5 Things Adult Children Wish Their Parents Understood
By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Growing up can be hard. While we are children, we don’t fully understand how our parents' actions, words, and behavior can affect us. As adults, the way our parents treat us can also deeply affect us. In retrospect, as adults, we can often think of many things we wish our parents would understand. While some of our parents may never try to understand, here are five things adult children wish their parents understood:
1. Your Standards Are Too High
One thing that adult children wish their parents understood is that their standards are too high. Growing up, my mother’s standards placed upon my sisters and me were unattainable. Maybe you experienced something similar as you were growing up. My mother’s standard was perfection and anything short of perfection was treated as a failure. As a child and a teen, I didn’t think her standards were unreasonable because it’s all I ever knew. Now, as an adult, I recognize that the standards my mother placed on my sisters and me were too high. Instead of being told that what we did wasn’t “good enough,” we needed to be supported and encouraged.
What our parents say to us does affect us deeply in many ways. If our parents constantly tell us we are not “good enough” or that we are a “failure,” how are we expected to grow? Sadly, some adult children can continue this behavior when their children become adults. Adult children need to be reminded that they are enough and that they are loved. If you are a parent and have recognized that you have set the standards for your children too high, take a step back and analyze how your words and actions have affected your child. Once you have noticed how your standards have impacted your child, refrain from setting impossible standards.
Nobody is perfect, and it is unreasonable to think anyone can be perfect. Adult children can notice their parents' standards are too high when their parents make comments such as “You should be finished with college by now,” “You should be married by now,” and “You should have children by now.” All of these standards and remarks only do damage. They do nothing to help. If you want to be supportive of your adult child, tell them how proud you are of their accomplishments, even if they don't necessarily meet the standards you had placed on them.
2. I Wish You Were Proud of Me
A second thing adult children wish their parents would understand is that they wish their parents were proud of them. Similar to the previous point, many adult children see or feel their parents have never been proud of them. From personal experience, I have never felt my parents were proud of me. I have always wanted them to be, yet they have never been. Since I wasn’t good at the things they wanted me to be, such as playing the piano, artwork, or conforming to others' social standards, they weren’t proud of me. As children and even as adult children, it is important to tell your children you are proud of them.
My mom passed away a long time ago, and I will never know if she was ever proud of me. She never told me she was proud of me, nor did I ever feel she was proud of me. Instead, I felt she was disappointed and ashamed of me. If you have felt the same way, you know how painful it can be and how much it can affect you as a person. Even as an adult now, I have never heard my surviving parent tell me he is proud of me. Does it affect me? Of course. I would be lying to say it doesn’t affect me. If you are a parent reading this, make sure you tell your adult children how proud you are of them.
3. You Have Hurt Me
A third thing adult children wish their parents understood is that their parents have hurt them. As children and even as adults, it can be extremely difficult to tell a parent that they have hurt you. Some parents will dismiss your pain and hurt, which will only add more pain and hurt to your heart. Many things that my mom and dad said to me have hurt me. Being called an “extra” child or “Judas Iscariot” by my mother when I was going through an intense time of anorexia has paralyzed me in many ways. I have had many people try to dismiss the pain I’ve experienced from what my mom has said, but I encourage everyone to never invalidate someone else’s feelings. It doesn’t help them but rather forces them to just “get over it.”
Adult children can still be hurt by many things of the past and parents can still hurt their adult children in the present. We need to only say things that will build each other up. We never need to tear down others with our words. Parents need to know better and use their words wisely. Everybody’s tongue has the power of life and death, yet it is up to us to choose what we will use our words for. If you are a parent, acknowledge that you have hurt your child and be supportive. While you may have never physically hurt your child, emotional and mental hurt can be just as traumatizing and damaging.
4. You Pushed Me Away When I Needed Help
A fourth thing adult children wish their parents understood is that parents can push children away when they need help. There again, drawing from my own experience, my mother mostly tended to push me away when I needed help. I have had depression since I was thirteen years old, and when I tried to go to my mother for help, she dismissed me. She told me I needed to get over my “pity party” and start being happy. I was labeled ungrateful and unthankful. If you suffer from depression, you have probably had the same remarks made to you. As you know, they are not helpful. Children and adult children need their parents not to push them away but rather to be there by their side in their struggle—even if the parent doesn't fully understand what their child is enduring.
Many parents continue to push their children away even in adulthood. It is vital that you don’t do this because you can permanently hurt your child and damage the relationship you have with them. Instead of pushing them away, draw them near and offer them help. Even as adults, we still need our parents' support, particularly through difficult times, such as mental illnesses, terminal illnesses, or the ending of relationships. We all need help at times and our parents must encourage and support us rather than push us away.
5. I Can Make My Own Decisions Now
A fifth thing adult children wish their parents understood is that we can make our own decisions now. Many parents try to control their adult children’s decisions, which can negatively affect their children. Instead of trying to make decisions for your adult child, let them make their own. Give them the freedom to make their own decisions and make their own path. While children appreciate their parents' advice, they also need the freedom to make their own decisions. When we become adults, we have more serious decisions to make, such as buying a home, choosing a career, and how we will serve the Lord.
Even though parents might think they know best, parents need to allow their children the freedom to make their own decisions. Some decisions might not be the best, yet some decisions can be learning experiences. As much as parents would like to always make sure their adult children make the right decision, it cannot be promised. Every person has free will and with that free will, they can make their own decision. If you are a parent, allow your adult children to make their own decisions and refrain from saying anything negative unless their decision is something that goes against the Word of God.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.