Estranged parents often have a huge desire to reconcile with their children and grandchildren. That’s not to say there aren’t feelings of hurt, anger and frustration along the way. This information is aimed to help you to accept your situation, be kind to yourself, and find the skills and empathy required to create the outcome that you want for your relationship with your children. This guide has been put together by the Stand Alone community, and is also informed by a talk from Dr Joshua Coleman to our community in August 2014.
What are the key causes of family estrangement?
There are many reasons that family rifts develop. Some parents reject their child’s choices, whilst adult children can also reject their parent or family.
As a parent, you may be uncomfortable with your child’s sexuality, religion or lack of religion, their choice of partner or their career path. You may feel they won’t take your advice or listen to your concerns about alcohol, drugs or mental health issues. You may feel your child is fundamentally a very different person to you, which can lead to a feeling of alienation. Equally, your child may feel any of the above towards you or the family.
Your child may want to work on your relationship and may wish for you to show more empathy towards the past or the present. A number of estrangements occur when adult children enter therapy or counselling and start to get a different perspective on his or her childhood.
Marriage and divorce may play a strong role in estrangements, both for parents and for children. Dating and re-marriage may cause conflicts if they are incompatible or compete for your child’s emotional or material resources. Divorce may also cause children to see their parents as individuals, and highlight their strength and weaknesses. The entrance of another partner into the family is common instigator for more family conflict.
Your child may perceive the relationship is psychologically or physically abusive, and your continued relationship is a reminder of their suffering. This is a very difficult estrangement to navigate as it requires the parent to do a lot of work to make a heartfelt and ongoing amends.
It’s important to remember and respect the separate realities that underpin life for each family member. Your child may hold a different viewpoint, which you might feel is ‘wrong’ or influenced by another person. However, the most successful and long-lasting reconciliations start with all parties accepting and respecting the separate realities and feelings that spring from family life.