fredricks. Help your parents understand the you that exists today by painting that picture for them. You might find out you have more in common than you originally thought.
3. Deal with judgment the mature way
If you feel that your parents don't respect your choices, it can be even more difficult to achieve an adult relationship with them. "If you feel that your parents are judging your lifestyle, an adult-to-adult conversation is required; and if there is no satisfactory resolution, then firm boundaries are needed to protect what is precious," Fredricks advises.
"This may include making clear the topics that are not subjects of conversation, because they only cause conflict and pain." It is important to hang on to what is meaningful to you and to not change or compromise who you are just to make your parents happy. This can lead to resentment and a further rift in the relationship, Fredricks explains. Continue to respect your parents' choices as you would like them to respect yours. It's possible their judgments come from a place of insecurity, or a way of dealing with loss of control.
4. Know your limits
You may love your parents unconditionally, but spending time with them can sometimes be as taxing as it is enjoyable. Know your limits for family time and put yourself first. "It can mean limiting phone calls to a frequency that feels more comfortable, or making it clear that your home is only open to your parents upon invitation," says Fredricks.
If you feel like you need a break from your parents, being honest about it with yourself is part of achieving an adult relationship, she says. Don't feel guilty about setting boundaries -- they will only help you do what you need to do to ultimately achieve a balanced, healthy relationship with your parents.
Above all, be the mature adult you are and bear in mind how much you appreciate your parents, and you're sure to maintain a healthy adult relationship with them. After all, the good times you've spent with family are the ones that are best remembered.
Page 2 of 2