Make a list: Things to tell my parents

Old peopleSome people shiver when I tell them about this task. If you have had a chance to read my earlier post about divorcing your parents, you know that, as sad as this may be, too many people do not have good relationships with their parents. And you know what? This is not good! No matter how horrible our parents might be (or rather how horrible we perceive them to be), this relationship does not stop to exist because we do not like it. It continues to influence us in a sad and bad way.

For kids who have a bad relationship with their parents during their childhood, teens and young adult years, things get even worse when they become parents themselves. First, they lack very important support every new parent needs. Second, they lack role models for good parenting.

You may be saying, “With this kind of parents, who needs their support?” True, but still, knowing you are loved, no matter how judgmental you are towards your parents, is still better than feeling like an orphan.

Parents are not perfect and this statement is true for everyone, whether he/she is a parent or not. We all do the best we can and what we think will be best for our children, but being parents does not make us fortune tellers. This does not come with the job description. So we try to do what we think is right and only time can tell whether we have made the right choice or not. Sometimes, it tells us through a lot of pain that we have not.

Family photoParents and kids grow up in different worlds with an average of over 25 years’ difference. Parents and kids have disagreements, they have criticism towards each other, they have different values (from growing up in different worlds and having different needs), but no matter how far they go away from each other and until their death, they relationship of parents and kids lives.

It may be dysfunctional, damaging, limited, disturbed and ugly, but it is there. My meditation teacher told me that when I mediate, my immediate blood relatives like my parents, kids and siblings are affected by my meditation from the other side of the world. She said this had something to do with our spiritual path in the collective consciousness. I believe the relationship lives in our mind.

Do not wait until it is too late

Growing up like an orphan, whether your parents are alive or dead, is a very hard feeling to carry. It is living life with unfinished business and no one should suffer this feeling if can be avoided.

Making the list of things to say to your parents will help you either way, and the sooner you do it, the better, because you can always fix things in your mind and make yourself feel better.

Old people's facesStill, there is a difference between being an orphan of dead parents with unfinished business and being an orphan of living parents with unfinished business. I hate to say this, but there are things you cannot fix between you and a dead mom or dad. Plus, if your parents are still alive, getting over those difficulties may mean having a good relationship with them for a few years.

I can write a lot about the importance of saying what you have to say, but I think others have done it well enough. For one of his school assignments, my son had to play and sing a song from a movie and chose Say from The Bucket List.

Since I have already posted this song, click here for the words and the video clip of Say.

No one wants to reach this point of carrying heavy negative thoughts and feelings to the grave. If your parents are still alive, make an effort to say what you need to say.

Another song, called The Living Years, made me think about my relationship with my own parents when it first went on air in 1989, the year my first daughter was born and I became a parent. It had a very special meaning for me, because her birth triggered many new feelings, thoughts and understandings about my relationship with my parents.

Here are the video clip and the words of this song, which still sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It really drives home the message about the importance of making peace with your parents on time.

The Living Years – Mike and The Mechanics

Every generation blames the one before
And all of their frustrations come beating on your door
I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
You say you just don’t see it, he says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement in this present tense
We all talk a different language, talking in defense

Say it loud, say it clear: You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future, it’s the bitterness that lasts
So don’t yield to the fortunes you sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective on a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in, you may just be OK

Say it loud, say it clear: You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear: You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye

How to list 100 things to say to your parents

  1. Although your mom and dad are both your parents, you may want to separate what you say to them into three categories: things to say to Mom, things to say to Dad and things to say to both of them. Many people fall into the trap of putting them in the same category when having difficulties and not realizing that some of the challenges are only with one of them.
  2. When making a list of things to say, try to balance the good things with the “not so good” things. I know, I know, you think you are meant to be real, honest and settle the unfinished business, but if all you have to say is negative, it means you are blind. No one on earth can be totally negative. Make an effort to say good things. In a sense, it will free you even more.
  3. Mother and babyWhen writing things you are not happy with about your parents, ask yourself, “What would I do if I were in their place?” and try to imagine that place. Do not use your knowledge of future outcomes. If you are going to their place, imagine how you would deal with the same challenges they have had, with the same difficulties, with their upbringing, with their fears, with their limitations – the whole package. Sometimes, just this exercise can sort out your unfinished business.
  4. Think of qualities you have and find some that you should be grateful to your parents for giving them to you. It is surprising to discover that even when your parents have done something that seemed wrong to you, that may have helped you greatly in developing a skill or your attitude. My mom moved from one country to another when she was nine. Shortly after, she had to leave school to go to work. I did not like that she could never help me with school work, because she could hardly read, but now I am grateful to her for teaching me the importance of reading and studying.
  5. Think of special things your parents have done that have made you happy and add those examples to your list. I want to say thank you to my parents for coming to my graduation, thank you to my mom for helping me with my wedding dress (despite the external pressure to buy a traditional “princess” dress) and thank you to my dad for being an inspiration of creativity for me (my dad can saw, draw, do silk paintings, make furniture, sculpt and lots more).
  6. Think of positive events in your life, when your parents contributed to the success of the event or to your good feeling and make sure to write them on your list, so you can express your appreciation to them.
  7. Family photoSurprisingly, it is hard to tell parents hard things, but it can be as hard to tell them good things. If you find it hard, send them a letter, an email, a card, a collage or a poster. When my clients find it hard to write their parents, I suggest that they send a letter saying, “As part of my life coaching course, my coach gave me this task…” You can use this too. You can put my name there and if anyone asks me, I will say I have given you this task (because I just have!).

Obviously, the purpose of this task is to build a bridge of between you and your parents. Even if the relationships are good, they can always improve with better, more open communication. However, it is neither war nor a trial and your parents do not need to defend themselves against your perception. If you think it is possible, invite them to tell you what they thought about things. You will be surprised to discover that from their perspective, things were totally different, whether you thought they were good or not.


Join me next week for 100 beliefs about money.


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  • me

    i guess to get an excellent relationship with parents, partners and everyone else is to have an openness and honesty on each other. it may take w while to develop this but it is worth-trying.

  • Ronit Baras

    Hi Me,

    I think you are right. with openness and honesty we could have better relationship with our parents.
    However, the question is always “How?” and how do we define openness and honesty.

    I am not sure I know the answer, I guess we all have to find a good definition and try to learn how to get there.

    I am sure most parents and kids fight or in any conflict because they have different definitions of what it means to have an open relationship or what does it mean to be honest.

    It is worth trying, I agree. This is why we called this blog “Family Matters”.

    you’ll be amazed to discover how many people would like to “divorce their parents”. look at this poll:

    Usually, I tell my parents “you are the adult. It is your responsibility to make it work” but in this post, I tried something different telling every reader to go to his parents and fix it (before it is too late)

    I hope everyone will.
    Happy list making

    The Motivational Speaker

  • Bring Back Pluto

    Interesting stuff! Thanks for the thought provoking

    Dealing with parents is quite the challenging ordeal.

    Bring Back Pluto
    “ONE of THE GUYS”