How can I get my parents to change?
- First realize that you can’t. I remember in 1976, when my parents divorced. I spent the next 15 years trying to wrack my brain for the “why.”What a waste of time that was. For one thing, it left me feeling inadequate over and over again. For another, it wasn’t mine to fix. And finally, there is no why. More like how? But that’s for another time. Nowadays my female clients call it “over-thinking.” Choose any term you like, overthinking, ruminating or obsessing. It’s still entirely non-productive. The thing is, even if you’re a genius, there are no answers. People are complicated and inconsistent at best; tortured and profoundly insecure at worst. Of course, their divorce is not your fault. Whatever. But all you can do is know thyself, and then communicate accordingly. For example: “Mom, Dad, when you put me in the middle it pains me and makes my brain hurt.”
- They may have had traumas of their own. These might include adoption, abuse, addiction, dislocation, abandonment and more. These legitimate scars take patience and healing. So even though they act crazy some times, they are not being selfish; they are wounded themselves. What they have is not fixable in your therapy. They must find it within themselves to be better parents. They can go to therapy, too! Don’t become the identified patient. They send you to therapy even though they are the ones who need it most! Let’s not put the cart before the horse. The whole family system needs help. Being the “parentalized child,” as in “Drama of the Gifted Child,” means you may be robbed of your own childhood. Not fair!
- Own your part in the family struggle. You may be rude, surly, lazy, rebellious, obnoxious or just plain moody. Say you’re sorry sometimes. It won’t kill you. In most cases, these people are trying their best. You don’t have to disrupt every family vacation to prove your point. If you can help it, clean your room. News flash, the best way to get your parents off your back is to do what you’re supposed to do! LOL. I say this to teenagers all the time and they are incredulous. Try it. It works!
- Times are hard. Many of us can’t go all over the world or to fancy colleges anymore. Politics of the one-percent did away with all that. Your parents may work hard just to get by. Try to get a job such as dog-walking or baby-sitting. It’s good for you and it helps your family. Sitting on your phone all day doesn’t help anyone. It’s a time-suck. So get up, get out, go to work, see what it’s like to be in the world. It’s challenging but ultimately rewarding. Working hard is gratifying for its own sake. The earlier you learn this, the more successful you will be.
Some parents are so bad you can’t even deal with them. Going “no contact” is a topic for another time. For now, assuming there is no abuse involved, stay calm and carry on. Your parents may surprise you. Some people say they would have never gotten to know one of their parents if it wasn’t for the divorce. Forced to spend quality time, you may just learn something. Hang in there! — and do the dishes once in a while.