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What Do You Really Want from Your Parents?


As an adult, what exactly are you looking for from your parents? I don’t ask this question idly, as not a day goes by without at least one client lamenting problems they’re having with Mom or Dad (or both). Occasionally clients know just what they want from them, but much of the time, they’re kind of vague. So, here are some possibilities. You want:

  • Attention: Mom and/or Dad never seem to want to spend quality time with you. She only calls you when she’s driving and he makes dinner plans with you but cancels about half the time because “something’s come up.”
  • Approval: You want them to value what you do and to support your efforts. Say, you’re an adventure-seeker and your widowed mom is a homebody who can’t fathom why you’re dying to see New Zealand. Or you dropped out of business school because you want to be a school teacher, and Dad can’t have a conversation with you without bringing up your “big mistake.”
  • Love: You don’t feel deeply loved by your parents and want to feel cherished and special, which you’ve never felt from them. You guess they love you, though they never say it, because they never abused you and you had a reasonably functional childhood. Still, you don’t feel deep warmth and caring from them which would make you certain of their love.
  • Agreement: You’re upset that a parent doesn’t see you as an individual with differing tastes, opinions, and proclivities than theirs. You’re not looking for approval but wish they’d acknowledge that it’s okay for you to have ideas that vary from theirs or from how you used to think as a child. You want them to see you as your own person.

Well, good luck with any of the above. Sure, you might make some headway if you speak frankly, in an adult manner to them about your desires. Then, again, it might get you nowhere. You live with that truth by knowing you don’t need their attention, love, approval, or agreement to function well and that your mature self (along with others you’ve chosen to have in your life) can take care of you just fine. 

Here are blogs on our relationship with parents. There are many more on my website: parents