Dealing with difficult parents.
You probably have heard this before: that there is no real manual for parenting.
The opposite is true as well: there is no manual for dealing with difficult parents.
And yet, at some point in life, as an adult child, you may come to a place where you have to make decisions on behalf of a difficult parent.
How do you navigate those waters?
Even though I don’t claim to know it all, in this post, I will share some tips on how to do just that.
Dealing with difficult parents
- When you’re dealing with a difficult person, they may not enjoy you telling them that they are wrong. In fact, I can say without a doubt that difficult people DO NOT like being told they are wrong. Instead of yelling “You are wrong!” and stomping out of the room, consider the following instead.
- Include them in the discussion when it is time to make a decision. Ask for their opinion throughout the conversation.
- Respect their opinion even though you may think it is wrong. Say something like “Dad/Mom, I am glad you brought that up” or “that is a very valid point”.
- Even if you cannot include all of their ideas in a decision that is being made, include elements of their ideas.
- If you have to make a decision that goes completely against what they have communicated, make sure the decision being made is in fact in their best interest. Break the news to them in a respectful but firm voice. They may argue at first, but when it is communicated the right way, you increase the chance that they will agree to it.
- Include someone they respect in the conversation. Your parent is bound to have someone they respect and listen to. Sometimes it might be a sibling of yours, a clergyman or an old friend. Where appropriate, include these people in the decisions leading up to the decision-making.
- Ask them what their fears are. Sometimes people are difficult because they are afraid of the unknown. If you can have an honest conversation with such people, they can open up and discuss what it causing them to be afraid. Once you uncover these fears, this is a good avenue to allay those via conversation.
Remember to take care of yourself as well
- Take care of yourself. In dealing with a difficult parent, it is important to take care of your own mental health. You cannot treat people with care and compassion if you’re not providing care and compassion to yourself. Talk to a mental health care provider, join support groups and get all the help you can get so you can better help people around you.
- Create boundaries. As much as you love your parents, it is important to create boundaries so that difficult parents don’t have a negative impact on you, your spouse and children. If a decision will cause too much tension in the family, it might be necessary to let the issue go but still create boundaries so that everyone involved is protected. Toxic family relationships have done more harm than good throughout history.
Have you had to deal with a difficult parent?
How did you cope?
What tools did you use to navigate these waters?
If you found this post helpful, share it with someone else who might be dealing with difficult parents.