The parent-child relationship can be regarded as the most important relationship an individual can experience. Those who grow up with a secure and healthy attachment to their parents stand a better chance of developing happy and content relationships with others in their life. On the other hand, adult children who are constantly stressed by their parents can experience poor mental and physical health, including fatigue, decreased motivation, depression, irritability, as well as the inability to sustain healthy routines, choices, and relationships.
There are many reasons why adult children find their parents stressful. It could be emotional baggage carried over from childhood, a mental/generation gap in terms of thinking pattern and current trends, or because parents overstep boundaries and continue to treat their adult offspring as children by interfering with their decisions and life choices. And while it’s easy to put physical and emotional distance between ourselves and a peer that we find stressful, it’s harder for those raised in an Asian culture to have frank and difficult conversations with parents. “Our culture places importance on honoring parents, so telling them they are stressful is tantamount to being impolite, disrespectful, or ungrateful,” explains Rac General, a psychologist for MindNation and mother of two grown children.
“When you know your parents’ triggers, you can be more mindful of your words and actions that will potentially cause them stress”Rac General, MindNation psychologist
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to improve our relationship with our parents and minimize the stress. Here are some of them:
- Find out why your parents are the way they are.
Do some research into your extended family and what your parents were like in school — these helped shape them into who they are today and can help you understand why they think and act in certain ways. “Also involve yourself in your parents’ day to day activities, including their work or workplace, and even get to know their friends and team members. These will give you a better understanding of their context and mood,” Rac says.
- Understand the state of their physical and mental health.
Both affect emotions, behavior, and mood. “Also, when you know your parents’ triggers, you can be more mindful of your words and actions that will potentially cause them stress” advises Rac.
Finally, find out what their self-care routine or relaxation outlets are and join them so that you can bond.
- When talking to them, do it politely.
Conflicts often start and are fueled by our choice of words. When we’re angry with someone, we’re likely to tell them exactly what they’ve done to upset us and start arguments with “you” — “You did this!” or “You always/never ___!” More often than not, this leads to a defensive response, and once someone becomes defensive, they lose the ability to listen and understand other perspectives. Instead, try to frame the conversation in terms of how the issue impacts you by using “I” statements such as
- “I feel ___ when ____.”
- “I’m upset/hurt/nervous that ___.”
- “I don’t understand….”
- Ask for help from third parties.
If you really feel that you can no longer manage your relationship with your parents on your own, politely ask grandparents, trusted members of the extended family, or even your parents’ friends for advice or help. They will either offer you a new perspective that you can consider, or mediate on your behalf. However, never, ever suggest to a parent that they should seek the help of a mental health professional, even if you are certain that their stressful behavior is the result of a mental health concern. “It will be taken as an insult and they will get even more angry with you,” Rac points out. “Instead, politely ask a trusted relative or friend to be the one to relay your concerns.”
5. Seek professional help.
If your situation is worsening, and you are having trouble dealing with stressful relationships, it is advisable to seek help from professionals. Mental health professionals can help if you are struggling with anxiety and mental distress.
MindNation psychologists are available 24/7 for family therapy sessions or if you are struggling with anxiety and stressful relationships. They can help you get to the root of the relationship problem, improve your communication, assist you with setting/ enforcing boundaries, and help you find a solution that is beneficial for you. Book a session now at https://bit.ly/mn-chat