2014 – November – Growing Forward – How Should We Relate to our Parents

“How do I relate with my parents in the present when at the same time I am getting in touch with negative emotions toward them from the past?”

As we go through Phase 1, most of us find ourselves aware of things our parents have said and done, or failed to say and do, that have wounded us. As a result, hurt and anger toward them may come up because we were not allowed to express that anger in the past. This may make interactions with them more difficult for the time being. The following guidelines may help you during this time.

1. Validate all of the emotions you are experiencing, but do not look to your parents to validate them. If you do, you are probably setting yourself up for more hurt. Allow yourself to connect with the hurt, anger, shame, or violation that you may be feeling. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the root cause of these emotions, and give your God-given emotional processing equipment the freedom to process them. Remember, emotions are morally neutral. It is what you do with them that can cause you to sin. If you validate your emotions regarding how you have felt because of your past, you are giving yourself permission to process them so you can heal. Failing to process your emotions will only prolong any rift you may have with your parents.

2. Remember that your parents did the best they could. This is not to be used as an excuse to keep you from feeling and validating your emotions. Don’t fall into the trap of minimizing or denying your emotions by saying “My parents did the best they could” as a way of excusing yourself from feeling hurt and anger, or to avoid the fear of blaming and hurting your parents. You must allow your parents to be human, and therefore to make mistakes. This will make it easier for you to forgive them, and thus to be free.

3. Even if the hurt you are currently experiencing was originally caused by your parents, that pain is no longer being caused by your parents. You are doing it to yourself because we typically treat ourselves the way we were treated. Now YOU are the one who is not accepting yourself, abusing yourself, driving yourself to perform, refusing to allow yourself to make mistakes, neglecting yourself, or not giving yourself a voice.

4. It is your responsibility to be your own Adult Ally. Once you become your ally for past issues as well as current issues on a daily basis, you will no longer be looking to your parents to tell you that you are “OK.” When you give your parents the power to decide whether you are OK, you lose control of your own heart and are no longer “safe” to be yourself. You have been given Father God’s stamp of approval, and once you receive that for yourself, you need not look to any other person or thing for approval.

5. When you are around your parents, do you ever notice that you turn into a child? This is because you have not yet allied yourself to the point that you no longer need their approval. Children complain about what they don’t have; adults decide how things are going to be. When you can be an adult, regardless of what your parents say or do, you have cut the cord and are no longer a child in an adult body. Moreover, as you act like an adult, your parents will begin to treat you like one. If your parents are treating you like a child, then you are somehow allowing them to do so. If your parents are controlling you, then you are somehow allowing them to do this as well.

6. To have a healthy relationship with your parents, you have to “cut the cord.” When you were in your late teens, your parents should have cut the cord when they launched you from their home. If they didn’t, don’t wait for them to cut it—you have waited long enough. A way to help yourself cut the cord, for example, would be to write a goodbye letter to each of your parents. Say goodbye to old family patterns and behaviors, hurts and wounds, and any shame you may have carried for not meeting their expectations. Say goodbye as well to any controlling tactics they may have held over you. You must do this for yourself, but do not mail these letters! You will hurt for a time, but these steps are necessary for the well-being of both you and your parents. If the cord of a newborn is not cut, the baby will never be able to breathe on its own or have a life of its own as God intended. The physical cord may have been cut for you decades ago, but has the emotional cord been cut? If not, you will never be able to fully live as the person God created you to be, in and of yourself, joined as One with Him.

7. It is OK to give yourself space from your parents while you are going through this process. If your wounds concerning them are still raw, and you jump back into relationship with them too soon, it can split that wound open. If they question you about not spending as much time with them, you might need to say, “Mom and Dad, I am going through a time right now where I need more space to do some growing and maturing.” If they want to know more and you don’t feel free to tell them, you can say that you may be able to share more with them at a later time.

8. Remember, this is not about changing your parents. It is about you being able to love and accept yourself the way Father God does. As you allow His love to heal and fill you, this love will eventually overflow through you to your parents. This is where true FREEDOM is experienced.

 

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