Discover and Rediscover
6. Don’t ask your parents to help straighten out your latest personal or financial crisis. While you may depend on their emotional support, relying too much upon their resources, rather than your own, can lead to mutual resentment, says Dr. Tessina. So get used to solving your problems, big or small, on your own. You’ll be amazed how good doing it all by yourself can make you feel — and what a positive effect it can have on your relationship with your parents.
7. Create opportunities for exploring and uncovering memories. If your parents are older, look through old scrapbooks with them, asking them for stories about the people in the photos. “We help our parents discover the meaning in their lives by encouraging them to talk about their accomplishments, the high points in their lives, and the joys and sorrows they have experienced,” says Tom Swanson, Ph.D., director of support services education at VistaCare, a hospice care provider in Scottsdale, Arizona.
8. Help your parents preserve their memories on video, audiocassette, or in a scrapbook. The finished product will not only be a testament to a renewed closeness between you, but also provides a wonderful legacy.
9. Express your appreciation for all your parents have done for you. Yes, Mom may be a buttinsky, but she always makes your favorite Christmas cookies. Dad is a bit of a stuffed shirt, but just the other day, he came to your rescue when your car died at the mall. The point is, your parents still do things for you that deserve your notice — and gratitude.
10. Rediscover and share mutual interests. When you were a kid, did you and your dad share a passion for a particular football team? Did you and your mother spend time each summer canning tomatoes? Make these happy memories the foundation for new, shared activities.
11. Be honest about who you are and what you want. Maybe there are things about your growing up that your parents regret. But as long as you don’t regret it, they have to adjust. Be clear about who you want to be and help your parents accept you on your terms.
12. Look for common activities. Baking, shopping, hiking, skiing, carpentry, etc. At any age, sharing a common task or activity, and the stories it engenders, is a great way to build closeness.
13. Do not allow them to channel guilt at you. If your parents are the type to complain about you never calling, never visiting, forgetting an uncle’s birthday, not sending enough pictures, or whatever irks them that day, don’t take the bait and feel guilty — unless you honestly regret the oversight. In which case, apologize immediately and seek a way to make amends. Otherwise, let it roll off your back. You have no obligation to play parent-child guilt games. You are a mature, independent adult, and act on your own volition.
14. Grant them their independence too. Sometimes it’s the grown-up kid who doesn’t want to cut the nurturing relationship off. If you are past 25 and still find it necessary to talk to Mom every night, or immediately turn to your dad for a house repair rather than your spouse, or automatically assume your parents will baby-sit the children whenever you need to be out, then you may be the problem, not your folks. They deserve freedom too.