My sister and I have emotionally abusive parents.
They say that they want to be there for us now, but don’t know how to change.
I don’t know how to explain to them how to start building proper parent-child relationships.
I’d really appreciate some ideas on how to do this.
Does anyone have advice on where we can go — books, websites, organizations — to begin to work on our relationships with our parents?
-An offbeat bro
I really relate to your drive to want to connect with your parents… I grew up in a dysfunctional household too and maintain a good relationship with my parents as adults, but it is extremely frustrating and even heartbreaking at times, because I know that nothing about our relationship now will ever heal the scars of my childhood. I also know that many things about my parents simply will not change, no matter how I explain what I need from them or how much they may want to support me emotionally.
I would recommend reading about Adult Children (which is a term from the Alcoholics Anonymous lexicon, but really applies in a lot of contexts) and read the book The Dance of Anger. These are starting points for considering your role in your family, understanding where your responsibilities begin and end, and asking yourself what your motivations are for change.
At the end of the day, your parents are their own people who have to take responsibility for themselves and the way they treat others and the impact is has on others. As much as you may want to, you cannot confer upon or teach your parents how to parent you. You can only ask for what you want from them, and then allow them to succeed or fail on their own terms, being prepared that having a relationship with them may involve a level of disappointment or acceptance of things you cannot change.
A good therapist will help you work through your feelings and determine how to approach this relationship. I highly recommend finding a local teaching hospital with outpatient mental health services or a sliding scale therapist if you don’t have insurance to cover it.
Finally, I wish you best of luck on this journey