If you have a close relationship with your mom and dad, you likely talk about all sorts of things. And that's great. You should feel comfortable sharing what's on your mind and asking for advice, but there are definitely some questions you should never ask your parents. Whether it's Qs that are just too personal, or topics that need to be left in the past, I think we can all agree some things are simply better left unsaid.
This has a lot to do with setting up boundaries, which are essential to any healthy relationship — but especially the one you have with your parents. "Boundaries are key ... because they promote autonomy, and without boundaries people lose their individuality and start depending on others to get their needs met," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle.
This type of relationship — one where you and your parents don't respect each other's privacy — can truly get out of control. And, if you ask the wrong questions, you might find yourself knee-deep in too much info or wading through facts you truly didn't need (or want) to know. To see what I mean, read on for some questions you should never ask your parents. If you can avoid these and spare yourself, you'll enjoy a healthier relationship as a result.
1. "Do you still have sex?"
While it's certainly OK to be open with your parents about sex, some topics are a little too personal — like what the two of them do behind closed doors. "This topic is completely inappropriate between a child and parent and crosses a boundary," says Hershenson. "If you are struggling with your [sex life] and need advice go to your partner, a therapist, or even a friend." Friends and therapists will allow you to talk more openly, without the risk of being rude, or learning too much info.
2. "Did you guys just have a fight?"
If you walk into the room and it's clear your parents were just arguing, try not to get involved. "Their issues are their issues and you do not want to get in the middle," Hershenson says. Let them handle it in their own way without popping in and asking questions, or offering unsolicited advice.
3. "Which one of us is your favorite?"
While this question might be said as a joke, definitely spare your parents the discomfort of having to "choose" a favorite kid. As psychotherapist Kerrie Thompson Mohr, LCSW says, "You should avoid asking loaded questions." Not only do they put people on the spot, but you might not be in love with their answer, either.
4. "Why don't you like my partner?"
Again, if you don't truly want to know the answer to a question, it's better to not ask. "You don't want to ask questions that are a set up for failure," Mohr says. "Questions you ask should come from a curiosity and should be beneficial to you and the relationship in some way." Any Qs that set you both up for an argument are definitely not worth it.
5. "How much money are you leaving me?"
While it's smart to talk about the future, you should avoid any pointed questions about money and wills. Not only can it be awkward and hurtful to ask, but it's simply not necessary to know. "Kids may feel entitled to know, but they are not," says Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist. "This is one boundary that parents should define and strictly adhere to, if they so choose."
6. "So, how much money do you guys have?"
Again, on the topic of money, avoid asking questions about how loaded (or not loaded) your parents might be. "Money is always a touchy subject," spiritual counselor and psychic Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "If your parents want to let you know what the family financial situation is, they will tell you." Until then, you'll just have to remain blissfully unaware.
7. "Have you ever gone bankrupt?"
Sometimes, when it comes to family secrets, not asking is more for your benefit that anyone else's. "Legal situations can make you question your parents' judgement," Rappaport says. If your parents are filing for bankruptcy or dealing with a lawsuit, try to respect their privacy.
8. "So, why don't you talk to your sister?"
Family issues can be difficult to deal with. If there are things going on you don't know about, leave it to your parents to decide when it's appropriate to share. "The last thing you want to do is harbor resentment, take sides, try to fix the relationship(s), or hold a grudge that has nothing to do with you," Rappaport says. "Always respect your parents’ wishes. There is a good reason you do not know what the problem is and the less you know in that regard, the better."
9. "If you could do it all again, what would you change?"
Questions like these can be fun in the right setting. But if you ask, be prepared for whatever their answers might be. "You may not be happy with what you learn and this may taint your relationship," Rappaport says. "What if they said, they wouldn’t have children? Better to let that question go as the answer may hurt you."
10. "Why don't you ever talk about your childhood?"
If one or both of your parents experienced a trauma in their past, they may find it helpful to talk about it and be open as a family. But, just in case they don't feel that way, allow them come to you with any personal info. As Rappaport tells me, the process of healing from trauma can be a long and difficult journey. You certainly don't want to rush them, or dredge up feelings they aren't ready to face.
11. "Will you leave me alone?"
When establishing new boundaries with your parents, try not to shut them out by demanding they leave you alone. "I like to encourage 'loving boundaries,' which means that you don't harshly cut them off or withhold information, but you remain positive and gentle in setting the limit," Mohr says. "This can help them learn to respect the boundary, without being too hurt or resentful."
If you do (or avoid) all of the above, you'll be setting yourself up for a healthier relationship with your parents, as well as one that's chock full of appropriate boundaries.
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