Forgiving Our Parents
There are no perfect parents.
For many of us, there are things that our parents have done that we could never imagine doing to any child, let alone our own. This can include abuse and neglect, addiction issues, being emotionally unavailable to our children, abandonment, being ignored, being emotionally unavailable....the list goes on.
The simmering rage and resentment that comes with this can be overwhelming, yet in some cases, we cannot or do not want to cut our parents out of our lives. So how do we deal with this? The process of forgiving our parents is similar to forgiving others, except that it cuts to the very core of who we are.
The other wrench is that our parents, who are used to being in a position of power in our lives, are often unable or not willing to fully take responsibility for what they may have done. For them, it may hurt them too much to even admit how much they have hurt us, so they push it down, ignore it, blame others, downplay it, or even blame their children. Their lack of accountability of the past often leads to even more anger and resentment.
So what can we do?
An important step is to thoroughly explain to our parents how these feelings are affecting our lives and our relationships. Chances are, their unresolved "stuff" from their own childhood is the exact reason they have done what they have to us, and it is important that we stop this cycle so we do not do the same to ourselves and in our relationships.
Chances are, we may not be able to have this conversation with them. We may not be able to afford to bring this up. And what if what they've done is unforgivable? They may not be available, or it may hurt too much to hear. Even if they are willing to hear us, they may never "get" it the way we need them too, and we may never get an apology. The important thing is to get this resentment off of your chest, even if it means writing a letter you can't send. If you're lucky, you may even get some insight into who they are and what led them to make poor decisions for you.
Working with a counselor can also help your process these feelings, and help you figure out the right way to move on. Carrying such deep resentment will undoubtedly affect every relationship in your life, and burden you with anger, resentment, and stress. You deserve relief.
Leana Sykes is a Relationship Counselor and the owner of Leana Sykes Relationship Counseling in Oaklyn, NJ. In-person and online appointments available.
Hey, my mother said it to me, and I probably deserved it. Teenagers can be the most insufferable creatures on the planet. They can be mean, disrespectful, ungrateful and downright cruel. This is often the point in where you seriously doubt your parenting skills, and may even wonder if either one of your will make it out of adolescence alive.
I've been working with teenagers for 16 years and guess what? This is normal. In fact, you were probably a pain in the butt too. If you think about it, it's a tough time and a time that very few people want to relive. They're frustrated, don't feel heard, feel crappy about their weird, changing, smelly bodies all while trying to be cool....it's rough. But just in case you were the perfect child or just want a better understanding of what's going on, keep reading:
What is Actually Happening and Why
Your teenager is trying to figure out who he or she really is, independent of who you've told them they are. They're starting to realize that their parents aren't the only important person in their lives. They crave the independence of adulthood, yet still crave the attachment and security of being under your wing. It's a developmental "crisis" of individuality and autonomy.
You're not going to believe this, but they truly want a relationship with you, they want to know that you're looking out for them They actually crave the structure and monitoring in their home because they are slowly yet surely realizing that the world can be a cold and cruel place. Unfortunately, it can be torture watching them fight against this.
How do we make it out of this alive
Be there, always be there. No matter how much they resist and ignore you. Keep checking-in. Keep. sending them mushy texts. Keep asking about grades. Keep going to concerts, games, plays, etc....believe me, they notice that you're there and, they notice when you're not. Even when they act like they don't care, trust me, they do.
Let them go off and explore, but don't completely let them go. Make sure they know that you will be there when they need you, and when they do, just listen and don't say "I told you so".
Adolescence is loooong (13-19, some say until 22), but there's a reward in the end....grandchildren. Don't give up on your relationship with your child, the story isn't over yet. If you've made it out adolescence alive, hopefully, your relationship will be so close that you can watch your children get their just desserts.
*Working titles included "How not to kill your teenager", and "I can't stand my teenage daughter", and "My teenager is possessed by the devil"...I think I made the right choice.
Leana Sykes is a Relationship Counselor and the owner of Leana Sykes Relationship Counseling in Oaklyn, NJ.