Regardless of your parenting style, you might encounter a situation where your son or daughter cuts ties with you without warning. It can be tied to an argument or it can come out of the blue, leaving you feeling helpless and afraid for the child’s well-being.
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of a similar situation or even feel resentful towards your child, but there could be deeper issues at play. Here are six ways to handle an estranged child and attempt to connect with them (to be clear, we’re talking about adult children aged 18 or older)…
1. Avoid Blaming Yourself
As EmpoweringParents.com points out, whether you think you contributed to your child cutting your off or not, it was their decision to sever ties. Some children choose a “flight” response to stress, which is not your fault. Furthermore, your child may have a mental illness that you (or your child) may not be aware of.
As the source points out, in some cases the children think their problems end when the parent is not within earshot to point them out. However, the truth is that the problems will still exist, and they will likely end up with more worry and despair without your support.
2. Make the First Move
Some kids may feel underappreciated, becoming one of the reasons they cut ties to begin with. Regardless of the reason for the split, it’s you as the parent that should take the initiative to repair the situation, notes a blog post from Greater Good (Berkeley University of California).
It may counter-intuitive to do so, as you probably feel hurt or angry that your own child is ignoring you. It’s also potentially difficult to open the door to letting your child explain all the reasons they left, as they can be personal and hard to hear. You have to allow them to say their piece to potentially make peace.
3. Be Prepared to Make Concessions
If your child is of sound mind and is telling you what they need changed in order to continue communications, don’t close the door on them. Instead, consider their demands as requests. If you’ve got to the point where you’re able to let them open up to you, it’s a step forward. Don’t shut it down by closing the door out of spite.
EmpoweringParents.com explains, “If you do begin communicating again, you will be in a position to learn from the mistakes of the past and work toward an improved relationship.” That means you should listen to reasonable requests and be prepared to focus efforts on changing yourself, not your child, adds the source.
4. Evaluate Social Media Contact
While you may think one obvious way to reach out to an estranged child is through social media online, RejectedParents.net explains that you may actually be doing more harm by looking at your child’s photos and recent activity if you’re not invited to take part.
You could ask yourself whether you should set a limit about how often you browse social media, much like adjusting a dose of medication, offers the site. If you’re sending messages to your child online, try to keep them positive and inviting, not full of resentment.
5. Don’t Allow them to Abuse You
Remember your place as the parent, and don’t let the child dictate the story (although as mentioned earlier, be open to communication and even making changes if they are reasonable and will help). Huffington Post notes you shouldn’t let an estranged child abuse you in any way, whether it’s emotionally or physically or financially (and don’t try to buy your way back in).
Remember you are in the position of experience when it comes to parenting, whereas your child may only be looking at the situation from one perspective. The site notes in some cases when your children have children, their perspective on the situation may change when they experience the same challenges as you. This is a thought you can at least hold onto if you have lost hope of reconnecting with your child.
6. Let them Be Adults
Your instinct as a parent is (hopefully) to try and ensure your child’s welfare and that they’re making sound decisions. But as NextAvenue.org points out, you have to keep in mind that a 20-something is supposed to make their own choices, and you should respect them.
Trying to intervene or criticize their direction may only prove to drive them away further, notes the site. The ideal situation is that your child will make their own mistakes and perhaps learn from them, or turn to you for support, at which time you should be ready to receive them with open arms without judgment.