How to Improve a Toxic Relationship with Your Parents for the Sake of Your Kids

By Bea Potter

Many adults struggle with their connection to their parents. They often feel unappreciated and invaluable, like people who are not worthwhile. Their parents also may cross over their boundaries. There are many different dynamics at play. Parents may treat their children as just a means to an end to what they want from money to grandkids or someone to complain to. Parents may treat their children as small children, taking over their lives or undermining them in front of others. They may also tell you things you don’t want to know, ask inappropriate questions, deny your reality in the sense of dismissing what they remember happened for their own benefit and peace of mind. They may also compare them to other people or infringe upon their children’s boundaries or even sometimes disapprove of their children’s life choices.

These are common toxic behaviours which may be seen as hurtful and counterproductive to the foundations of the parent-child dynamic.

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While there is no way to control your parents or fix what happened in the past, you can reframe the current relationship.

Set a goal

Many people say that all they want is to get along with their parents but they may realize that they actually want them to apologize for their behavior and validate what they are feeling. They may also want their parents to behave as they always wanted them to and provide more of what they need. Some people want to fix the relationship for the sake of their own children and some may want to connect with their parents because they are old or sick. However, the important thing is to understand your goals and to own them.

You could decide to meet up every Thursday for a board game night, for example, or maybe go out for dinner with your parents once a week. Whatever you choose, try to pick a goal that will certainly begin to positively impact your parents’ and your relationship.

Decide if it’s possible

Ask people around you if they think you can achieve your goal. Their answer may provide some insight and help you determine if you will be able to do what you want. You can also ask yourself if you think that anyone ever achieved your or their goal with your parents. Was anyone able to fix things with their parents? Do they seem to respect anyone in their family? Alternatively, you can tell your parents about your goal and see how they respond to it. Express what you want to your parents and this may give you the quickest insight into what will happen with your goal.

Modify your goal

If you find out that your goal isn’t attainable, you should do your best to modify it so you can keep your relationship with your parents. One of the worst things you can do is keep your unattainable goals and stay in that relationship. This can prove to be dysfunctional in the grander scheme of things and the future of the relationship. So, if for any reasons you want to possibly end the relationship with your parents, be aware that this is a big step and it may affect you. View the situation with well-roundedness, objectivity and dialogue. List all of the pros and cons of being in a relationship and of not actively participating in that relationship. Talk to other people about this and see what they think.

If you think you can, modify your goal and set the expectations lower – for instance, get through visits without tension, or give your children a memorably nice time with their grandparents.

Set some boundaries

Make boundaries both emotional and physical. For example, depending on your schedules, you might find it more beneficial that visits from your parents to you or vice versa won’t involve any sleepovers, that you will have phone calls certain times a week, that you may need a notice before they visit, or that your kids don’t necessarily have to hug them or kiss them if they don’t want to. You might find by communicating to them that jokes about weight and any rude nicknames are unkind, and that comparisons can be unjust and unhelpful. Furthermore, it is important to establish that quality time of grandparents and grandchildren helps foster stronger bonds. In the sense of healthy dynamics, there should always be openness and mutual respect for autonomy.

These boundaries are just some examples and you can always assess them and go back to them. View them rationally and make sure that you are consistent with what you want. If your parents don’t respond well to that, you can have a rational conversation. For instance, if they happen to negatively focus on characteristics that unfairly undermine your child’s personality and well-being, politely discuss why this is hurtful and that it is not acceptable.

Make sure your new goal is guiding you

If you want your parents to spend more time with your children, for instance, you need to allow for that. They have their own needs, just like you and your children have yours. The best way to attain a relationship with a solid balance is to find a way that satisfies everyone’s social needs within a healthy and balanced behavior.

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You should consult with your parents about their weekly routines and other plans before fully putting a goal into action, but also inform them of your typical routine as well. You may also like to ask them if they have any goals in particular regarding their relationship with you, as well. This way, if you asked your parents to collect your children from school one day, for example, you would likely already have prior knowledge of your parent’s daily itinerary, and you would already know which days would suit them. Likewise, your parents are less likely to bother you at a bad time of the week if they are aware of which times suit you, for a phone call or an errand.

Grieve

Whether you have ended your relationship with your parents or changed your goals, you will need some time to grieve that loss and process the change.

You can work with a skilled therapist and talk to the people in your environment. If you don’t like therapy, you can try journaling, talk to your friends, do art therapy or anything else that you feel can help you heal. This takes time.

Alternatively, simply focus on your own new family, whether you have a partner and children or if you have some really good friends. Realize that you are also your own person and that you can break all dysfunctional cycles and bring a different way of living to your life. Reevaluate the situation and then reinvent yourself as a new person. Concentrate on your achievements and be kind to yourself.

About the Author

Beatrix Potter is a successful psychology writer and editor at Write My Paper and Research Paper Writing Service. She writes about relationships and discusses parent-child problems. Also, Beatrix blogs at Assignment Help.

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