I am blessed to have amazing parents. Me and my sister have enjoyed a childhood filled with long drives, discussions about all kinds of topics, visits to book stores, camping and picnics, cookouts, visits to adventure parks, dinner table games, movie and game nights and many such wonderful and wholesome experiences with our parents. We could talk to them about anything under the sun - well almost. We knew they were always there for us - no matter how pissed off they would get with us. Haha... we certainly did our share of things that really got them stirred up from time to time :-)
We have also had our share of ups and downs with our parents.
One time I walked out of the house in a fit of rage saying that I am going to find of place of my own place to live.
One time I stopped talking to them for almost a week (wait, or was it they who stopped talking to me).
Even now, when they put on a certain tone of voice, I know I get triggered. Even now, there are certain topics I know that manage to get us all wound up. There are some things that they say that makes me feel like getting up and walking away from the conversation.
We love our parents, but we also love to hate them. They are our favourite enemies, but the one thing that everyone wants is to do something to make their parents proud.
So, let me tell you 3 simple secrets about YOUR parents, that I'm confident will improve your relationship with them. If you already have a great relationship, you can take it deeper.
SECRET No 1 - Your parents just want you to be happy.
Haha. I know sometimes this can be tough to believe. You wish others could see their devilish horns and pointy tail. It almost seems that they enjoy making your life miserable!
But, let me tell you this, in my work with youth, I have met at least 1500 parents very closely. They have cribbed and complained, and also praised and pampered their kids endlessly. But every time I have asked them this one question, without fail I have received a common answer. The question is 'What do you really want for your children? What is really important to you that they should achieve in their life?'
The answer has ALWAYS been this - '1. We want them to be happy and 2. We want them to be independent and confident'
They may never tell you this directly. They may tell you to score in your exams, keep your things properly, wake up early in the morning, etc. But at the back of their mind, this is what they really want.
SECRET No 2 - They will trust you if you trust yourself.
They want to trust you. It's no fun for them to not be able to trust you. Whether it is about making a decision about college, going for a holiday with friends, making a purchase decision, or doing something which is different from the family tradition, they need to feel your trust in yourself in first.
But here is the catch - trust is not the same as speaking with confidence and passion. In fact the more passionately you speak about a decision you want their support in, the less the chances that they are going to trust you!
What does trust in yourself really mean, then? It means..
- You are willing to accept when you are wrong
- You seek different opinions and perspectives while taking a decision
- You are not assertive about your ideas, but not aggressive
- You are willing to make efforts to earn trust
- You have taken the time and effort to create results in other areas of your life
- You have demonstrated commitment in other responsibilities you have taken up
- You seek help when you are struggling, and don't just cover thing up in 'overconfidence'
Hmmm... that changes the way you think about trusting yourself, doesn't it?
It takes some time. But it's worth it.
SECRET No 3 - They need to be needed.
This one is very close to my heart. They was a time when we need our parents for every single act - eating, peeing, sitting.. everything. You wanted your parents to play with you, take you out, pick you up, and even make you have a bath. You needed them.
And then all of a sudden you don't need then anymore. Not just that you don't need them, there comes a time when you positively don't want them around. You don't want them in your room, you don't want them to meet your friends, and you definitely don't want them asking you questions about your career or relationships.
Imagine if a friend with whom you would speak like 27 times a day, and message 142 times, suddenly stopped responding to your messages and calls??
That gave you a fright, right?
That's what your parents have most likely gone through already.
Have some empathy. Understand that they are people too, and need love and attention just like you do.
So, here are 4 simple actions we could all take to mend / deepen our relationship with our parents.
- Don't try to draw conclusions from every conversation. Ask smart questions and make space for discussion. Just listen and try to understand where they are coming from. Listening does not mean agreeing. This is the fertile soil that any and every relationship needs to sprout and blossom.
- Show empathy and make an effort to understand what they are feeling without getting too triggered. Tell them what you think they a saying and feeling. Ask them to explain to you once again what they truly mean. Really make an effort to put yourself in their shoes and understand. Empathy open hearts like nothing else can.
- Don't shy away from initiating conversations because you don't have clarity and answers. You don't have to be all 'sorted' before having a conversation about your career, or college, or relationship with them. Tell them you are not sure, but you'd like to speak to them and have their thoughts too.
- Don't create unnecessary self-imposed conditions for yourself. I've heard people say "I don't want to spend my parents money anymore." "I don't know if they will understand my relationship with someone." "I don't want to burden them with decisions." Don't assume. Ask them.
Trust me, even the most complex discussions can happen smoothly. Keep the faith. Don't give up.
If there is something you're really struggling to talk about to your parents and this doesn't help, feel free to respond to this email and maybe we can think about simpler ways to make it happen :)
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