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When Parents Clash

Saving Your Sanity

Be Proactive

Knowing your parents and talking with them about potential issues ahead of time can help things go more smoothly at special events, says Buchanan. "Don't avoid it," she tells WebMD. "What if they start fighting over the front pew at your wedding and ruin the entire day?" She says you're better off broaching these topics ahead of time -- when people have time to think it through and prepare themselves emotionally -- than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

 

Beware Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes it's not just the parents. Unrealistic expectations on the child's side can also wreck havoc. "Sometimes even adult children fantasize that their parents will get back together again," Goldscheider says. For example, if your parents can hardly be in the same room, expecting them to dance together at the wedding is a sure recipe for disaster -- and probably a fantasy you need to let go of, she says. "In some cases if they are in the same room and are behaving themselves, that has to be enough," she says.

 

Eth also warns of falling into the fantasy of the perfect event. "It's a setup for disappointment," he says. "Don't do that to yourself." Working with things as they are rather than wishing things were different will make the event easier for everyone, he says.

Pick Your Battles

If getting your parents together in one room is difficult, choose those moments carefully. For milestone events, such as weddings or graduations, let them know you want them both there and be straightforward about it. Goldscheider suggests something like, "This is my event and whatever issues you have with my mother (or father), I need you both at my wedding. I love you and want to make this as easy for you as possible. How can I help you feel comfortable?" But for other events such as birthdays and holidays, it may better to celebrate with your parents separately, says Eth. "There will always be another Christmas or birthday," he says.

 

By taking these suggestions and tailoring them to particular situations, the adult child of divorced parents can leave the role of victim behind. While they cannot solve their parent's problems, they can change how they react to them. And for Lindsey and Nigel, it's a goal they strive toward every day.

 

Michele Bloomquist is a freelance writer based in Brush Prairie, Wash. She writes frequently about consumer health.

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