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How to Handle Unsupportive Parents

by Freddie Silver

It would be great if everyone had warm, loving parents who were always supportive of their children but, in reality, many parents might be incapable of demonstrating unending support for their children. While it's painful to be denied parental support, it is possible to rise above the pain and resentment to emerge stronger and more independent. It helps to communicate with your parents to seek understanding of their limitations and to objectively assess your situation so you can move forward.

Reasons for Unsupportive Parents

Some parents aren't capable of delivering ongoing, unconditional support. They might disagree with their children about the amount of support necessary. Birth order and gender differences influence which child might receive more support than another, suggests clinical psychologist Nando Pelusi in the Psychology Today article "Parents and Children in Conflict." Parents might subconsciously desire to correct their own mistakes through their children. For example, parents who regret neglecting their own education might not support children who want to follow artistic or sports talents rather than academics.

Seek Understanding

Keep the channels of communication open to help arrive at a deeper understanding of each other. Your discussion will be more productive if you seek to discover why your parents are unsupportive. Avoid making assumptions, suggests professor of psychiatry David M. Allen, in the Psychology Today article, "Does One Need to Forgive Abusive Parents to Heal?" To avoid disappointment, don't expect your parents to change or to see your point of view warns Dr. Allen. Even if you're unable to forgive them you'll probably feel better after you've expressed your feelings and you know the reasons behind their behavior.

Realistically Evaluate Your Situation

Assess what's possible, then accept the inevitable. Once you've concluded that your parents cannot give you the support you need it's time to focus on the future. Develop independence by seeking out supportive mentors to fill the void. These might be teachers or respected family members. Consider delaying some of your goals. For example, seek part-time employment while you're in school even if it takes longer to graduate. If your parental relationship is so destructive it's detrimental to your well-being you might want to cut ties, warns psychiatric professor Dr. Richard A. Friedman in his New York Times article, "When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate." This might mean moving out of your parents' home.

Seek Professional Help

Ask your family doctor for a psychological referral. A toxic parent-child relationship can negatively impact your other relationships. You don't need unsupportive parents creating additional difficulties in your life. Professional counseling can help you put your disappointments into perspective and help you move toward a brighter future despite the limitations of your relationship with your parents.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

Photo Credits

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