There are so many people today who are adults on the outside, but remain as needy children on the inside. Indeed, we may already be living in our own homes, raising kids of our own, and even commanding an impressive workforce, but our resentment against our folks still affect the way we feel and behave.

Parent issues can influence our self-esteem, relationships, and general happiness. This is not surprising. Parents are our primary caregivers; they are the first people we tried to please. If we perceive that we can’t get their approval, we may feel that we are incapable of gaining anyone’s high regard.

Our parents are also the people whom we expect to love us unconditionally, and thus make us feel that we are worthy of being loved. If they had been neglectful and/ or abusive, we can get scarred for life. Unless we can internalize the certainty of our parent’s love, we would always be seeking for it, and thus may never get satisfied in any relationship.

Many adult issues can be resolved, or at least lessened, if we move towards forgiving our parents. Forgiving can be a painful process — it requires us to face difficult realities — but in the end it’s quite liberating. Indeed, we owe it to ourselves to forgive our parents. And we owe it to our children as well, as anger at our parents can affect our own parenting style.

How can you go about forgiving your own parents?

It helps to remember that forgiveness is a choice. You have to make a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of your resentments and pain – even if you’ll never hear an apology or see remorse. Forgiveness is work on your part; if it’s conditional then you’re not really letting go.

Here are other steps that can help:

Acknowledge your pain. Many adults bury their anger in the demands of everyday. At times they even trivialize its impact by making jokes. But the road to healing can only begin by taking a moment to get in touch with your self. Recognize your issues and accept that what happened really did happen. Acknowledging your pain and how it has affected your life can help you take better control of your feelings.

Grieve. Anger and resentment always involve a loss of some kind. It can be the loss of a parent’s love, the loss of an opportunity, or even the loss of one’s childhood. Cry over your loss; seek a friend to ventilate to. You have the right to feel bad about things that are gone.

Have that talk. Is it still possible to talk sincerely with your parents about how you feel about them? Are you capable of expressing to them what you feel without blaming or attacking? Will they likely be receptive to hearing you out? If the answer is yes, then it’s a good idea to have a heartfelt conversation with them. At the very least you can give them an opportunity to respond to you. At best, a talk can give you emotional closure.

Empathize. Everyone has their reasons for having done the things they did. And certainly all of us make mistakes. Perhaps your parents were also victims of their own parent’s neglect and abuse. Maybe there were mitigating circumstances that must be considered. Or perhaps your parent honestly thought that they were doing right by you. By putting yourself in their place you humanize them, making it easier to reach out to them. Lastly, take action. Forgiveness is an opportunity to start anew. Recover what can still be recovered. For instance, it’s never too late to recover your lost self-esteem. And you can even create a new relationship with your parents! You don’t have to get stuck in the past! You can re-define your life!