How can I strengthen my relationship with my parents? I would like to bring more love between us. I think I’m not on the best of terms with them.
To find the right relationship with your parents (or anyone else in your family), it’s a good idea to first see if you can remove any obscuring clouds of sentimentality and subconscious expectations.
Paramhansa Yogananda said that when a child is conceived, there is a flash of light in the astral world. Souls that are in tune with the vibration of that particular flash of light are drawn to enter that womb. He said that sometimes more than one soul is drawn, and only one soul wins the race. Or there may be twins.
We end up where we are karmically meant to be. However, Swami Kriyananda explained that we may be sufficiently in tune with that particular flash of light because of only a few small similarities with our parents.
(Photo: Women and child in Sikkim. We choose our family for our spiritual growth. Perfect family relationships are rare, but it’s important to honor the help that God gives us through our earthly family. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.)
We see very often that children who are musically talented are born into families of musicians. Perhaps your spiritual growth will come through music, and the family you “choose” will give you an opportunity to develop that talent.
Perhaps you need a peaceful environment, and the family is ideal for you. Perhaps you need to work out a strong desire for money, or perhaps your karma is to be poor. Your soul will know whether the flash of light in the astral world holds the right vibration for you to be born in that particular family, for your further growth.
Of course, just because you are born into a family does not mean that you will have a harmonious relationship with everyone in the family, or even your parents. Sometimes we are born into families where there are deep bonds of heart and soul, but not always.
Yogananda remarked that enemies may be drawn into the same family, to work out their differences. Hatred forms a strong karmic bond. The benefit, Yogananda said, is sthat you can “fight it out at close quarters.”
Sometimes a person will deliberately choose a family where the karmic connection is weak. Perhaps that soul has been burdened by too many family entanglements in the past. Now he or she wants a break from that kind of suffocating emotion.
If the soul is dedicated to the spiritual life, he or she may want to simply be born, and then at a favorable age, go out and find his spiritual family. Having a weak connection with our birth family may make it easier to leave them behind.
Imagine how many fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children, cousins, uncles, aunts we have had in the course of our incarnations! Yogananda said that when we leave this body and go to the astral world, these relatives are there to greet us. Viewing such a vast array of former friends and relatives helps us appreciate that we are born to learn to love everyone equally, and not to divide the world into “I, me, and mine.”
I was present when a young woman Swami Kriyananda about her relationship with her parents. She was one of those souls who had “gotten a body where she could” in order to come into her spiritual family as soon as possible. She felt that her brothers and sisters in God were far more her family than those who raised her.
She asked Swamiji how she should relate to her parents.
He asked her, “Do they oppose your spiritual life? Have they ever asked you to choose between them and your spiritual family?”
She said, “N. They aren’t happy with what I am doing, but haven’t opposed it. They have never asked me to choose. If they did, there would be no contest – as Yogananda said, human birth is something, but divine birth is everything. In fact, they have been kind, respectful, and supportive all my life.”
Swamiji replied, “In that case, you have a debt of gratitude to them. You should always treat them as they have treated you: kindly and respectfully.”
The woman followed his advice and had an appropriate relationship with her parents for the rest of their lives, visiting, writing, and toward the end of their lives, helping them as needed.
They had very little in common, and no effort on her part could change that. But they did nothing to warrant her being cold toward them, so she behaved toward them with respect and warmth.
What about your case? You will need to assess your situation in light of these thoughts. Have your parents been respectful and helpful? Are they good people, or have they abused their position as parents?
If there is merely a matter of lack of close feeling, and they have given you no reason to cut them off, then you owe them a debt of gratitude for raising you. If you want to be closer to them, I suggest you begin by trying to understand your parents as people, quite apart from their relationship with you.
Do they have friends? Do they have interests? What is their cultural and spiritual background? If you met them on the street, what impression would they make?
Children take endlessly from their parents and seldom imagine that their parents have a separate reality. If you want to make an adult relationship with them, you will have to come to a state of maturity and cultivate their friendship as if you were meeting them for the first time.
What do they like to talk about? What do they like to do? How can you bring a freshness and genuine interest in their well-being into your relationship with them?
Parents sacrifice on a level that a child can’t imagine, to feed, clothe, raise, and educate us. If you want to improve your relationship, start to give back in little ways. The relationship at this point is not about you; it is about them.
Remember that they certainly embraced your reality when you were growing up. It may be time now to return the favor.
If they ask things that it is not appropriate for you to give, for example insisting that you choose a certain way of life, a marriage partner, career, or that you live in a location that doesn’t suit you, you don’t have to do what they want just because they are your parents.
But if you must disappoint them in fundamental ways, at least try to please them in every other way you can. Let them know that you hold them warmly in your heart.
Be very attentive to remember them on holidays, contact them regularly, ask about their interests and needs, give them small gifts, and send them news and information that reflect their interests.
If, after all this effort, it turns out that your parents don’t have the capacity to rise to a mature relationship with you, then you can adjust as is realistic, with the confidence that you have followed the right spiritual course of action.
And, of course, pray for them. Hold them in God’s light. Thank God and Gurus for the gift of life through them. Thank them for all they have done in raising you. Ask that the Masters bless and guide them on their continued spiritual journey. Even if there is little outward feeling between you, you can give them a great deal through your prayers, and in that way you can fulfill your duty toward them.