One quote gets me every time I read it.
“If you think you're enlightened, spend a week with your family.” – Ram Dass
We all know what a Christmas or Thanksgiving visit usually feels like. Nervous anticipation before. Happy hugs when you get there. A whole bag of mixed emotions the longer you stay. Relief when you go.
Sometimes, it only takes a single phone call to ride the same roller coaster.
We all have a deep-rooted connection with our parents. They were the first people you smelled, touched, and tasted when you were born. They cared for you and guided you through your early years. It’s why research shows how close you were to your parents and how much affection they expressed massively impacts your self-worth.
It's also the reason why they can trigger you like nobody else and navigating your relationship often feels like steering a canoe down a wild river without a paddle. Or, you’ve grown so estranged that you barely dip your feet into the water. Or, you just want to be closer so you can feel at home again when you visit them.
Whatever it is, improving your connection can only benefit you – if you do it right.
Most of my struggles in relationships and life came from unresolved conflicts with my parents. They split when I was four. At 16, I fought daily with my mum and wanted to move out. Today, at 29, I’ve made massive progress to solve the age-old conflicts.
Instead of getting triggered every time we talk, I feel more peace and love. My relationships with others have improved tremendously. I can look my mother in the eyes and tell her I love her – honestly, from the bottom of my heart.
The Sooner You Understand This, The Better
Before we get to the juicy part, I’ll share a few essential insights I’ve learned on my journey.
Your ego might resist them, just like mine did. But the sooner you accept them, the easier it will be to make progress.
- Your parents are just humans. Like you, they had struggles, challenges, and dreams they had to sacrifice to make things work.
- Every parent does something wrong. We all make mistakes and your parents are no exception. No matter how hard they tried, they messed something up and might feel terrible about it, so they’ll have a hard time seeing the truth.
- They have their own trauma. Most parents aren’t aware of it. Often, they’re too busy putting food on the table and too stuck in their patterns to care much about their mental health.
- They love you. They might show it in twisted ways, but they do. Yes, there’s the super rare exception of a parent who doesn’t give a fuck. But for now, let’s assume they have room in their heart for you because it will make the whole process easier.
Meditate on these. Let them sink in. If you feel resistance, that’s fine – it takes time to fully integrate what these mean.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty part.
Step 1: Give Yourself The Space You Need
To connect with others, you’ll have to connect with yourself first.
This in turn often means disconnecting from others.
It’s like flipping the breaker before you work on something electrical. Yes, you can try to do it without but don’t be surprised if it knocks you off your feet and makes your hair look like Henry the Hedgehog.
Even if your parents tried to do everything right, they still left wounds on you as a kid. To heal them, you need space, time, and safety.
My mum and grandma always wanted the best for me, which is why they tried to dabble with my life a lot. Advising me about girlfriends, career choices, and planning my future – they always expressed their opinion, whether I wanted it or not.
Then, I moved to Thailand and told my mum I needed a few months for myself.
During this time, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I was able to calm my nervous system and remove the triggers. After some time, I switched from withdrawing to seeking contact.
You don’t have to cut your parents off for good. But you need to give yourself the space to heal your wounds without them putting a hot poker into your trigger spots all the time. This is true even if your contact isn’t as frequent as you like it to be.
The journey always starts within yourself.
How to do it:
Here’s what helped me draw clear boundaries:
- Realize I don’t owe anybody anything
This was huge because my parents did a lot for me. But in the end, they decided to have a baby. You don’t exist to make them happy, but to live your life.
- Communicate respectfully and openly, but don’t budge
Tell them you need some time and distance to work on yourself. If they don’t understand, assure them it’s a “me” thing, not a “you” thing. If you don’t have much contact anyway, you can skip this.
- Take all the time you need
You have to get to a point where you feel like things have shifted in you. Don’t let your beliefs tell you that you should get back quickly or keep them updated about the process. The best thing you can do to heal the relationship is to heal yourself and that will take however long it takes.
One last note: You might get to points where you want to share certain things – anger, love, disappointment, questions, and statements. Write them down. For now, keep it to yourself. You’ll have plenty of space and time to share in the last step.
Step 2: Focus On What’s Inside Of You
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
You won’t like what I’m going to say next, but hear me out.
Anything that triggers and upsets you is your responsibility. Yes, you want your parents to be less dismissive, nosy, and parent-y – or more understanding, loving, and connected. But you can’t change them. All you can do is heal your wounds and triggers.
This will also help you stop passing on generational trauma.
I see it in my mum – the things that drove her nuts about her mum are the traits she adopted and passed on to me. I don’t want to do the same thing to my children, so I’ll have to do the work and break the chain.
