Avoid contact with parents because you cannot forgive them? That’s when it can be important to make peace with your parents and reconcile.
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Bad relationship with parents
Many conflicts can arise between parents and children during adolescence, which later make it difficult for adult children to reconcile with their parents. How mother or father forgive and forgive? What is your relationship to your parents? Do you like to be with them or do you keep your distance? Have you completely broken off contact with your parents?
Many adult children have a disturbed relationship with their parents, perhaps because they had to put up with many psychological injuries in childhood, or because their parents still patronize them or put pressure on them through feelings of guilt.
On the other hand, parents are the most important caregivers in our lives and usually we owe a lot to them. Making peace with them and reconciling with them can be important not only for our relationship with them, but also for our salvation and coexistence with other people.
The process of detachment from parents
On the way from childhood to adulthood, we usually go through three phases. As a result, the relationship between parents and children also changes throughout life.
When we are little, parents are everything to us. They know everything, can do everything and we admire them immeasurably. We imitate them and defend them to others. With increasing maturity we take our parents then slowly from the pedestal. We discover that they don’t know everything, make mistakes, and sometimes fool us about.
In puberty, parents are finally the ultimate failures for us, our enemies who only want bad things for us. We can’t see an ounce of positivity in them and believe we know everything better.
As adults, when things are going ideally, we eventually get to the point of
- see our parents as they are.
- know both their strengths and weaknesses.
- Understand why they are like that and why they (have) behaved like that towards us.
- forgive them their mistakes and see them as people who, like all people, have their faults and weaknesses.
We arrive at an equal relationship, in which no one has to basically badmouth, condemn or patronize the other, in which no one needs the other for their physical and emotional survival.
Sometimes this is followed by IV. Phase, in which we take on the role of a parent with our parents when the parents z. B. needing care. The way up to III. Phase is sometimes very thorny and difficult. Some people persist all their life in the II. Phase. They blame their parents for having done everything wrong in upbringing and therefore their life is now messed up. Others remain in the I. Phase and do not manage to live according to their own ideas. They fulfill z. B. the career aspirations of their parents or live according to their values and guidelines.
Others persist in II. Phase. They blame their parents for doing everything wrong in upbringing and therefore their lives are now messed up. Especially if they have had one or more traumatic experiences in childhood, have been physically or emotionally abused or mistreated by their parents, some see no way to move toward their parents and accept them as they are. Who to III. phase must come to terms with his parents and make peace with them: he must
- check whether what he remembers from childhood was correctly perceived and evaluated by him.
- get to know the parents’ point of view at that time.
- Expressing feelings such as anger and disappointment.
- Review the parents’ rules and develop their own rules.
Communication between parents and children
Talking with parents is very important to understand the roots of many of our behaviors and emotional reactions. we have copied many behaviors and attitudes from our parents. Many behaviors and attitudes we have developed out of a protest attitude towards the parents.
Many things we did against our will for fear of rejection. We have done many things against our will out of fear of guilt and a guilty conscience. So both adaptation and rebellion can be a sign of bondage. It is only when we have III. Once we have reached the third phase, we can decide freely, develop a feeling of love, enjoy visiting them, or even lovingly care for them.
Why is it often hard to talk to parents?
When we want to talk to our parents, mistakes can happen from our side as well as from the parents’ side.
We can exhibit the following inappropriate behaviors:
- We attack our parents and want to belittle them.
- We expect an admission of guilt from our parents when we call them on their mistakes.
- we do not conduct our conversation as adults but slip into the role of a child. For example, we become defiant, begin to sulk or react with protest, or give in and make ourselves small.
- We expect our parents to behave completely differently than they did in the past. For example, we expect them to praise us, show love, and be proud of us. However, this is unrealistic, because for this they would have to change fundamentally.
According to the psychotherapist Bloomfield, there are always four people present in a conversation with a parent: 1. our idea of the parents of how they should be; 2. how the parents actually are; 3. our parents’ idea of how we should be; 4. how we actually are.
