If your family has been through it over the years, it may be time to apologize to your parents for all the things you've said and done that may have hurt them or damaged your relationship. That's not to say you necessarily need to apologize to toxic parents, or ones who don't deserve it. But it is important to remember your fam won't be around forever, and the sooner you can clear the air the sooner catharsis can begin.
"It's important to not go through life with regrets and also focus on positivity," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "Having conflict with parents or regret about things done in the past will only impact your relationship with them negatively making communication and trust difficult."
So, if it feels right, go ahead and say you're sorry. "Apologizing is the first step necessary to receive forgiveness," Hershenson says. "You may always wonder what could have been different in the relationship had you just apologized." Keep in mind, however, that you don't need to apologize for everything that's ever upset them. "You should never have to apologize for your beliefs or values," she adds. "These are principles that are important to you of which you should never have to compromise for." That said, here are some things you should definitely apologize for, ASAP.
1. Failing To Check In On Them
You shouldn't feel guilty if your schedule is busy and you occasionally forget to check in on your parents. But that's not to say you should make a habit of it. If you consistently go weeks (or months, or longer) without catching up, it may be worth apologizing. "It's important to show you care how your parents are doing and what they're up to," Hershenson says. So go give 'em a call.
2. Not Spending Enough Time With Them
Again, life is busy, and you certainly need to be doing your own thing and living your own life. That said, you may want to apologize for all those family holidays and birthdays you've missed over the years. "The fact is parents aren't around forever," Hershenon says. "It's important to have your own life, but time should also be made for parents to show love and care."
3. Talking Back To Them
While everyone's entitled to their opinion, I think we can all agree we've snapped at our parents a little more than was ever necessary — especially when we were younger. If this rings true for you, Hershenson suggests calling them up ASAP and saying you're sorry.
4. Not Taking Their Advice
Advice is just that: advice. You don't have to listen to your parents, or anyone else who wants to chime in with a few pointers. And yet there are definitely times when our parents were so right. "If you constantly discounted their thoughts, it's important to thank them for being supportive and apologize for not acknowledging that," Hershenson says. "Parents are not always right, but often they have good intuition and are helpful because they know you well."
5. Taking Them For Granted
It can be difficult to remain "grown up" when visiting home, and it's all too common for adult children to burst into their parents' house only to raid the fridge or dolaundry. If this sounds familiar, your mom and dad will truly appreciate an apology for all the times you've taken them (and their house) for granted, psychotherapist Tara Chivukula, LCSW tells me. So take some time to apologize.
6. Asking Them For Money
You shouldn't feel bad about reaching out to family for help. But, you might want to drop an apology for all the times you've put them through the ringer. "Apologize to them for putting them through emotional and/or financial stress if they ever had to bail you out ... or watch you engage in self-destructive behavior," Chivukula says. It'll be one way of acknowledging their efforts and showing true appreciation.
7. Rudely Disagreeing With Their Opinions
Your parents are from an entirely different generation, so you certainly don't have to agree with their views. That doesn't mean, however, that you don't need to apologize for all the times you really went overboard during arguments. "It might be helpful to apologize for actions that caused them emotional suffering, such as devaluing them, in word or action," psychologist and anger management expert Bernard Golden, PhD tells Bustle. "Being disrespectful of their opinions, even when theirs differed from yours, [etc.]."
8. Not Helping Them When They Needed It
Again, you shouldn't feel bad if you weren't able to help your parents during their times of need — whether those were emotionally, financially, or otherwise. But, as Golden tells me, you still might want to say "sorry" for these moments. You might even want to make a pact that you'll do whatever you can next time around.
9. Getting Angry At Them When You Were Younger
It's impossible to have a clear perspective when you're young, so you likely got incredibly angry at your parents for having rules, or preventing you from doing things when you were young. While you certainly don't have to apologize to parents who were toxic or controlling, you might want to apologize to them if they created rules for your own wellbeing. "Apologize to them for coming down hard on them when they set rules and enforced them," Chivukula says. "They were doing their best, in the best way they knew how to keep you safe."
10. Leaving Home In A Dramatic Way
You can't change the past, and you likely had every right to storm out of your family home, if that's how it all went down. But now that you're settled and things have cooled off, you might want to call and explain yourself. As grief recovery coach Debbra Bronstad, LMFT says, "Validating your parents' experience of the conflict can be healing for the relationship." And for you.
11. Lying About Everything
If you lied a lot when you were younger (or even recently), you might want to consider sitting down with your parents and coming clean — for their sake and yours. "Apologies can help restore trust and enhance the present relationship with parents," Bronstad says. And if it's something that's been bothering you or keeping you up at night, getting it off your chest will certainly feel good.
Of course, every family situation is different, so what you apologize for is completely up to you. But there's no denying the benefits of a true apology, if one is truly needed.
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