Estranged Parents: When Adult Children Stop Talking to Mom or Dad
Parental Estrangement Is an Epidemic: continued
Dr. Coleman believes that parental estrangement is now more common than it ever was, even in situations with no major signs of cruelty or trauma (such as abuse or addiction). As a psychiatrist, Coleman has heard many stories with the same theme, where a parent complains that his or her once-close relationship with a son or daughter has fallen apart over:
- Money issues (borrowing, lending, inheritance)
- Disagreement over a child’s new boyfriend or girlfriend (or a child’s lifestyle, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc.)
- A parent’s remarriage (especially if this happens soon after the parent’s divorce)
- Some hidden issue that is not readily apparent to anyone
Helping Parents Heal
In his article, Helping Parents Heal, Dr. Coleman reveals a list of the common feelings estranged parents often experience:
- Parents feel rejected and afraid that they will never see their children (or grandchildren) again.
- Parents feel that their ex-spouses have turned their children against them.
- Parents feel anger about being disrespected by their children.
- Parents feel manipulated by their children’s requests for money.
- Parents feel tormented about things they have done wrong, but they often don’t know whether those things were the trigger that lead to the estrangement
And, ultimately, parents don’t know whether to reach out to their adult children or to pull away from them.
Dr. Coleman’s Own Parental Estrangement
In a New York Times article, Dr. Coleman explains, “We live in a culture that assumes if there is an estrangement, the parents must have done something really terrible…But (his book about his own estrangement) is not a story of adult children cutting off parents who made egregious mistakes. It’s about parents who were good parents, who made mistakes that were certainly within normal limits.”
Coleman became interested in this subject when he experienced years of estrangement from his own adult daughter. Fortunately, Dr. Coleman eventually reconciled with her through a persistent effort on his part, coupled with the passage of time, using these steps:
- Listening to his daughter’s complaints.
- Accepting responsibility for his mistakes.
- Understanding his daughter's feelings, as best he could.
- Attempting to make amends.
Many parents have done everything possible to raise their kids in the right manner, according to their best judgment, but they still face excommunication from their children and grandchildren.
If you are faced with this situation, here are some issues that may have triggered your own estrangement:
- You took an action “out of love” for your child, but it was the wrong action or your child perceives it as the wrong action.
- Your former spouse may have poisoned your child against you. (Sometimes, your ex’s new love or someone in your ex’s family is the one spreading the venom.)
- You may have spent years taking care of your children and you feel you have no further financial obligation. Well, most of the time, this is not a problem. However, if your money issues are the result of divorce, your child may see their own financial problems as a result of your bad decisions.
Whether or not your child’s logic makes sense is not the issue. The interaction of parents and children often has deep roots that follow no logic. The problem could be a mistake you made or a mistake your child made. But, that is not what’s important. What is important is finding your way back together with your child. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do… And, if that’s the case, you should talk with a therapist or find a group, so you can work through your feelings.
Sometimes there is no obvious reason for your son or daughter to break off communication. But, it seems like two of the biggest risk factors are “divorce” and “having daughters” ... although boys can shut you off, too.
Note: Information from this article is not intended to be a substitute for advice from a lawyer, financial planner, or therapist. Please consult a professional for specific advice about your own situation.
- When the Ties That Bind Unravel NYtimes.com
- Haven of Peace for Estranged Parents (support group)
- Aniston Isn't Inviting Estranged Mother to Wedding
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