How to Navigate ‘Difficult’ Parental Relationship

In our last blogpost we talked about why people cut off their parents- we stated 5 reasons. Today, we talk to children on how to navigate relationship with ‘difficult’ parents so it does not lead to estrangement.

Whether you are considering cutting off your parents or might have already, this is for you.

Truth be told, strained parental-child relationship can be difficult, emotionally draining and overwhelming for both parents and child. Believe me, no parent sets out saying “I want to be difficult”.

However, with empathy, patience, and effective communication strategies, on both sies, it is possible to improve and navigate this relationship more harmoniously, no matter what the offence might be.


1. Practice Empathy:

Understanding and empathizing with your parents’ perspectives is crucial.

Recognize that they have their own life experiences, beliefs, and challenges that may influence their behaviour.

By putting yourself in their shoes and attempting to understand their point of view, you can approach difficult situations with more compassion and patience.

One thing I always tell teenagers I work with is- “be rooted in this foundation- your parents love you and want the best for you. Know this and put everything through this test of love. That way, when you don’t understand their why, at least you are rooted in their love for you”.

This holds true for both adult children and underage children. For example, yes, your parents compare you to the person who is married. But underlying there, is a legit concern for you and wonder on why you are unmarried- they care!

Problem is that, that care is also tangled with some of the selfish things like- ‘they must buy aso-ebi’, ‘they need to tell everyone all their kids are happily married’, and ‘Mummy Lagabaja can stop making fun of them’.

But all of these things does not take away the fact that underlying there is also a need to see you happily married.

Truth be told, most of our parents are dealing with abuse and trauma from their past too.

Unfortunately, many parents have not dealt with their own issues. And because unresolved trauma could mean bleeding on who did not hurt you, they tend to take it out on their kids.

2. Improve Communication:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship. When dealing with difficult parent-child relationship, strive for open and honest dialogue.

Be respectful and actively listen to their concerns without interrupting or becoming defensive.

Express your thoughts and feelings calmly, using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. When talking to your parents, think about the following;

  • find a time when they are relaxed and unstressed
  • if you can, find a neutral (but quiet) location to have the conversation
  • ask questions in a way that shows you are seeking to understand as opposed to questioning and being rebellious
  • talk about the impact of their actions on you and suggest how you might have them communicate differently
  • acknowledge what we talked about in #1- verbally acknowledge to them you know they are coming from a good place

Clear and compassionate communication can help bridge the gap and foster understanding.

3. Apologize- Don’t be Defensive:

I wish I could tell you apologizing is a one-time affair. Truth be told, conflicts exists because two-proud people are not listening to each other nor making room for the other person.

The Bible says “a soft answer turns away wrath” and “I am sorry” is the softest words you can say in the heat of an argument. When you realize you are wrong, apologize, not just then, but afterwards.

Don’t worry about whether or not they apologize for their part of the wrong. I know it is unfair, but say you are sorry. This one right here is one I wish I knew how to master before it was too late for my family and I.

Over the years, I have done my best to go back and apologize, but when they start recounting all my sins (which I hate), I would flare up. Who knows if I just apologized for all the things- maybe they would have listened to my part too.

So listen to where their hurts are, and do nothing but say “I am sorry”

4. Set Boundaries:

Establishing boundaries is crucial in managing difficult relationships. Clearly define what you are comfortable with and communicate your boundaries respectfully.

To be fair, this works best for adults navigating difficult relationship with their parents.

This can include topics of conversation, personal space, or time commitments. Setting boundaries helps maintain your emotional well-being and prevents unnecessary conflict.

If you are an underaged kid dealing with difficult parents, how you can set boundaries is by avoiding hot topics as much as you can.

This includes not putting yourself in positions for such conversation to arise.

5. Seek Support:

Managing challenging parent-child relationships can be overwhelming, and seeking support is essential.

Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or even professional and/or spiritual counsellors or therapists who can provide guidance and an objective perspective.

Joining support groups or online communities with others facing similar challenges can also offer valuable insights and a sense of belonging.

However, be VERY MINDFUL when joining these, as there are lots of cray-crays.

6. Practice Self-Care:

Caring for your own well-being is crucial when dealing with difficult parents. Prioritize self-care activities that help reduce stress and promote emotional well-being.

Engage in hobbies, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness or meditation, and ensure you have a support network to lean on.

Taking care of yourself enables you to approach challenging situations with a clearer mindset and increased resilience.

7. Seek Mediation:

In some cases, bringing in a neutral third party, such as a mediator or family therapist, can help facilitate healthy communication and conflict resolution.

Mediators provide a safe space for all parties involved to express their concerns and work toward finding common ground.

Professional assistance can be invaluable in improving family dynamics and fostering healthier relationships.

8. Pray for them:

Honestly, in many cases, we cannot rule out the work of the enemy.

There are six things the Lord hates—
    no, seven things he detests:
17 haughty eyes,
    a lying tongue,
    hands that kill the innocent,
18 a heart that plots evil,
    feet that race to do wrong,
19 a false witness who pours out lies,
    a person who sows discord in a family.”

BibleGateway- NLT Version

Many families would achieve great things together, as such, the enemy pits them against each other. And there is no better way to change a person than in prayer.

But guess what, the way God works is that He would start by changing YOU- the praying one. And the other person will typically over time mirror your change.

Pray for your parents. It is not normal that parents would intentionally hurt their kids.

I am a parent to two wonderful kids (a girl and a boy). I would lay down my life for them- literally- if needed. And when I hurt them, I know how I feel.

Some parents might be questioning at night, crying to God to help them do right by you. Yet, when they show up, they say and do all the wrong things. But your prayers for them can push back the darkness.

We have shared about what children can do. Parents are not left out. On our next blogpost, we will take a look at the role parents play and how you can navigate relationships with estranged children.

I hope this helps someone. Your parents love you and I know you love them too. And you all deserve to have a loving relationship. It is late for me, but I hope it is not for someone.

I thought I hated my mum, but when she died, I cried more for the opportunity I would never have to make it right. I thought I had time, but I didn’t.

How about my dad? I felt naked, vulnerable, with him gone. I have forgiven them and I am sure my mom forgave me.


Dealing with difficult parents can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. However, by practicing empathy, improving communication, setting boundaries, seeking support, practicing self-care, and considering mediation when necessary, you can navigate these relationships more effectively.

Remember that change takes time, and healing fractured relationships may require patience and effort from all parties involved. With persistence and a commitment to fostering understanding and compassion, you can work towards building a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with your parents.

Has this helped you? Be sure to let us know in the comments. Like, and share, as others need this too.

Grab a cop of her Anita’s book where she shares her personal journey navigating depression, suicide and child sexual abuse from many (including her father). She also shares many insights in what we can do as parents, survivors and society at large. The story of resilience, hope and faith shared in this book is one many will find inspiring and learn from!

Undo the culture of silences with us, so many can be aware and learn. Share your stories with us below.


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