Part 5B of Parenting Your Adult Children and How to be the Ideal Child In-Law.
To the adult child and child-law, your parent wants to feel like they can still contribute. What they’re screaming unconsciously is ,‘I want to be part of your life. Help me to feel necessary.” Which is why, when you hear something such as, “the soup is too spicy,” or “it’s a bad investment,” you can simply say, “Thank you.” Moreover, ask for your parents’ or parent-in-laws’ advice or opinion on something, from time to time. By doing so, you demonstrate that you respect and trust–the two foundations of any healthy relationship. We’re wired by Hashem to feel good when we give and lousy when we take. And if you’re dependent, you’re always taking. So when a person is able to give advice, you help him move from a taker to a giver, and then you become the k’li – the receptacle for his giving. So children, ask for your parents’ advice, and opinion. Let them contribute to your life. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Solicit it. It really does go a long way to making them feel better about themselves, and them feel better about the relationship.
Hot Button # 6: Mixed emotions. What happens for the adult child that doesn’t feel that he was treated properly by his parents? He’s walking around with a whole lot of anger, resentment, and pain. Still, he has Torah obligations and a large part of him that wants to have a loving relationship with his parents. How does this work? How does the child reconcile his feelings when he feels that he was unjustly treated, perhaps even abused, for those many, many years.
If you embrace the following truism, it will transform the way you see yourself, your parents, and the relationship. A parent who is unable to give love to a child is not doing so because he’s withholding it consciously and purposely. A person who doesn’t respect himself cannot give respect. All he can do is control and take.
If we did not receive love from our parents as children, or felt that our lives were out of control due to trauma or domestic volatility, we may needlessly spend the rest of our lives craving love and acceptance. Everything we do is intended to bring us to that end.
The love that parents give children is determined by their own limitations, not those of the children. It never occurs to us as children that maybe it has nothing to do with us.
As adults, it can still be difficult to internalize the fact that our self-worth isn’t contingent upon our parents’ approval of us, but we can recreate this imprint. Once we do, our lives can be forever changed, and the damage that has disfigured us for decades can be undone.
If you see a person in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t get mad at that person because he can’t get out and walk. Somebody who is emotionally handicapped is equally challenged. Do you want to resent him for not being able to give to you something that he doesn’t have? You want to hold onto anger because he couldn’t love you – the way he desperately wanted to.
When an adult child recognizes that he doesn’t have to walk around feeling less about himself because of how he was treated, it helps to transform his entire reality, let alone the relationship.
But you can go one step further. When you continue to show respect, and honor, to your parents, irrespective of how they treated you, it changes you–and here’s why. When you treat your parent’s disrespectfully or even cruelly, based on how you perceive they treated you, you are now instantly dependent; and back in that same old dynamic, that same old relationship again; they’re pushing your buttons and you’re responding. You haven’t grown up, you’ve just gotten older.
But if you are able to show your parent the utmost respect, attention, and kindness –- regardless of how you were treated,you are now acting like an independent adult, having nothing to do with how your parent treated you. You are now emotionally free.
And for the parents’ that possibly, probably, didn’t do the best job in raising their children, it is never, ever, ever too late, while everyone is still on this planet. You always have the opportunity to tell your child how much you care about him, how much you love him, how much you respect him, and how proud you are of him. If you think it won’t make a difference because you’re 90 and he’s 70, you’re wrong. It matters, and it matters a lot.
To conclude our series, we see that simple changes in behavior – in our behavior, will go a long way, not only to improving the relationship, but our own emotional