The Relationship Between Children and their Parents

October 9, 2017

Unless you actively work on building a comprehensive relationship with your parents, you may find that you don’t know much about them at all.

This is especially common when we are younger. After all, it is normal for children and young adults to be somewhat self-centered. At that age, we are trying to process what it means to grow up and be an adult.

Sometimes I have to remind my young sons that I am not just their mom, but that I am a woman, a wife, and also a daughter. They look at me with an expression of “duh,” but I don’t think they fully grasp the weight of my role in life. I think that’s okay, at their age. They haven’t yet matured into a stage of curiosity about others because they are learning about themselves.

When we hit our mid-twenties, we should start looking at our parents in a different light. We need to start considering that they are more than merely our parents. By acknowledging this, you will gain the wisdom to see that they are their own person — truly independent of a maternal or paternal role. Then, you will likely want to connect to them in a deeper way: learning more about them and who they are, including their likes/dislikes and who they were as children. Of course, this relationship works best when the curiosity is mutual.

However, even if both parties are mutually interested in learning more about the other, you may find that it is difficult for your mother and/or father to openly share themselves. If you find this happening, it will be a process in which you need to move through with diligence and patience. Life is about journeying through these changes, despite the odds. Maneuver past this obstacle with grace by offering understanding to your parent(s). This will inspire contentment at the knowledge you do acquire, even if it not as much as you initially anticipated.

I once told my father that I felt like I didn’t know him. I remember feeling surprised by his response: “If you want to learn more about me, I need you to slow down, pause, and listen.” For those who know me, you know that my mind moves fast. I can also be pretty talkative. So I had to learn a new approach to learning about others, especially my parents: I learned to ask questions. More importantly, I trained myself to hold back. This gave my dad the time he needed to contemplate his answers and respond in a satisfactory way that he found comfortable. As a result, I learned more about who he is and what is important to him. It’s a lesson that I carry to this day in the way I continue to approach relationships.

Take some time to reflect on your relationship with your parents. What do you already know about them? What would you like to learn? In order to spark this conversation, what is needed from you or from them? Meditate on your answers before making a move. If you genuinely want to connect to the person inside your mother and/or the person inside your father, it will be worth spending some extra time to reflect.