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How to Say Goodbye to Grievances about Your Parents


Usually, Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the time clients grow most anxious about dealing with their parents and freak out about seeing—or not seeing—them. This year, parental panic popped up right before and after Mother’s Day, perhaps because the COVID pandemic prevented in-the-flesh get togethers until then. 

So, wherever you are on the continuum of emotional separation from your parents, here are guidelines for growing yourself into having a mature, healthy relationship with them.

  1. Accept that your parents were or are anywhere from mildly to tragically flawed. Many of them suffered through rough to horrendous childhoods which left them ill equipped and unprepared to be wise, caring parents. They can’t give what they didn’t get.
  1. You deserved far better parents than you got, even if you had pretty good ones. You were an innocent child who was 100% dependent on people who may have had a hard time taking care of themselves, never mind a helpless infant and needy child. 
  1. You don’t have to like your parents or love them—or for that matter honor them as the bible says. You can feel any darn way about them you want. But because feelings are internal, you can’t act (which is external) any way you want to around them. So, separate how you feel from how you act. Even if they act like children, act mature.
  1. They may never recognize their poor parenting no matter how much you beg or badger them. You may deserve profuse apologies but it’s unlikely you’ll get them. Live with that, stop making yourself miserable, and quit asking them to take responsibility for whatever they did to you in childhood. Sure, explain your feelings about what went wrong and see if they say they’re sorry. If they don’t, drop the subject.
  1. Feel compassion for yourself for whatever you missed getting from them and for them for not having gotten it—or something else or many somethings else—from their parents. When you feel compassion for yourself and them, you’ll be less angry.
  1. Stop centering life around your parents. Who cares what they say and whether they understand you? If they’re abusive, hang up the phone, stop texting or emailing them, and don’t see them. So, they’re hurt. So what? You can live without them. That’s what adults do. Find people to meet your needs and make them the center of your life.
  1. Live in the present, not the past. Stop playing the victim. Whatever they did can’t be undone. Learn from your hurts about the person and parent you wish to be. Give up ruminating and shoulda woulda coulda. They couldn’t do better, but you can by finding happiness and whatever else you’re seeking now. 


If you can’t do it yourself, find a therapist to help you. That’s what I did.