Forgiving Your Parents: Adult Children Laying The Ghosts of The Past to Rest

Many adults blame their parents for mistakes those parents made when the child was growing up. Unable to forgive these children live with destructive anger that affects their entire lives. Learning to forgive helps adult children get on with their lives.


Oscar Wilde once said that “Children begin by loving their parents, then they judge them and rarely if ever do they forgive them.” Many parents in today’s society know just how true those words spoken so long ago are today. With the world becoming more and more complicated each year parents often find themselves facing situations where they are forced in making decisions that are not to their liking but, are the lesser of two evils. Children too young to understand or comprehend the situation that lead to these decisions often find themselves angry with their parents for what they consider to be the “Wrong choice.”


Many times this anger stays with a child and follows them into adulthood. They cannot seem to get past their anger to their parent nor can they forgive their parent for what they consider to be serious mistakes. While this can completely damage the parent child relationship as the child seeks subconsciously to punish the parent, it is far more damaging to the adult child themselves, as this anger will eat away at them affecting their adult relationships and their entire lives if they don’t learn to understand or at least forgive the mistakes of their parents.


Children perceive situations differently than do adults

It is wise to keep in mind that children will perceive any given situation differently than an adult does. Not only are their outlooks different to begin with but parents sometimes, out of desire to protect their children do not always tell them exactly what is taking place in certain situations. Therefore, the child does not have all the facts that the parent had to take in consideration when making a decision.


Most children when they grow up are able to look at these situations from an adult viewpoint and can then gain insight into that past situation. Other children, while maturing in other ways, never seem to be able to get past that childhood hurt and look at a situation from and adult point of view. A 23 year old who is still seeing things from the perspective of a 13 or 14 year old will never get past the hurt that they felt they suffered as a child.


Parents Do Make Mistakes

Added to this problem is the fact that parents do make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions a parent can make a decision that ends up hurting their child no matter how much they love them or how hard they try to make all the right decisions. A child often sees a parent as invincible so when they do make a mistake, the child feels betrayed and hurt. As children grow older most learn to accept that their parents are human and learn to forgive them for the errors they made. At least most children do. Some never come to accept that a parent can make a mistake despite the best of intentions and instead carry their hurt into adulthood.

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  1. Great advice, forgiveness is the key for real healing to take place

  2. A winner of an article. Truer words have not been spoken. Perfect article!

  3. A lot of time and effort went into this intelligent article and it shows. I wonder how many children have heard a parent say “Just do it and never mind why.”

  4. Good article.

  5. Great Article. I enjoyed reading it.

  6. It is a sign of becoming an adult to understand that parents are only human and will make mistakes, even with the best of intentions. Everyone can and does make mistakes.

  7. This was hard for me to read and in fact I only skimmed over it. My mother and I were always at odds with each other and it was worse when my father died in 2001. She passed in 2008 and at the time we were not speaking. It is a long story we were both wrong in our reasons. It has taken me a long time to deal with this situation and some days I still miss the relationship we never had.

  8. great share

  9. The unforgivable issue I have with mom, is something she will not admit to. This makes it all the more difficult. I know she didnt learn good parenting skills, but why is it so hard to admit to not being perfect, and why is it so hard to admit making mistakes. If she could only admit she did some bad things, I could forgive her more…

  10. Everyone makes mistakes, even parents do get angry to their children..

  11. I don’t agree. When you admit that you make mistakes. When you are willing to put yourself in your mother’s shoes. And you simply decide to understand her pain as a child growing up with bad parenting herself, you will be able to forgive. Your forgiveness of her has nothing to do with her admittance. One can forgive others, even if they are dead or never talk to them. Hopefully those two things are not true. Get on with loving and forgiving your Mother and you for one will feel the much better for it. She MAY too. This is completely in your ball park.

  12. I did the best i could, with what I was given to raise 4 beautiful children and my oldest daughter, (23) blames me for all her bad choices in life, saying I wasn’t a good mother. My other 3 children are healthy and happy and living productive lives with no anger towards me at all. I don’t understand how one perceives me as a bad mother, and the other 3 think i was a great fun mom while they were growing up. It breaks my heart !

