Time to let your parents off the hook

Parenting experts often discuss the importance of “cutting the cord” with your children to ensure that they can be autonomous and learn from their mistakes.  What happens when it is the child who continues to hold on, even into adulthood? 

I often have to talk about parents in session with my clients because you’d be very surprised by how many adults still depend on the support of their parents.  ..and I’m not talking financial support – I’m talking about emotional support.  You’d be impressed by how many adults still seek the approval of their parents and have this “mom-and-dad-need-to-support-my-decision-because-I-will-not-move-forward-otherwise” state of mind. Of course, it does not take a psychologist to know that this internal dialogue likely comes from an old childhood and/or adolescent desire for parental approval but it might, finally, be time to let your parents off the hook!

An important concept I bring up with my clients is that as we get older, we start to realize that our parents are not perfect and have their own psychological sh*t, opinions, beliefs, and values.  In childhood and adolescence, we might falsely believe that our opinions, beliefs, and values have to match theirs but it is sooooooo liberating when we realize that we can be separate from our parents.  How amazing is it to know that we can hold opposite interests and opinions than our parents but still have a loving relationship with them?!

Unfortunately, some people do not draw this conclusion until much later in life.  Some of my clients have admitted that they have been “disappointed” and “angry” with their parents for not supporting their: new partner, or new job, or new house, for example.  Some of my clients rush to their parents for emotional support but when their parents disagree with their stance, my adult clients can get very upset.  But wait, aren’t our parents entitled to their opinions?  …and as long as they are respectful and compassionate, should we really get upset?  What must we do if we find ourselves at the mercy of our parents’ opinions? 

It’s time to finally cut the cord between ourselves and our parents that we have been holding onto!  It’s time to let go of our childhood or adolescent necessity to attain our parents’ approval.  Your parents have their shtick and you have yours and, in adulthood, it is liberating to allow for that!  It’s your parents’ prerogative to disagree with you and it is completely okay when they do not see things your way.  Even if you are sad or going through a rough time, your parents might not be able to help you!  You must accept that!  You must accept that with some issues, you might not be able to seek your parents’ counsel.  For example, if you want to change your cushy job with the government to start your own business that makes your heart sing, you cannot force your parents to be on board if they disagree with your decision.  If you need support, you need to find like-minded people; you must seek support from friends, extended family, mentors, teachers, consultants, whoever…just not your parents, in this case!  Can you accept this?  Well, you must. 

Moreover, you have to catch yourself if you find yourself blaming your parents for what happens to you.  I had one client who told me that her mother did not approve of her new partner.  She decided to break up with this person but said to her mother, “Just remember that you are hereby responsible for my unhappiness and distress.”  WHHHAAAAATTTTT?!  Just because you were vulnerable to your mother’s opinion does not make her responsible for your state and emotions. You are 100% responsible for the decisions you make and you cannot turn your parents into the perpetrators

In the end, a healthy adult relationship with our parents occurs when we respect our boundaries, opinions, and beliefs and then do the exact same thing for our parents.  Set them free…set yourself free.  Trust me, everyone will benefit.  

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.