Our parents might exhibit inappropriate behavior:
- Our parents feel attacked, even though we don’t mean to attack them. The consequence is that they justify themselves, defend themselves, reproach us. Another possibility is that they exaggerate their guilt and tell themselves they have done everything wrong.
- Our parents insist on their point of view, do not listen to us, do not make an effort to understand our point of view and to understand us.
- Our parents refuse to talk to us for fear of reproach.
What happens if we don’t make peace with our parents?
If we do not forgive our parents
- we show similar behavioral patterns in our partnership as we do towards our parents. We are z.B. well-behaved and well-adjusted, but rebel inside; or we reject ourselves because we felt rejected by our parents; or we don’t trust ourselves because our parents thought we were failures; or we feel patronized, criticized, and at the mercy of others because we also experienced this from our parents; or we distrust others because we can’t trust our parents, or we snap and hit the partner because we were hit by our parents.
- Find partners attractive who are similar to your parents, or look for people who are completely different.
- possibly not enter into a partnership at all for fear of bad experiences.
- behave towards our children in the same way as the parents or try to do exactly the opposite.
- Not do what we want to do for fear of being rejected, or do just the opposite out of protest, even if it means harming ourselves.
- can’t accept ourselves because we don’t feel accepted by our parents.
- find it difficult to forgive ourselves for mistakes.
- find it difficult to deal with authority figures. question us or slide into an addiction.
- feel ashamed of our parents.
- Blame our parents for our messed up lives and painful feelings.
- Blame ourselves when they have died and it is too late for a reconciling conversation.
All of this does not necessarily have to happen, but the chances of it happening are great. Even if your parents have died, you can still make peace with them and forgive them. Inside you, your parents are still alive and still have an influence on your feelings and behavior.
Important to know:
- When we make peace with our parents, it does not mean that we approve of what they "did to us" and give them a free pass, so to speak.
- We make peace because of us, not because of the parents. We want to free ourselves from a heavy mental burden and not punish ourselves even today by only dwelling on our bad childhood and hating our parents.
- Making peace with the past does not necessarily mean forgiving our parents. It can also mean that we accept the past as it was for us and let it rest.
- It can mean that we no longer blame our parents, but accept that our parents did not behave like good parents and did not give us what would have been beneficial for us as children and necessary for healthy development. It may mean that we accept that our parents could not behave differently because of their own life history or their own mental problems.
- Making peace does not necessarily mean that we have to get back in touch and talk to our parents again. This process can take place all alone within ourselves.
- Making peace does not necessarily mean that we need an admission of guilt from our parents.
How to make peace with your parents, reconcile and forgive your parents?
Most of us did not have only positive experiences with our parents in childhood. It is in the nature of parenting that parents do not meet some of our childish needs and as a result we are disappointed. Some of our parents’ behaviors we cannot understand from our childhood point of view, or we can only understand them wrongly.
And so it is useful to look again at our accumulated experiences from the adult point of view and check whether we still value them in the same way as we did as a child. The following tips can give you ideas on how to reduce the anger, disappointment, and feelings of hurt that you feel toward your parents.
If you experienced severe emotional and/or physical injuries in childhood and they overshadow your entire life today, you may have come to the conclusion that you can never accept or forgive your parents’ behavior. Then it could already be a big step for you to accept that you had exactly these people, who are your producers, as parents – regardless of whether they were or are able to give you what you needed or require.
TIP 1: Take a closer look at the childhood of your parents.
In your parents’ childhood you will most likely find the answer to your question why your parents behaved so unlovingly, indifferently or hurtfully towards you. If your parents were not loved by their parents, they also found it difficult to give love. If you were raised by prohibitions, frequent criticism, withdrawal of love, or beatings, chances are they used these parenting strategies on you as well.
If your parents experienced emotional blackmail through guilt in their own childhood, they probably reacted very sensitively to you in terms of reproaches and great closeness. These connections cannot make up for the suffering that happened to you as a child. But this knowledge helps you to understand your parents’ behavior. Parents are "victims" themselves to your parents.
TIP 2: Consider your parents as people and not as parents.
Your parents were not born as parents, but as ordinary people. Your parents did not attend a school where they could learn how good parents behave. They probably did not see a psychotherapist to work through their own problems before they decided to see you. You may not have wanted a child at the time of your birth.