  13. We went through that with my mother, she was so afraid that if she admitted being a alcoholic that it would mean that she was less of the mother than what she wanted to admit she was. She couldn’t deal with it for a long time. But she finally truly humbled her self and has said many times that she was not worthy to be our mother. And how sorry she was.
    We have asked for forgivness for the things we did and have forgiven her for what she did.
    Thankfully we are all saved now, and try to help others with past issues.
    Sometimes they never admit any fault. But it is very important for our survival that we forgive, even if we never get an apology or any acceptance of guilt. The forgivness sets US free! God Bless You!

  14. the previous message I replied to was for B Nelson. Sorry I forgot to put that in. : )

  15. Reading this article only made my situation worse becuase my problem is that my parents had such a bad relationship that was all they could see and forgot about being parents. They didn’t tuck us in. They didn’t attend our special events, didn’t support us in extracirricular activities. If we couldn’t walk to them and it wasn’t absolutely free we didn’t get to participate — and they weren’t poor either My mother was tooling around in expensive cars with huge diamonds on her fingers.
    When they did notice us it was because we had gotten into something or broken something and then it was just screaming and yelling. There was never a concern about whether we got our homework done until the teacher called and then it was more yelling and screaming.
    I have two older children now and know what it takes to cultivate them so they can be successful adults, but my mother treats me like she’s the expert on parenting and when I do things she doesn’t like she talks about me behind my back and says increadibly nasty things. I had to move away a while back because she would disparage me in front of my kids!! When I finally confronted her about the backstabbing she blamed me for it, giving me her version of the rundown of my miserable life saying that I must be depressed and she feels sorry for me — when I wasn’t miserable or depressed until she did that stuff and didn’t own up to it.
    I’m sorry, but the nasty old crow doesn’t want to be forgiven and still, after all of these years does not care. She’s queen dictator and will never see me as anything other than her miserable serf.

  16. I left my abusive husband when my 3 children were still young, but my oldest son, 16 years old at that time, chose to live with his father who abused him more. I could not convince him to come with me because he hated me and blamed everything on me. Counseling did not work. At 17, he came back to me when his father got evicted from his apartment, this time more abusive towards me and his siblings. He has a deep-seated hatred towards me and every time my 21 year-old daughter (who lives with me, she is handicap and gone through a lot of surgeries since birth until 20 yrs old; she is in college) back stabs me to him and to my 23-year old son, they immediately judge me – come to her rescue to protect her and personally and verbally attack me without hearing my side of the story. My two sons blame me. I could not stop her from backstabbing me. She is a troublemaker and destroyed my relationship with my two sons. She says sorry each time.

    I devoted my life to them, never remarried; I thought I deserve respect because I did the best I could to provide for and raise them by myself. I am very depressed and at times I regretted that I even gave birth to them. I am disappointed and heart broken.

