If your parents are dorky or silly, and often say things that make your cheeks burn with embarrassment, it can help to focus on the difference between moments where
your parents are being truly embarrassing, and moments when it just feels that way.
In the latter scenario, the feeling will pass quicker if you try to "have a sense of humor" about it all,
therapist Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW tells Bustle. Sure, your dad might be telling your new partner an awkward story. And yes, your mom might be singing loudly whilst in a restaurant. But "embarrassing" moments like these are what make them so lovable.
That said, you don't have to put up with ongoing embarrassment, comments or jokes made at your expense,
or toxic behavior. If they cross the line, "don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your parents about what topics need to be avoided," Powell says. "Explain why and ask your parents to respect your wishes. You don’t have to be accusatory but be honest about your feelings and how it impacts you."
This can come in handy
when your parents are being truly embarrassing, either on purpose or because they just don't realize what they're doing. While it's ultimately up to you to decide what you're comfortable with, here are a few classic examples of what the experts consider to be toxic, versus what can often be laughed off.
Actually Embarrassing: They Yell At You In Public
If your parents ever yell at you in public — or scold you like a kid — go ahead and count it as embarrassing. Not only is it inappropriate now that you're an adult, but it's also super toxic.
"If this happens, have a talk with [them] and tell [them] that you prefer discussing and — if need be — arguing in private," Samantha Daniels, dating expert and founder of
Samantha's Table Matchmaking, tells Bustle.
Of course, we
all have brief moments of crankiness, especially during stressful situations, such as when you're traveling together as a family. So it's important to cut each other some slack. But if your parents yell at you on the regular, it's time to set up some boundaries.
Actually Embarrassing: They Pressure You About Your Love Life
If your parents hound you in public about your love life — asking when you'll get married, when you'll have kids, etc. — it can be
pretty mortifying. Even if they mean well.
"Parents can often say embarrassing things despite having good intentions," Powell says. "Comments about ... your lack of a significant other, or other seemingly cruel comments can be frustrating. It’s important to take everything with a grain of salt and not to take it personally." But if you don't want to be asked or pressured, let them know.
Actually Embarrassing: They Recount Embarrassing Moments From Your Youth
While it obviously depends on the audience — you might not mind if your parents tell your partner about that time you peed in the pool, for example — it can be truly embarrassing to sit by while they go on about mistakes you made as a kid, mishaps you were caught up in, and so on, Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at
Maple Holistics, tells Bustle.
When this happens, it's fine to assertively tell them you'd prefer these stories remain private, and shut them down. After all, it's up to you to decide what people know about you, and what they don't.
Actually Embarrassing: They Talk About Your Current Mistakes
It's embarrassing enough when your parents start telling stories about all the mistakes you made as a kid, but it can be even more shocking when they start telling stories about your
current problems and struggles, as if it's news they can share with anyone.
"While it might be OK for them to have bragging rights about your successes, etc., it’s not OK ... if they share the things that are not going as well with others,"
psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "It can feel like an invasion of your privacy."
Actually Embarrassing: They Apologize To Others On Your Behalf
If your parents are in the habit of apologizing on your behalf, they might say something like, "'Sorry, [they are] shy' or 'sorry, [they] can get embarrassed,'" Backe says.
They might do so in an effort to explain to others why you don't want to talk a lot at a party, or why you're being quiet at dinner. And it might just be a sign they've got your back. But if it feels like they're speaking for you, or treating you like a child, that's definitely not OK.
Actually Embarrassing: They Make Rude Comments In Public
While you can always choose to spend less time with
parents who are rude, you can also "avoid feeling embarrassed by what [your] parents say/do/ask by recognizing that [you] shouldn’t be judged by them," therapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW tells Bustle. "We need to feel emotionally separate to take their behavior with a grain of salt. The more self-confident and mature we are, the easier that is."
Actually Embarrassing: They Drop In Unannounced
Some people have the type of relationship where their parents are always welcome to stop by unannounced. But for others this can be downright embarrassing. And for good reason.
As Rappaport says, "If you have parents that like to stop over to visit without calling first, this can be embarrassing, especially if your apartment is messy or you're making love to your partner, etc."
In these situations, boundaries are key. Let them know that this is
your place, and while you love it when they visit, they can't just burst in whenever they please.
Actually Embarrassing: They Grill Your Partner
Your parents may have the right, to a degree, to find out more about who you're dating — especially when you're younger and they want you to stay safe. But that doesn't mean they get to grill your partner now that you're an adult.
Not only does it show a lack of confidence in your decision making skills, but, "they may ask deeply personal questions of your date which, for the first meeting may not be the best choice," Daniels says. "There might be ways of doing this that are more relaxed and sympathetic." And it's OK to ask for that.
Not Actually Embarrassing: They Show People Your Baby Pictures
If parents enjoy doing anything in this world, it's showing off baby pictures. And it can seem mortifying in the moment. You might not be too keen on your new partner, or your entire extended family, viewing snapshots of your one-year-old self toddling around in a diaper.
And the same is true for awkward teenage pics. But, as Rappaport says, as long as they're being reasonable, "you should take it in stride" and try to enjoy looking at the photos, too.
Not Actually Embarrassing: They Talk About Medical Stuff
As many people get older, they tend to start talking about their medical goings on with greater frequency. And there's nothing anyone can really do about it.
"As long as they don't talk about it in public, it's probably OK," Rappaport says. "Privately it can make you uncomfortable, but in public it can often be downright embarrassing with strangers nearby or if you are with your friends or a partner."
When that happens, you can remind your parents that other people have ears, and can totally hear them.
Not Actually Embarrassing: They Call You A Lot
While it might be slightly awkward if your mom tries to call you while you're at work, or out on a date, it's not actually the end of the world. Sure, she may not get the hint when you don't answer the first five times, Daniels says, but just text her and promise to call later. Problem solved.
Not Actually Embarrassing: They Give You Awkward Presents
We've all received embarrassing gifts from family members, such as a package of underwear. But try to laugh it off — especially if it's a gag gift and they're trying to be funny. As Rappaport says, "You can always find a way to lighten up and have fun with their inappropriateness."
Not Actually Embarrassing: They're Affectionate In Public
If your parents want to give you a hug at say, your graduation, it's not necessary to feel completely embarrassed. As Daniels says, "Your parent just wants you to know that he or she is proud of you and wants to show the world that." So if you're cool with a hug, go for it.
Not Actually Embarrassing: They 'Like' All Your Posts On Social Media
While you may not have had your mom in mind whilst posting that selfie, try not to be too embarrassed if she ends up "liking" it. As Daniels says, "This is nothing to be embarrassed about because it’s totally common, normal, and means they are proud of who you are."
Not Actually Embarrassing: They Try To Act Cool
Parents are at their uncoolest when they're trying to be cool. But the older you get, the funnier — and less embarrassing — these attempts can seem. "There is nothing wrong with having a cool mom or dad," Daniels says. Even if they're actually quite the opposite. Of course, she says it may be embarrassing if your parents try to play the role of your "friend" instead of your parent. But at that point, healthy boundaries can come in handy, once again.
As Powell says, "The important thing is that you speak up when you feel that your parent has crossed the line and violated your trust. While parents typically have good intentions, there are times when they can be vindictive." Or just totally clueless. By letting them know that you're feeling embarrassed, you should get the space and respect you need.