However, to be able to love and raise a child with patience and care, your parents should have had the personality, maturity and knowledge ready to do so. Even if they have harmed you with their behavior, they have not been able to behave differently than they did.
TIP 3: Write a letter to your parents.
If you feel great anger and bitterness toward your parents, it may do you good to express your thoughts and feelings in a letter. Write down all the reproaches from your soul – exactly in the words that come to your mind at the moment. List the most painful situations in which you felt left alone, treated unfairly, neglected, disregarded as a child. You can allow yourself several days for this.
If you have the impression that now everything is said, then close the letter with the sentence: "I am ready to accept that you have behaved in this way towards me in my childhood. That was all you could give me."Then burn this letter solemnly or tear it up and throw it in small pieces into a stream. Imagine how a heavy burden falls off you and you are now free inside.
TIP 4: Check the expectations you had of your parents as a child.
As children, we are all selfish people who expect our parents to love us unconditionally, to always be there for us, to give us our every wish, to treat us fairly, to rely on them, etc. Through experience, we then learn over time that
- Not all our wishes will be fulfilled.
- other people don’t always love us, even when we try to be especially kind.
- let other people down.
- other people sometimes treat us badly or unfairly for no reason.
- we are not always number 1 for others.
- Things happen to us in life that hurt and throw us off balance.
As children, we try to classify what happens to us with our still very limited understanding of the world. So we may no longer feel loved if our mother only cares about the newborn sibling. If our parents separate and our father moves out, we may interpret this to mean that our father is no longer interested in us.
Therefore, it makes sense if we consciously look at the accusations we make to our parents again from the adult’s point of view. Perhaps we will also be able to slip into the role of our parents and better understand their point of view. And perhaps we can also find reproaches to our parents that we can revise from the adult’s point of view.
TIP 5: Treat yourself the way you would have liked to be treated by your parents.
Your parents’ behaviors shaped your behavior in childhood and now in adulthood. Most likely, you still treat yourself the way you were treated by your parents in your childhood. So you may criticize yourself often and praise yourself little. Or you don’t take your needs seriously because you don’t think you deserve to be okay.
You may also be putting your own interests on the back burner as you struggle to win the love of others. Start taking care of your own well-being. Start giving yourself the love you always wanted from your father and mother. Then your resentment towards your parents will diminish and you will be able to forgive them more easily. Treat yourself exactly as you would treat a good friend.
TIP 6: Take responsibility for your life.
Your parents have had an influence on how you have developed, what experiences you have had, what attitudes and behavior patterns you have learned. Of course, your siblings, relatives, friends, parents, teachers, the priest, etc., have also been guilty of this. contributed their part to your development. But now as an adult, you still have the opportunity to change attitudes and behavioral habits. As long as you are capable of learning, you can always make new choices.
Your parents are not responsible for the problems you now have – at most, they laid the foundation for them. You are the one who keeps the attitudes from childhood alive now. Therefore, only you can be the one to change or let go of them.
TIP 7: Learn to accept yourself as you are.
Even if your parents should stick to the opinion that you are not okay and have failed, at least you should learn to accept yourself. Direct your attention to how you want to become. Ask yourself what you need to get there. Then become active to shape yourself and your life according to your ideas.
TIP 8: Get in touch with your family. Talk to your parents.
Check whether you feel inwardly ready to talk to your parents about your childhood. It is important that you do not go into the conversation with anger, thoughts of revenge or to make them feel guilty. For the conversation, a neutral place like a restaurant or a bench in the park might be helpful.
The goal is to learn more about your parents, your thoughts, feelings, desires and problems at the time of your childhood. You just want to understand better what made your parents behave the way they did and why a lot of things went wrong in your upbringing. Just listen to them.
Do not demand that your parents see their wrongdoing or ask for your forgiveness – although this may be your dearest wish. If your parents realize their mistakes and regret their behavior, then of course it is all the better and easier for you to forgive them. Do not expect your parents to change or to realize that they have done wrong. These have lived their lives the way they thought was right.