How to Heal the Wounds Made by Parents Who Never Understood You

Many of us reach adulthood with one recurring thought: our parents were a long way from ever understanding us or our decisions, or even respecting our way of being. How can these kinds of situations be reconciled?
How to Heal the Wounds Made by Parents Who Never Understood You
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 24 February, 2023

Some ideas are deep-rooted in society. Today we’re going to pay special attention to one of them. It’s the commonly held conception that your parents will always be there for you, are your greatest refuge, and give you wings to fly and roots so you know where your home is. It’s a really inspirational image. Moreover, for some lucky people, it’s the truth.

On the other hand, there are some who have to deal with traumas silenced by complex relationships with their parents. However, it’s not necessary that our caregivers mistreated us for us to feel damaged in unimaginable ways. There are certain microaggressions that appear in families that attack and destroy emotional ties.

One habitual destructive dynamic is the criticism of parents toward the decisions and ways of being of their children. For example, it might bother them that their children don’t follow in their father’s footsteps. Or, that they don’t share their mother’s values. Or, maybe they don’t conform to the prospects their parents had planned for them for the future.

In fact, some family scenarios are reminiscent of a sect. Therefore, any gesture or decision that deviates from the guidelines of the parents is seen as a betrayal. How can these situations be dealt with? Are parents required to understand their children’s behaviors and personalities at all times? Let’s find out.

“In intimate family life there comes a moment when, willingly or no, children become the judges of their parents.”

-Honoré de Balzac-

Daughter angry with her mother representing that my parents never understood me
Respect between parents and children is essential for coexistence.

Parents who’ve never understood their children

Some children don’t respect their parents, and some parents have never loved their children as they deserved. Family relationships are intricate labyrinths that frequently become generators of emotional suffering. Indeed, it’s common for individuals to reach adulthood still dragging around an unsatisfactory relationship.

“My parents never understood me”. Many people carry this perception with them. It’s like an internal fracture that’s difficult to put into words. However, while parents shouldn’t necessarily be obliged to understand their children, they should always respect them.

When there’s respect, parents can be that safe haven from which their children can develop freely in the direction they want. It doesn’t matter if they don’t totally agree with the decisions their children make throughout their lives.

Research conducted by Texas Tech University (USA)  highlights the relevance of the construct of respect in all interpersonal relationships. In the context of the family, this dimension acts as an indisputable psychological tendon that empowers parents during education and upbringing.

Being ten or 15 years old and feeling that our parents don’t want to understand our needs and desires hurts. Moreover, these wounds stay with us until adulthood. This often creates complicated relationships at the family level.

Why some parents have never understood their children

Why didn’t my parents understand me? Who built that wall that separated us? It’s common to ask ourselves these questions when disaffection and friction create distances between us and our parents. In general, the trigger for these situations is usually extremely broad:

  • Sometimes, parents assume that raising a child implies meeting their basic needs within the framework of a specific discipline and nothing else. They rarely have a conversation with them, nor are they interested in what they’re like, what they think, what they feel, and what their dreams are.
  • Detachment caused by a lack of emotional connection builds bonds lacking in understanding and even respect.
  • Some parents throw themselves into their jobs and their busy days, believing that, in this way, they’ll not only be able to give their children what they need but they’ll also be good role models. However, they rarely offer them what they need most: their time and attention.
  • Different personality styles. Incompetence, authoritarianism, or narcissism are also the basis of a lack of understanding by caregivers.
scene to symbolize that my parents never understood me
Some parents don’t accept that their children have a right to their own space and to make their own decisions.

Healing the wounds

The role that parents have in building the internal world of their children is often neglected. Yet, a good part of our psychological well-being is built on the years of interaction with our care figures. Thanks to them, we better modulate our emotions and have the opportunity to develop a good self-concept and healthy self-esteem.

On the other hand, raising a child is never easy. That said, there are certain elements that should never be missing in the process. For example, love, care, respect, and understanding. If you’ve reached adulthood feeling that your parents never understood you, how can you heal that wound? We’ll tell you.

Understanding is respecting. Without this dimension, no bond will be satisfactory or healthy.

Create your own support network

If your parents never understood you, it’s highly likely that they’re not there when you need them. Indeed, they won’t be a secure network on which you can rely every day. Faced with this painful lack, you must forge ahead and create your own ‘family’, the kind that, although it may not be a blood relationship, is a refuge where you feel loved.

Your friends, partner, or even other family figures such as uncles or cousins, can be your daily support. They’ll always be there, no matter what. This will provide you with security and well-being.

Accept that your parents have their convictions and you have yours

If your parents never understood you or accepted your decisions or way of being, it’s probably because they’ve clung to a conviction that you’ll never conform to. If this is the case, it’ll be useless for you to make an effort to be accepted or to seek their acceptance by renouncing the way you are. By doing so, you’ll only be going against yourself.

Although it’s complicated, you must assume that they have their particular vision of life and you have yours. Remember that loving means understanding and those who don’t make the effort to carry out such emotional craftsmanship don’t love you as you deserve.

Act on your core values

If you’re clear about your core values, you’ll always gravitate in the right direction. As a rule, you should be guided by the principle of self-preservation. It’s the impulse capable of moving you away from what’s harmful and which reminds you that it’s okay to set boundaries and even defend yourself with respect and assertiveness against anything that seems unfair to you.

Parents who refuse to understand their children make them believe that there’s something wrong and defective in them. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t healthy to remain in such harmful relationships.

Seek professional help to heal your wounds

Finally, it’s difficult to escape unscathed from a family environment in which you weren’t understood, and were a target of criticism and reproach. Moreover, it could make you more insecure, as you’ve often listened to your parents more than to yourself.

If this is your case, and you’ve been unable to escape from your emotional prison, don’t hesitate in asking for professional help. They’ll be able to help you heal those wounds from long ago.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hendrick, Susan & Hendrick, Clyde & Logue, Erin. (2010). Respect and the Family. Journal of Family Theory & Review. 2. 126 – 136. 10.1111/j.1756-2589.2010.00046.x.
  • Spokas, Megan & Heimberg, Richard. (2009). Overprotective Parenting, Social Anxiety, and External Locus of Control: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Relationships. Cognitive Therapy and Research. 33. 543-551. 10.1007/s10608-008-9227-5.
  • Lopes, A. C. (1994). Casa de padres, escuela de hijos. Editorial San Pablo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.