How To Communicate That You Want An Apology From Your Parent(s)

April 1st, 2024

You have decided you want an apology from your parents, and you’re wondering how to bring it up.

ask for apology
Here are some steps you can take to plan and have that conversation.

1. Clarify what you would like to discuss from your childhood.

It might be an event, a pattern, or something you’ve discussed in therapy. You must have a good understanding of what is impacting you and why.

2. Identify a clear goal.

Do you want an apology? Is there something you want them to understand? Do you want a specific behavior or pattern to change?

3. Decide how you would like to have this conversation.

Setting aside a time when you’re both feeling calm is wise. You may decide to have this conversation in person, on the phone, in a letter, with a therapist or mediator, or via email. This will all depend on the level of safety in the relationship and the form of communication you are most comfortable with.

4. Approach this conversation with respect and kindness.

I know you might be resentful or angry, but starting this way will likely lead to defensiveness. Remember, this conversation is about connection and moving forward. You do not have to sink to anyone’s level that cannot remain respectful.

Examples of conversation starters:

  • “I know this might be hard to hear, but I want to talk about (this thing from my childhood) that has been difficult for me.”
  • “I have been discussing my childhood with my therapist, and I was hoping we could talk about X.”
  • “I know it was tough for you when we were young, and X had a big impact on me. Can we talk about it?”
  • “I have been thinking a lot about when X happened and wanted to discuss it with you.”
  • “I know you tried, and X was tough for me.”
  • “I appreciate everything you did for me growing up. I have been thinking a lot about X, and it would help us if we talked about it.”
5. Express what you would like to get out of this conversation.

Do you want an apology? Do you want them to listen and understand? Are you looking for some sort of changed behavior? For some parents, this might feel like “rehashing the past” or something that “can’t be changed now.” So, while this isn’t a burden you should carry, it’s something many people are saddled with in adulthood. We must empower ourselves to articulate clearly and ask for what we need.

6. Remember this: you can set up this conversation perfectly and express yourself, and they still may not seek understanding or offer an apology.

Many parents are unable to hear these words because of their own wounds, shame, or emotional immaturity. You need to control your side of the equation and hope for the best. If it doesn’t go well, you can re-evaluate and decide your next step.

7. The conversation does not have to happen all at once.

Don’t pressure yourself or your parent to solve this issue in one sitting. You’re likely discussing old, entrenched patterns that will take time to change. It is ok, for example, to start the conversation via email, then begin talking about it with a therapist, and to continue having conversations about this privately.

8. Changed behavior takes time and requires effort.

An apology is great, but you are likely more interested in changed behavior. It’s important to watch out for signs of effort and changed behavior as you have these conversations.