  17. I am facing this situation with my 22 year old daughter now. I was a good mom. I wasn’t a perfect mom. I have apologized and I have tried to make things better. I was the kind of mom who was sitting in the stands a band competitions cheering her own. I was the mom who sat through a tropical storm at a football game to watch her march. I am the one who took her to doctor after doctor when she had an eating disorder to save her life. I didn’t give up. I’m the one who held her when the “love of her life” broke up with her. None of that matters. I’m also the one who had one panic attack after another when being verbally and physically attacked by her. I’m the one who dealt with her violent rages when she thought I wasn’t being fair about something. I’m the one being blamed because she thinks I always perceived her as being “broken and needed fixing.” Okay, she was anorexic and mal-nurished. Was I supposed to sit back and let her die? When one doctor didn’t work for her, was I supposed to give up and stop taking her to other doctors to find one to help her? I have another daughter who is two years younger than this one. I was the same cheering mother for her that I was for the first daughter. The second daughter is well-rounded and level headed. She is truly happy and the oldest daughter is completely miserable. The oldest daughter makes poor decisions in friends and boyfriends. She chooses guys who use her, who don’t work, who treat her like crap and when they break her heart, she blames me. The guy she is with now is a loser. I tried to point out this pattern to her because I really don’t want her to get hurt again. She lashed out at me again. This time I told her it was time to leave my home. She is an adult and I will not tolerate her treating me like this any longer. She replied, “I don’t have anywhere else to go!” She is still in school and works part time. But I have had enough. Her dad works in Louisiana and he actually had to come home early from his work week to deal with the situation. Oh, by the way, she does not act this way towards me when her father is home. It only happens when he is at work and it only happens when she is involved with these losers. She is still at home because she can’t afford to move out and I dread going home after work today. I have not had a full night of sleep in over a week because every single night she starts crap with me. I keep trying to tell her I’m done but once she gets into such a rage, it’s almost like she can’t hear anything I’m saying to her. The next day she always sends a text saying that she is sorry and that she loves me. If she was truly sorry, she would stop. Last night’s blow up was because we had two new people at our church college age Bible Study (which I teach). On the way home, she asked, “So what do you think of them?” They are friends of the loser boyfriend who is out of town and I think they were sent to spy on her. I didn’t think one way or another about them. It was the first time I had met them and we were busy. I hardly had a chance to say two words to them. When I told her that I couldn’t say because I didn’t get a chance to talk to them, she became enraged. “Why couldn’t you just say ‘they seemed nice.’” Really? This is what set her off? This happens a lot. If she asks me a question and I don’t say what she wants to hear, boom…all hell breaks loose. I’m done. I just can’t continue the hurt and pain. People talk about child abuse…what about parent abuse? I get plenty of that.

  18. oh my gosh, all these postings sound as if we all have the same children and are related, my two adult children blame me for everything bad in their lives. Bad choices, drugs, money problems, I like my daughter over my son and vice versa, I am so tired. I feel like if I just went to sleep and never woke up, it would end my suffering. Would they miss me I don’t think so, they would say I did it on purpose. and how much money will they get ? I have apologized over and over admitted I made mistakes to no avail. I must forgive them and never say anything about the errors in judgement. But I am cursed at and told that I am the worst Mother in the world. God Please Forgive Me!! I hope this life will be over soon as I could not go on much further. I love my Dear Husband and he is also to Blame according to our son and daughter. I sincerely hope that we both can find some rest and happiness.

  19. Hi I am Beverly from NC. I have two kids 23 and 20. Boy and girl.
    I always knew they would be raising me! I tried my best. But I made all the mistakes. I had to get real honest with them when they were older. I apologized for everything. They blamed me and I accepted. I tried to explain my position. But most of all, I tell them that they are the best. Yes they had their struggles, but today, they are incredible. I was honest, I explained my position, and most of all I begged forgiveness. I was afraid to be judged by them. It hurts. But I said I would take the sacrifice if my mistakes could teach them to be better people.
    No one is perfect. They do not define me by my struggles. They are better people for it. If we forgive, we can love and grow.

  20. One important aspect to consider is if you have a parent that feels they did all they could for their child or children and cannot understand why their child or children feel hurt, disappointed or unloved. Not all parents are alike in their way of showing love. When a child grows up with one parent who is affectionate and attentive and the other parent shows their love by providing for the child’s functional needs, the child can interpret that they were not loved by the second parent. If the now adult child is still harboring ill feelings and anger at this second type of parent, it is probably best to learn the value of personal forgiveness. The adult child should come to terms with their feelings and realize that as an adult you no longer have to hold onto the anger. Forgive your parent without asking them to be sorry for who they were/are. I don’t know of any perfect parents! Once you can forgive them from your heart, you will be able to establish a new relationship.

  21. Why must she admit to her mistakes for you to forgive her? Stay clear of judging her for her mistakes and let go of them. Holding onto that anger only breeds more anger. If you cannot find it within your heart to forgive her now, pray over it. I can tell you that once I stopped judging my parents for what they did or didn’t do, i was able to forgive them. I didn’t need to go to them and make them aware of that because it was me who was holding onto that anger. After I forgave them, I gained a new, wonderful relationship with them. Obviously I don’t know your situation or the issue but thought I would share this with you.

