Parental Relationship Management 101: Part One

We talked a few posts ago about actively managing your relationship with your parents and I had promised a follow-up post about how to decide what kind of relationship you want with your parents. Well, the wait is over! In this two-part series, I’ll share with you my framework for how I think about this knotty question.

In part one, I talk about identifying what type of relationship you currently have with your parents and what type of relationship you may want to have. In part two, I look at some questions to ponder in deciding what kind of relationship you would actually want to have with your parents.

So, onto part one!

Let me tell you about this chart that I made up. Just as there’s nothing in life that can’t be fixed by a box of chocolates, there’s nothing in life that can’t be illustrated by a good diagram.

Full disclaimer: this Tigergram is a very unscientific attempt by yours truly to two-dimensionalize complex relationships.

Tigergram

I think any relationship can be broken down into two key components: emotional and financial, represented by the x and y axes respectively.

On the far right of the x axis is someone who is close to their parents, who feels they have open dialogues, and who is content with the level of involvement their parents have in their life. On the far left is someone who doesn’t feel heard, who feels constantly criticized or who feels their parents are too controlling.

At the bottom of the y axis is someone who is completely financially-dependent on their parents (e.g., they live with their parents, their parents still cook and clean for them, and their ATMs are their parents’ wallets). At the top of the axis is someone who provides full financial support for their parents (i.e., they cover all of their parents’ living expenses).

I plotted some points on this chart to illustrate:

Point A represents where I was when I was 18. I was completely financially dependent on my parents (as is the case for most 18-year-olds) and my relationship with my Tiger Mom was at an all-time low. I was constantly terrified of being chewed out by Tiger Mom if I didn’t get at least an A- on any given exam/paper and I desperately wanted independence, but I felt financially helpless. I was not in a good place.

Point B is where I think I am right now. I’m largely financially independent (hooray for employment!) and my relationship with my Tiger Mom has improved. I say largely financially independent because although I don’t need it, psychologically I know my parents will backstop me financially if I ever needed it.

My relationship with Tiger Mom has improved in part because Tiger Mom has mellowed out a bit and in part because I myself have made a more concerted effort to understand her perspective. (Side note: Did you know Tiger Moms are fallible and have their own insecurities?! A post on that another time.) But I still get frustrated sometimes with the level of control Tiger Mom exerts over my life (e.g., she wants mini Tiger Cubs and she wants them now!).

Point C is where I would like to be. I want to be able to support my parents financially in their retirement and I want us to be close as a family. I want to be able to ask my parents for advice about important life decisions, without feeling judged or like Tiger Mom’s choice is the only right choice. And I want to feel in control of my life.

Where are you on this chart?

Where do you want to be?

In part two, we’ll discuss some considerations to take into account in deciding what kind of relationship you might want with your parents.

As always, if you’re enjoying the posts, have comments/thoughts on anything I’ve written, or would like me to cover a particular topic in a future post, let me know at CordeliaQ8@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @CordeliaQ888!

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