How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Your Parents After High School
Do you love your parents to pieces, but are dying to get a taste of freedom now that you’re officially an adult? Here are some things you can do to have a healthy relationship with your parents after high school is over.
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Senior year of high school to Freshman year of college has got to be one of the most awkward transitions in the life of your relationship with your parents. You’re legally an adult, but you’re still financially dependent on the people who gave you a mullet before your school pictures in third grade. And for parents, making the transition between having complete control and responsibility of you by law to having, well, none can be a bit scary.
I, of course, handled this transition with the characteristic brand of grace that I handle all things in life. I remember calling my mom from my dorm room Freshman year to tell her, “Guess what I’m doing? I’m eating cookies for breakfast and drinking milk out of the carton with the refrigerator door open and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Being the good sport that she is, my mom pretended to be horrified to make it fun for me.
Other obnoxious phone calls I’ve made to my parents in my adult life include the following: A 3:00am call when this Florida native returned to a car with a windshield covered in ice. The time I went to investigate why my shower was cold and discovered that my hot water heater had burst leaving my entire garage under 6 inches of water. And the time I was petting my new kitten and looked down to see a tiny erection and was beyond horrified because I didn’t know that I was living in a world that produced kitten erections. (My mom hung up on me for that one!)
Point being, it’s a weird time for everyone. You’ve waited 18 years for freedom your parents, but you literally owe these people your life and will continue to need them for many years to come. So how do you balance your hard won freedom with their need to keep you alive for the next 18 years?
Here are a few tips...
1. Talk about expectations
There was a time when kids turned 18 and moved out to get jobs and get married. But that’s rarely the case anymore. More often, kids are finding it necessary to continue to live at home past 18. And even if we leave home for college, most of us are still dependent on our parents financially, at least to some degree.
When you’re under 18 and living at home, the lines are clearly drawn. Your parents are in charge and you have to listen to them. (Whomp, whomp) Once you turn 18 though, things start to get a little fuzzy. Even after you move out, the confusion can be there when you’re still financially dependent on them.
If you want a healthy relationship with your parents, it might be a good idea to have a talk to clear this up. How much financial help do they plan to give you? What will they expect from you as far as school, work, vacations, and other things to continue receiving their help? What are YOU willing (or not willing) to do to continue receiving their help?
It's an awkward conversation for sure. You might find that your expectations and your parents are way different. (You want me to come HOME for Spring Break?!) But it’s better to get on the same page now BEFORE there’s an argument.
2. Let them in on your life (on your terms)
It can be kind of annoying when parents want to know every detail of your life. But try to have some compassion for these people. There was a time when they once knew the detail of your every bowel movement (gross, but true!) and now you have all these areas of your life they know nothing about. It’s really hard for them.
To have a healthy relationship with your parents, tell them a few funny stories about school. Ask them for advice once in awhile. You aren’t required to share every detail of your life with them anymore. But the more information you are willing to share, the less they will worry about you.
Plus, parents can actually have some greats insights and advice for you. I would have NEVER gone to my dad for advice in high school. (Sorry, Dad!) But years later when I went through a tough breakup, he ended up being an amazing listener and a great support for me. (Who would have thought dads knew anything about boys?!)
3. Have a healthy relationship with your parents by pitching in
If you aren’t already, you might want to start taking responsibility for things like your laundry, and cleaning your room and bathroom. You could also make an effort to do your part of the house chores in the common areas too like dusting, vacuuming, and dishes. You might even want pitch in with some of the grocery shopping and cooking once in awhile.
Why on Earth would you want to do these things if you’re already busy and your parents are still willing to do them?
- You’ll have to do all of these chores when you’re living on your own or with roommates very soon. So you might as well make sure you know how and get used to juggling chores and homework.
- When you take responsibility for yourself, your parents will start seeing you more as an adult and less of a child. This means they’ll be less likely to panic when you want to stay out late or take a trip out of town. Score!
4. Admit your mistakes and apologize
We all do our fair share of messing up. It can be tempting to get defensive when someone calls us out on it (especially when that someone has been telling you to sit up straight for the past 18 years), but if you want a healthy relationship with your parents, try to fight that instinct. When you know you've made a mistake, it’s best to suck it up and apologize.
Let’s say your mom is annoyed because you left a trail of stuff on the floor when you got in late from your game last night. (Oops!) Instead of getting frustrated about her always being on your back, try to think about how you would respond if it was your college roommate complaining to you instead. Try saying something like, “Agh, I’m so sorry! I’ll get it up right away!” It’s the right thing to do and the fastest way to end the argument.
5. Have a healthy relationship with your parents by expressing gratitude
Once you’re 18, your parents’ legal obligation to house, feed, and clothe you is officially fulfilled. So anything they provide to you after that is purely out of their love for you. This kindness can be easy to overlook since most parents are happy to do it. I mean, how often do you hear about kids getting an eviction notice on their 18th birthday?
But it’s no small thing. If you think about how difficult it would be to live on your own on minimum wage right now, paying for your own rent, electricity, food, and Amazon Prime, your parents are doing you a huge solid. Make sure to thank them for this. Often! When parents feel appreciated, they enjoy giving more. And it will do wonders for your relationship.
Also, keeping in mind that your parents are saving you from homelessness will help you have some patience when they grill you about the guy they saw you talking to after the game last week. Say it with me: “These people are saving me from homelessness. These people are saving me from homelessness.” It helps!
You’ve had a good long run with your parents and you’re about to go face the world on your own soon. Enjoy your hard earned freedom, but be kind to the people who got you to this point. Trust me on this one, no matter how old you get, life is much easier when you have a healthy relationship with your parents!