But it’s called “work” for a reason. It’s tough. Change means letting go of anger, grudges, and hurt so you can heal and create something new. The ego doesn’t like that.
But a bad day for your ego is a good day for your soul.
How to do it:
I’ve tried tons of approaches and there is no one-fits-all. You’ll have to see what’s best for you because it’s about you – and nobody else.
- Writing letters. I’m a writer, so naturally, this was the first thing that came to mind. I’ve put many thoughts on paper and burned them after. This allows you to express whatever is in your mind without worrying about how the other person might perceive it.
- Connecting with your inner child. Your early years are where most triggers come from. Connecting with this part of yourself gives you access to them. I’ve looked at old photos, revisited memories, and imagined taking little Moreno with me when I went for hikes in nature.
- Going to therapy. Yeah, I know this step can be hard. It can feel like you’re weak and can’t solve problems yourself, which the ego doesn’t like. The harsh truth? We could all use it and the sooner you realize this, the more you’ll save yourself from suffering. I’ve met people who waited until their late 60s to do it, which means they’ve carried their baggage for decades. Don’t be that guy.
- Making space to feel. “Feeling is healing.” Your triggers are unresolved emotions within you that cause massive reactions when someone opens the lid to the pressured pot. I’ve spent many hours diving into past experiences and observing the emotions that came up until they dissolved.
- Reading books. The right words have massively helped me understand and gain access to myself. A few volumes I recommend: “The Child in You” by Stefanie Stahl, “How To Do The Work” by Nicole LePera, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
- Any sort of retreat or experience that strikes your fancy. I’ve been to breathwork sessions, tantra workshops, a darkness retreat, and god-knows-how-many things you find in well-sorted hippie communities. While not always scientifically proven, most helped me access deeper layers. And as long as it works, that’s all that matters.
- Any practice that improves awareness and elevates your consciousness. The more aware you are of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, the easier you can spot your patterns and change. Meditation and journaling are great ways to start.
When you do the work, get ready to ride the waves. One week, you’ll feel fine. The next, another trigger brings stuff up. Give yourself all the time you need and don’t rush.
Learn to enjoy the process and you’ll heal.
Step 3: Reconnect And Rebuild
Here’s another thing you won’t like to hear.
“The work” is never fully done – healing is a continuous process.
The goal is to get to a point where you feel like you want and can reconnect with your parents again on a healthy base.
This is the step where you shape the relationship from a place of inspiration, abundance, and love instead of scarcity and anger. You’ve learned to master your biggest triggers instead of being controlled by them.
How cool is that?
When I got to this point, the interactions between my mum and me changed. Words and behaviors that used to cause massive reactions became mild nuisances.
In turn, me being less triggered allowed my mum to do the same as well.
Don’t expect miracles, but some conflict will vanish simply because you stop feeding the ego that keeps it up.
Whether you share your journey and insights or let your actions do the talking is up to you. Maybe you decide to remove your parents from your life, which is fine as long as it happens as a genuine desire and not out of anger and ego.
If you still feel like you have to prove something to them or show off your grand healing journey, ask yourself why and go right back to step number two.
If not, you’re ready to connect again.
How to do it:
You can share things or simply spend more time together.
- Go on a short trip. When I reconnected with my mum, we went on a one-week vacation together. It was the perfect setting, far from everyday life and stressors. We had many good conversations that improved our bond.
- Write a letter. In the case of my dad, I’ve written an article. As soon as I’ve cleared up some more things, a letter will follow. Written words are great because they give you time to fully express what your heart wants to say.
- Enjoy time together. You don’t have to dive deep with them. Instead, you can just hang out and enjoy their presence. Even a simple dinner can make for a great experience.
The most important part is not to expect anything. Maybe your parents’ behaviors won’t change, maybe not everything is rainbows and unicorns because you still disagree or have different values. Their reaction and behaviors don’t matter.
You’ve done this for you. If you can make them feel better in the process that’s great – but the only person you can change is you.
The Work Never Ends
Life unfolds in chapters and phases.
You go out, you focus on yourself. You build and hustle, you enjoy. You heal, you get hurt again.
Since my original journey, I’ve had many periods where I felt the need to disconnect and be with myself. You won’t heal everything on your first lap, either. That’s fine.
If you feel triggered again, don’t worry. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s just the way things are.
But now, you already know the terrain, the tools, and yourself.
With every round you go, you’ll heal a little more.
And that’s what makes it worth it.
“I can do nothing for you but work on myself. You can do nothing for me but work on yourself.”- Ram Dass