As a parent, you believe the bonds established with your children will last a lifetime. Sadly, this is not always the case, and incidents of adult children becoming estranged from their parents seem to be on the rise. The parent-child relationship is complex, even when both parties genuinely love each other deep down.
Estrangement can happen for all sorts of reasons. For example, some parents may be dissatisfied with their adult child's lifestyle or choices. On the other hand, adult children may take issue with their parent's meddling or involvement in their lives.
At the end of the day, the underlying reason for the estrangement is not as important as bringing your loved ones back together again. Fortunately, you can take steps to restore your relationship and your family unit.
1. Work on Yourself First
While you're probably not solely responsible for the estrangement, you must consider the role you may have played in it. That doesn't mean you should beat yourself up, but consider adjustments you can make to ease tension between you. If your child has complained about your being overbearing in the past, step back and let them make their own decisions.
2. Don't Bring Up the Past
Past hurts create a roadblock with your adult child. As much as you'd like to discuss them, avoid doing so. It's likely to inflame hurt feelings and drive you even further apart. While it's essential to talk about problems with your family members, this discussion should be postponed until you're in a better place emotionally.
3. Be Realistic About Your Expectations
It might not be possible to pick up where you left off with your child immediately. For many estranged parents, it takes time to rebuild a relationship. Start with small gestures, such as brief conversations over the phone, then move to in-person meetings. And if your child is not comfortable with that level of access at first, accept texting and emailing as a worthwhile substitute.
4. Give Your Child Time to Heal
Once you've had the conversation, step back and allow your child time to think over what happened. They may feel overwhelmed by what occurred and might need time to process your conversation. Don't push them to make a decision, and don't pressure them to agree to a timeline that benefits you. Wait patiently while letting them know you're always available to talk.
5. Express Genuine Love and Affection
It's often difficult to express love to a person who does not reciprocate. You may feel angry and resentful about the situation, which can result in a sour, unpleasant demeanor. No matter how you feel, you must emphasize the love you have for your adult child. Being angry will only push them further away, which will have the opposite of the intended effect.
6. Don't Lose Hope
If the outcome is not what you expected, don't give up immediately. While it can be hurtful to hear that your child does not want a relationship with you, that doesn't mean that it's the end of the road. Find fulfillment in other areas of your life and leave the door open for your child when they're ready. Chances are, they'll return to you one day.
While it can feel quite lonely and isolating knowing that you don't have a relationship with your adult child, realize that you're not alone. Many families experience estrangement, and most are able to overcome their issues to form an even stronger bond than before.
You can seek help from others who've had the same experiences. Look in your community for parental estrangement support groups, as you can take refuge in the experiences of others. You can also find ample support online if local groups are not available. Finally, focus on fostering healthy relationships with other family members to ensure you have plenty of love and support around you.