  22. My hubby back handed his son once when the son was 16 or 17 years old. The son is now 35 and refers to the time of trouble as the time Dad Beat me up! His sister ran with the story and claims her brother was beat unconscious. So this one smack has turned into a horrible family legacy of the dad being an abuser. ( I was there and it was only one smack at the end of our ropes when teh teen son was being a real jerk to everyone he met and then was blatantly rude). hitting is not OK for any reason but what is aparent to do that has tried everything? This is a Dad that raised two of his kids with no mom since the mom was a drunk. A dad that gave up a huge salary so he could be home when the kids got home from school. Etc. now the son wants an apology and said all sorts of stuff recently about his really bad childhood and that the dad did not even try to give his kids a better life than the Dad had. My head is spinning- Their Dad did apologize for any hurt they felt growing up and for the ’stupid things I did’ trying to raise you in a good town with lots of nature opportunities and good neighbors and schools and we have not heard back from the son whether or not he feels any better from an apology. He infers that since he had to ask for a sorry it prob will not be from the Dad’s heart so we are now not expecting to hear anything, but the fact is this adult child still needs a lot of help in life right now- as unemployment and bills loom large. We want to be part of his life and help but he is holding onto this anger and grudge and I am getting sick of it. This is a great article- and I liked each comment. good to know everyone out there kind of goes through the same thing. My sister holds grudges against my mom and we were TOTALLY raised with a great childhood. There is no good answer but to keep trying I guess. This was good to read and share though- thanks- keep hanging in there- kids perspectives ARE so scewed and they do NOT know all the facts, they jsut know they are unhappy so blame the safest target- the parent who did them right all along!

  23. I was fine until when I was 11 I had epilepsy. Well I had twin sisters and they just called me all kinds of names all the time,
    crazy,retarded, etc. For years I was buliied bythem. My older brother was the prince! I never had any toys or anything. So he would pound me in the back with his fist when I tried to play with his cards. He put his fist thru the glass door many times.
    My sisters would with hold the comb for my hair and wouldn’t let me comb my hair out. My mother was at work. Dad was somewhere. Then at 12 she had twin boys. Well I never had teenage fun. Became mother, cook, sometimes there wasn’t any food. I would call someone to take me to the store for food or walk or call for maybe a delivery. Once I took my little sisters bike, on the way back I had a wreck, landed in the middle of the road, the chain chewed my ankle, all scraped up. Nobody said a word, or helped me. I never had any support or anyone to talk to. When I was 14 or 15 I tried to OD on my meds but I woke up, no one noticed. Mom still does things that she knows hurt me but she always says the same thing, I love all my kids the same, treat them the same. Not true at all, still has favorites.
    Says I should forget those things let them go. How the hell do you forget that kind of pain, and I’m 59!

  24. Seek God. You must forgive to begin your healing.

  25. Seek God. You must forgive to begin your healing.

  26. First of all, some parents are BAD, they do things and say things that hurt their children. I am 51 years old with two kids of my own; however my childhood with my mother & Father still hunts me. Neither were loving supportive parents- granted we were poor, but I know many poor families with plenty of love pouring from them. This was hard for me to read some of the denials from some of the parents. I was raised in a family of 9, seven boys and 2 girls. I guess back in those days having boys to work the farm was considered a blessing and having girls considered a burden. And my mother let you know it too. She once told me, before my sister was born that someone told her that if she had 7 boys consecutively that the government would take care of the entire family; but because I was born as the 5th child, in between my three older brothers and 3 younger brothers then our family would not be taken care of by the government. My mother and I were always at odds with each other. When I was 13 or 14 she accused me of wanting to have sexually relationships with one of my brothers whom I was extremely close too. She has never been able to grasp a male-female relationship that was not sexual. I have never been able to forgive her for this action. I have tried to confront her but she makes it worst by denying it was ever said or justifying why she said, stating that she must’ve had a reason for saying such a horrible thing. So how do you get pass that? My mother was not a good mother. My father was emotionally distant, but he was never verbally abusive like my mother. She still calls my sister and I and other females in our family sluts. She thinks that this is harmless and all in fun & games. I could go on and on about her way of thinking or not thinking.

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