In the last blog, we explored the concept of the inner child and ways to acknowledge, embrace, and nurture it as an adult, minimizing the chances it will recklessly show up and hijack your current relationships. As I mentioned before, in order to be healthy, functioning, mature adults, it’s critical that we’re first emotionally healthy “children” – especially in our relationships with our parents. Sometimes, though, our childlike, pleasing tendencies pose challenges.

Recently, I’ve noticed a recurring theme floating across my office threshold: clients wanting to improve their relationships with their parent(s), but don’t know where or how to start. People frequently express how frustrated and disappointed they are with their parents, constantly yearning for their approval and validation as children and as adults. More than likely, these types of adult children did things in the past to please their parents, yet their needs – somehow, some way – weren’t met. In certain cases, this (along with supportive therapy) could eventually result in the adult child discontinuing their parental-pleasing behaviors…which can create tension between the two.

When it’s appropriate and beneficial for a client, I’ll bring the parent into the session with the client so both have a safe space to say what they need to say in order to move forward. On occasion, I’ve found, the parent is the way they are (and usually has been for a long time), leading them to struggle with seeing what they’re doing and how it affects their adult child. Sometimes they just don’t get it.

It’s no secret that we can’t control the actions and behaviors of others; we only have control of our own. This shift in thinking arises during the transformation of becoming a healthy adult child. The point is to not change the parent or their behaviors. Rather, it’s about you – the adult child – accepting your parent(s) for who they are today. By changing how we react and interact with our parents, we’re able to see them in a different, perhaps more empathic, light.

TAKE-AWAY: If you’re struggling to mend fences with a parent, first identify what your inner child needs then allow the adult you to provide it. This way, your inner child feels protected and supported, allowing you to leave the past behind so you can work on the present and future. With a mindset of love and acceptance – both for yourself and others – you’ll be better equipped to work on improving the relationship with your parent(s), which may simply involve a less reactionary or pleasing response on your part.