Can You Have a Healthy Adult Friendship With Your Parents?

A parent-child relationship can be one of the most challenging and rewarding relationships out there. Many kids grow up seeing their parents as heroes, authority figures, and as they enter their teens, their wardens. But then a funny thing happens. They grow up, and maybe they become parents themselves. They start to see things differently. So does that mean you can then have a healthy adult relationship with them?

Parents and Children

As you grow older and mature into adulthood, your parents still see you as their child — because that’s who you are. This can make the relationship with your parents complex and layered, because you would like to be seen and treated as an adult. 

Even as an adult, certain dynamics of the parent-child relationship may still be at play, and this can cause friction. For example, your parents may still offer you advice or criticism, particularly when it comes to your career, lifestyle choices, or how you’re bringing up your own children. They still parent you, and this may cause feelings of resentment in you.

In order to achieve and maintain a healthy adult relationship with your parents, you need to set boundaries. If you appreciate their advice, tell them. You are an adult now, so listening and being receptive is important. It is also important to know yourself and what is best for you. If you don’t agree with their advice, you can have a conversation about it, and show them your side of the thought process. Or, you can tell them that you are following your own path and thank them for their advice. 

Flipping the Script

As both you and your parents grow older, a new and hard-to-manage layer will become a factor in your relationship: it’s your turn to care for them. When parents become elderly and their children start to take care of them, things can get complicated. They may resent hearing your opinions about their day-to-day care, and they may try to refuse your assistance when it comes to matters of their health, finances or living situation.

Be patient and gentle with your parents. Remind them that they took care of you, and now you want to return that favor by taking care of them. Do your best to guide them on the right path, but respect their boundaries, too.

Healthy Adults

Forge a new path with your parents and create a healthy adult relationship by sticking to some basic ground rules. Try to think of them as adults. Children of any age often hold their parents to a higher standard than anyone else. Remember that they’re allowed to make mistakes and they’re allowed to be wrong.

When you’re with your parents, try not to slip into any of your previous childhood roles. Talk to them like they’re friends, not like they’re your parents. And address any issues you have when they come up. If they do or say something that bothers you, tell them that. Talk to them the way you’d talk to any other close friend.

There will be times when you slip into those tried-and-true roles of parent and child that you forged as a child and a teenager. But if you keep working on it and keep reminding yourself that you and your parents are all adults, it is possible to enjoy a grown-up relationship with your parents.

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