When Cousins as Adults Need to Confront the Parents Who Aren’t Getting Along

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Suppose multiple sets of parents are fighting as brothers and sisters because an inheritance was unevenly divided or something happened that created bitterness among them to the point that they are no longer really talking or spending time together as before.

The adult kids could say:

“You have been honorable parents, and in this matter of the inheritance, you have felt dishonored. Is there anything we can do as children to reestablish the sense of mutual honor everyone showed toward each other prior to this? We need your strength as parents and long for us to return to how it used to be. We see you as mature people and need your leadership to restore things.

“Can you be the one to make this happen? Can you be the one who helps the family move forward and be how it used to be? We need your wisdom. Does someone need to apologize? Does someone need to forgive? Or, is the sense of unfairness and dishonor so colossal that everyone will go to their graves bitter while watching all the kids go their separate ways because the moms and dads have been so hurt that they prefer to remain offended until death? Is it wrong for us kids to ask for the moms and dads to forgive each other as you taught us as kids to forgive each other?

“Are we out of line for stating these things and requesting these things? Should we remain silent? Or, is it appropriate for us to surface this information, or will this feel like we are dishonoring you? Should we say nothing, or can we convey our need for the family to be what you made the family to be—a group of people who loved and respected each other?”

The important rule to remember in this situation is that in appealing to the parent to be loving and respectful, the children must not cause the parent to feel unloved and disrespected. The kids must demonstrate what they request! This isn’t easy but if they do this, they will create the kind of environment most probable in winning the hearts of the parents.

The kids must appeal to parents’ goodwill and noble interests. The kids must assume the best. Furthermore, the kids must not assume if some of the parents reject what they say upfront that they will ultimately reject the appeal. Parents are people who are insecure and go on the defensive like all of us but after a few days change their minds in light of the loving and respectful appeals. The focus must be positive, communicating we want and need you, we need your goodness. The message cannot be, we resent your badness. No one responds to being shamed.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. When was a time when you felt the tables were turned, so to speak, in your relationship with a parent or other older family member, and you needed to “be the parent”? How was it received?

  2. How does the biblical command to honor your parents apply to situations like these? Does honoring them mean to be silent?

  3. How can remembering the golden rule of doing unto others as you would desire them to do unto you help the older child in this situation?

  4. Emerson wrote, “No one responds to being shamed.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain.