Our most challenging clients are people who are not motivated to change.
They are often dependent or stuck in emotional states concerning their
parents. While many such adult children medicate
themselves - we help them change themselves.
Between stimulus and response there is
a space. In that space is our power to choose
our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Do you have Parent Problems?
When you were a child, you likely viewed your parents as
special and wanted their love and attention. You
probably wanted to be like them when you grew up. As an adult you may perceive
your parents quite differently. Perhaps you have changed more than them. See Parent Coaching and
Do you still feel trapped and frustrated by
emotional blackmail, rejection,
manipulation, constant demands, guilt,
jealousy or criticism?
Do you want to manage such problems in mature ways?
Adults who obsess about their
parents may be unable to enjoy healthy lives!
Some people lie easily and often. They do not trust
each another ... they do not trust themselves. Truth is often
most valued by people who had little of it in their family. We help
people share feelings and discuss experiences with words and metaphors instead
of with stress, compulsions and psychosomatic symptoms.
It may help to remember that:
- Your difficult parents gave you life!
- How you respond
can help or hurt them!
- Your difficult parents may be quite like you!
- Your parents probably did the best that they could do!
- Difficult parents have issues that
you may not have recognized!
- Few parents intend to be difficult - they respond to their own
Maturity: Seeing Parents as Ordinary Human Beings
Parents may complain about their children as they
justify their own behavior. Very few say that they want to change
themselves. Even if they
agree that they create problems for their children - they may say,
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks", or
something equally dull.
Here are descriptions of parent behaviors
that you may consider difficult, and tips for surviving or tolerating
them. Many parents cannot imagine that change is possible or
desirable ... and they are likely fulfilling or repeating the training
or conditioning given to them by their own parents.
What Makes Parents Difficult?
1. Withdrawn parents may seem to have little to
contribute and wait passively. They may answer questions with "I
don't know", withhold information or refuse contact.
They may be in a real or imagined crisis, or they may have lost
sense of self (identity loss) in
some trauma, through drugs or in a
- Be patient!
- Avoid nagging them to tell you more.
- Ask open-ended questions that require more than
yes or no answers.
2. Aggressive or sarcastic parents may
try to force their viewpoint on you and may attack verbally. They
may feel angry because they feel helpless in situations
such as a hospital or an old folks home. Angry parents may be
responding to some perceived injustice,
be bonded to a parent, or have
identified with a victim.
- Avoid attacking them.
- Try not to blame them, nor to defend or justify yourself.
- Ask them to relax and explain calmly what they
want to say. (Listening peacefully can provide a calm space
for discussing priorities and goals.)
3. Know-it-all parents may consider themselves
experts and show little patience for your ideas. They may be expressing
their own entanglements or they may feel
superior (or inferior) to their children.
- Avoid feeling intimidated - just watch the show.
- If they must take over all talks - why not let
- Listen to them carefully and consider their points of view.
4. Victim parents may complain that they are being treated
unfairly. They may blame and justify ... endlessly. They may be
responding to past victimization
or they may accuse you of victimizing them.
- Avoid trying to parent them.
- Sympathy won't help - compassion may
- Ask them for specific suggestions to improve
5. Melancholic and “negative" parents may say
little good about you (or anybody else) and try to convince
you that you cannot help them or that their problems are your fault.
They may be
codependent or have
identified with a dead person.
- Avoid trying to reform them.
- Avoid blaming them for your emotional reactions!
- Invite them to suggest alternatives. (They may
withdraw if you ask them to be constructive.)
6. Passive-aggressive and “Yes-parents” may pretend to
agree with you to gain your approval ... and later tell people how
terrible you are. They may have suffered abuse or betrayal, or have
been damaged by a mentor.
- Ask them what they want ... plan some goals.
- Coach them to follow through on what they agree to do.
- Discourage them from agreeing to more commitments
than they can handle.
Responsibilities of Adult Children
If you try to parent your parents, or if you want them to take
responsibility for you as an adult, you are likely to create problems.
The responsibilities of adult children often include
accepting your parents' decisions, providing them with appropriate information,
discussing individual and family goals and some ways those goals
can be achieved.
You need not accept responsibility for your parents lives - that's their job!
If you do, and if your parents fail to achieve their goals, you may suffer guilt
and they may punish you! And if your parents only achieve their goals with your
help, they may become more dependent on you!
Help your parents set their own goals, solve their own blocks,
create strategies for accomplishing their goals and testing their
results, and identify areas where they need help. Ask your
parents to own their emotions, health and consequences.
You and your parents can intentionally develop mature adult relationships. Such relationships are one of the goals of our
work, based on dissolving emotional and relationship
issues. We help motivated adults to choose, define and achieve goals,
while they are responsible for remembering their goals, for taking
steps to attain them and for enjoying their success.
Do you want to respond to difficult parents in ways that make
Online Help for Adult Children
of Difficult Parents
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