Top Tips for Relating to Parents

Realting to Parents - Home setting

Put the casual grumpiness of adolescence behind you and always treat your parents with courtesy and respect.

When you go back to your parents' house, remember that it is no longer your home, and don't treat it as such. This means tidying up, helping with the washing up and other chores, asking permission to use the washing machine, switch on the television, help yourself to food from the fridge, etc.

Don't treat the parental home as somewhere to go for a bout of pampering. While many parents would be happy to look after you during a period of genuine convalescence, just being completely exhausted because of an over-active social life and demanding job isn't a good enough reason to expect them to be at your beck and call.

Turn the tables and show some interest in your parents. Ask them questions about their past, their friendships, jobs, holidays etc. Try and see them as people with their own stories to tell, not just part of the background furniture.

Wherever possible, involve your parents in your life. Tell them about your friends, and from time to time incorporate your parents into your social life. Send them photos or emails, or communicate with them via Facebook. Even if you live a long way away, don't make them feel that you've disappeared from view.

Keep in touch. Establish a regular pattern of emails, phone calls, meetings etc. and keep to it. There's no rule about how often you should be in contact with your parents, but - whatever the pattern - you should stick to it.

From time to time your parents may disapprove of your choices - of partner, job, house, pet, children's names etc. etc.  Disapproval, especially if is vocally expressed, can be very hard to tolerate.

Try not to fly off the handle and instead accept that your parents have a unique relationship with you, which may make them feel entitled to articulate their feelings. Keep calm and consider their objections rationally. It's very likely that you won't agree, in which case you should state firmly that this is your own choice, and you feel strongly that decisions about running your own life are nobody else's business.

Admit your own mistakes. This is very difficult to do, but remember you have a lifetime with your parents, and it's good to clear the air from time to time. Owning up to your errors will also pre-empt any tendency to indulge in 'I told you so…' gloating.

Your parents are vulnerable too. As you grow older the tables may turn, and you might find yourself in the situation where you're looking after them, and they can no longer look after you.

Adjust your image of your parents as they get older - don't persist in seeing them as the invulnerable titans of childhood. Accept that age will bring frailty and uncertainty, and recognise the changes that maturity will bring.

Compliment your parents. They have showered love and affection on you (if you're lucky), but they need to hear good things about themselves, especially as they get older. So give them some positive feedback.

Compliments on more trivial things, such as their appearance, garden or cooking, will make them feel like 'real' people in your eyes. More profound gratitude - for sacrifices made, money spent, support given - will make it all seem worthwhile.

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