Are the parents really interested in it?

Cologne -

He never accepted it. The art course? In his eyes a waste of time. Why didn't the son take over the doctor's office, which was running well? Even when he was successful, opening the first major exhibition, his father remained unimpressed. He doesn't even react to the invitation to the vernissage. The opening is well attended, but the son's eyes are only looking for him: the father. Vain.

Adult children can suffer from relationships with their parents for a lifetime. For example, because they don't accept their children's path in life and many conversations end in reproaches: The father complains because the son makes no move to become an internist, and the mother taunts because the daughter is traveling around the world and does not intend to settle down to become.

Children need unconditional recognition - even when they are adults

"Such conflicts between adult children and their parents are quite common," says Dr. Bjorn Enno Hermans. The systemic child, adolescent and family therapist regularly advises adults with such experiences in his practice in Essen. "Those who have received little confirmation from their parents in their childhood will often have to struggle with low self-confidence and great insecurity as adults," says the chairman of the "German Society for Systemic Therapy, Counseling and Family Therapy" (DGSF).

"What children, regardless of whether they are already grown up or not, need from their parents is unconditional recognition and love - regardless of their life decisions."

It doesn't matter whether the children decide to live as artists or globetrotters and their parents have imagined something different for them.

If you want to approach the problem fundamentally, you may have to consider family counseling, says Hermans. But will the parents who do not accept the path of their children be ready for it at all? Hermans knows examples where it has worked, but that's not always the case.

"Our childish hope is that the fairy tale will end well after all"

The psychotherapist Wanja Kunstleben, who is based in Freiburg, is also confronted with such conflicts within the family in his practice: "We often try for a long time to get from our parents what we may have missed in childhood," analyzes the psychologist. For example, the recognition from the father or the acceptance of the own way of life by the mother.

“Our childish hope is that the fairy tale will end well after all. But in reality, unfortunately, some family conflicts can never be completely resolved, ”explains Kunstleben, whose focus is trauma therapy. Children would then have to learn to accept this knowledge and make their peace with it.

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How can one distance oneself from one's parents without banishing them from life?

But how can you distance yourself from your parents without banning them completely from your life?

Before you withdraw from your parents as a child, it is often important to look for a basic pronunciation again and to confront the parents directly with your own wishes, according to the psychotherapist from Freiburg. “Sometimes you have to shake a door again to be sure that it won't open.” If you don't get the desired reaction again, children should think carefully about the conditions under which they can imagine further contact.

“Maybe there are topics that you want to exclude in order to set yourself apart,” says the qualified psychologist. “Other areas in which the relationship works better, on the other hand, can be deliberately deepened.” It often helps if you simply reduce the contact to a suitable level or, for example, limit a visit to a certain time before everyone involved has their say Limit come.

"Feelings of guilt are often involved"

But why do many children find it so difficult to restrict contact with their parents, even if it is not good for them? “Feelings of guilt are often involved,” says Kunstleben. “We feel responsible for our parents, especially when they may not be doing so well themselves.” Children should be clear about the specific responsibilities they really want to take on and where it is appropriate to limit them.

"The relationship with the parents is very important and it is good to try to establish good contact, but not at the price that you are permanently affected by it," warns Kunstleben. “If dealing with parents puts a lot of strain on adult children and possibly even leads to depression, they should deal with it and learn to differentiate themselves better. In particularly severe cases, it may also be necessary to break off contact completely. ”This applies, for example, in the case of severe trauma within the family, such as experiences of abuse or violence.

A longer radio silence can be beneficial

But even if you want to get out of a bad entanglement, a longer radio silence is sometimes beneficial, as Kunstleben knows from experience in its Freiburg practice, and can even be important so that the way to a reconciliation process is cleared later.

Because of the strained family relationship, some of those affected were worried about whether they should have children at all. They feared falling into their parents' patterns themselves. But those who are aware of this are already taking countermeasures. And: "Those who strengthen their children and give them positive things also help them deal with the possible quirks of their parents," says Kunstleben. "After all, nobody is perfect."

The generation after next can even ensure that the relationship between parents and children improves again, or at least that change occurs: "When grandchildren announce themselves, the relationship often relaxes or clears itself up again," says the Essen family therapist Hermans from experience. "A seventy-year-old woman recently called to discuss conflicts with her adult children and asked for family therapy."