I see a lot of posts about people requiring help with their children/parents/grandparents, and I'm blessed to say that I have none of these problems.

My issue is that I was a terror as a child. I have ADHD, and I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of as an act of rebellion, but my parents have always been there for me. When I did drugs, threatened suicide, and told them I hated them. I spent THOUSANDS of their money on stupid things, and shrugged off their advice like it was nothing. Despite this, they never stopped supporting me.

Fast forward to now and I'm 22. I've moved out of my parents house and am in a stable relationship with a woman I love for 3 years. I've been employed for the same amount of time in a position where I'm moving up the ladder and am well received by my peers. I've been clean for 4 years, and I contribute it to the love that my parents gave to me during the extremely tough times while growing up.

They are absolutely invaluable to my life, and although I'm always saying I love them and thanking them now, I don't feel like it's enough. I spend a lot on gifts to show them how successful I've become, and taken up activities with them just so I can spend more time with them (shooting skeet with my dad, and cooking with my mom!), but it really just feels like it's insufficient.

They're happy for me, but I feel awful for all of the hardship I put them through.

How can I tell them how much they mean to me and how I never would've gotten this far without them while helping them realize the profound effect they've had on my life?

  • 7
    You're spending time with them. That might be the most important payback they'd every need.
    – QMC
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 20:16
  • The harder task you get - if you manage to accomplish it - the bigger the satisfaction. I have a strong feeling your parents have reasons to be happy enough and you should not worry about them more than other people worry about their parents. If you feel the need to give back maybe focus on helping out others - maybe in a similar situation you found yourself in before?
    – Ola M
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 20:36

5 Answers 5


Please let me first assure you that I'm speaking from experience here. Your post is pure music to my ears.

I have a son who has ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder.) I had heard of ODD, but thought it was just an excuse for poor parenting, then my son started to show signs of it. My child's therapist (he started in therapy at 12, and we started in family therapy) showed me the criteria in the DSM-IV; my son met every single criteria!

Though I was also in therapy and spoke to his psychiatrist at least monthly getting coaching on how to deal with him, my son still managed to make my life (and probably his own) miserable. He was secretly getting drunk, was cheating, stealing, and failing high school, picked fights with me and his brother constantly (though we would not engage), sent his brother to the hospital with a concussion, and I became very depressed. I also thought I was the worst mother in the world. My husband refused to believe there was anything wrong with him even though the psychiatrist was telling him otherwise, and ended up leaving me. When his principal called me a few months later to tell me that they were going to kick him out of school, I had an emergency meeting with his psychiatrist. I ended up sending him to the wilderness and then a therapeutic boarding school for two years.

As I said, my husband didn't believe there was anything wrong with him, and wouldn't pay for any of it. The therapeutic boarding school cost me my entire retirement account and a second mortgage.

Yet here comes the good news.

After a lot of struggling and therapy, my son graduated from the boarding school with new life skills and got an academic scholarship to college, which he kept for four years. He graduated magna cum laude, went to medical school, and is now a respected doctor, has been married for several years and is expecting his first child. He turned his life around completely. And that is all the thanks I need. I'm dead serious. His life now is reward enough. He, too, has expressed sorrow, and we have a good relationship.

My guess is that your parents feel the same. You sound like you're a wonderful son, and they must be so proud of you and the way you turned your life around. Your new life and the fact that you make an effort to spend time with them and thank them for sticking with you is most likely all the thanks they will ever need; save the gifts. You have nothing more to prove.

You feel guilty about what you put them through (which is understandable), but they have forgiven you (they have a loving relationship with you; that's the proof.) It's time now to start forgiving yourself. Until you do that, you will never feel you're doing enough.

Read some books and articles online about guilt and forgiveness. If you need to be concrete, show them your post. Ask your parents formally if they could forgive you for all the difficulties you caused them and get it verbally. Ask if there is anything they want you to do that will show them how sorry you are and how grateful you are for their love and support. Then cut yourself a generous amount of slack and forgive the child/adolescent that you were (that's not who you are anymore), and the stupid, hurtful things all children do to some extent. You couldn't control your impulses then. That doesn't make you bad; it makes you flawed, which is the human condition.

Congratulations on your new life, and I hope you find self-forgiveness and freedom from guilt.


Recognition is always a surefire sign of appreciation. If you aren't the touchy Feely conversation type that makes saying it that much more sincere. Say it. Hand write a thank you note. Mom's love that sentimental junk. Continue to be there for them as they age. Continue to spend quality time with them. They obviously did a good job with you. Give them grandchildren when the time is right. Parents love babies that they can spoil. Most importantly, don't take them or your time with for granted. So sappy. Gah! congratulations on manning up. Sounds like you're adulting. I'm positive that is all they really wanted from you.


You're already doing it. Spending time with them, telling them that you love them, listening to their advice, etc... is what they want the most. So the trick for you will be to

Keep doing it

Really, that's it. It may sound overly simplistic, but you're approaching the years where it becomes more and more difficult to spend quality time with your parents; especially when you have little ones of your own.

If you continue to do what you're doing all through your twenties and thirties you will have done the best things. And what's great is your kids will see you do it and view it as normal.

  • 5
    "...your kids will see you do it and view it as normal." +1 Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 19:08

yeah dude. This is the problem in our society we does not appreciate one's presence when he is with us and realize how we are doing bad after he left us. You are doing good at least you are thinking about your parents sacrifices in your life that is a good start. What I suggest and what I experience is that beyond giving expensive gifts and other materialistic stuff, I think you must spend sometime on daily basis with your parents. In older age, when they get themselves retire, they just need someone to listen there life stories. If you do so, I think this is much better than any expensive gift in the world. Just go to there room or house, have dinner with them and tell your whole day story to them and listen what they want to tell you.


Being a parent myself, this doesn't sound right to me. The gift of life and support, that is given by parents to their kids, is not payed back to them - it is passed on. You'll pay that back by living a good life, raising kids yourself when the time is right, and giving them good support.

If you do things together with your parents which you both enjoy and profit from, then thats wonderful and valuable. But please watch your feelings closely when you're spending time with them. It's not your job to make your parents happy, and never was. If you do it out of guilt or a bad conscience, then it's harmful to you and your parents.

In fact, it sounds a little that you are ashamed of yourself or feel guilty for "having been a little terror". It you are, then this is a sure sign that there was some deep trouble in your family, which you probably haven't even begun to realize. If you sometimes feel love for your parents - don't hesitate to show that. There is a good reason for that love. And if you sometimes have really bad feelings about them - please allow your self to clearly see and feel that as well. There are good reasons for that, too. If you are in touch with your feelings when in their presence, you're fine being with them.

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