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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susanna La

Coping With Challenging Parent Relationships (During the Holidays)

With upcoming holidays, graduations, and other celebrations, it can be difficult for those with strained relationship(s) with their parents. How do we celebrate with parents while simultaneously feeling hurt by the things they have said and done? 

Perhaps some pain is lingering from physical abuse/emotional neglect due to having emotionally unavailable parents and the impact of overall childhood experiences on our present selves. Some may also continue to have conflict with their parents into adulthood. Therefore, it can be challenging to navigate your current relationship as adult children with your parents if we have unresolved trauma/pain from childhood. 

Short-Term Coping Skills

While it can take time in your adult life to process and heal from childhood wounds, we can practice some coping skills to help support ourselves in the moment when actively dealing with conflict and stress with parents.

These tips may be particularly helpful if you notice your parents can be emotionally triggering and/or overwhelming to deal with. During or after an upsetting interaction, you can try these suggestions: 

  • Release emotional reactions through journaling or venting to a safe person 

  • Engage in physical movement, such as walking, stretching, or running 

    • The physical intensity can match your emotional intensity 

  • Self-soothe through physical touch, including petting your pet, tasting the comfort in a warm beverage, looking outside at the sky/nature, listening to the sounds around you, and/or smelling a scent you like 

  • Engage in a 1-minute mindful activity like deep-breathing and releasing bodily tension 

  • Find an activity that can be a temporary distraction, such as cleaning, engaging in an art project, playing a video game, or reading a book

The Unique Experiences and Mental Health Concerns for AANHPI Folxs 

In honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to note we as a community have unique socio-cultural histories and complex family dynamics that have an unique impact on each person. Sometimes, due to the combination of our genetics, inherited/generational traumas, and lived experiences, we understandably struggle with various mental health conditions.

Long-Term Coping Skills 

The short-term tips suggested can be helpful in the moment as you experience conflict and distress during or after interactions with your parents. The deeper work of healing your inner child and pain often takes more time including the following:  

  • Learn and set boundaries with your parents

  • Explore how to balance opposing cultural values and beliefs 

  • Recognize your pain points and triggers 

  • Understand and process your emotions as well as the impact of how you were treated in your families 

  • Grieve the loss of what you needed/wished you had from your parents 

  • Notice patterns of how your childhood wounds can impact you in current relationships 

  • Develop compassion, not only for yourselves, but also for your parents whom likely have their own experiences of unresolved trauma 

Reaching out for therapy to address decades of deep pain is never easy, but know you are not alone. Choosing the path to open up to, understand, and heal from childhood trauma is incredibly brave. If you are interested in starting or continuing your healing journey, you can reach out to one of our AANHPI-identified therapists here.   

Stay tuned. The next topic is TBA.

Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.

Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.

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