When it comes to repairing your relationship with your estranged adult child(ren), as a parent it’s important to understand one thing: You are the bedrock, the foundation and the base for that relationship.
If an earthquake left your house hanging halfway off a cliff, what would you do first — shore it up from below, or paint the shutters?
If you’re like many other rejected parents, in order for the relationship with your estranged adult child(ren) to heal and thrive, you must begin with personal healing. You are the base that must be solid in order to support that relationship.
Instead of waiting for a miracle, it may be more productive to seek out or create conditions where you can heal, flourish and grow as an individual.
Many of our materials inside the Reconnection Club library are designed to help you understand yourself, your history, and your needs as a human being. Have you ever wondered why?
What is the nature of the current trouble in your relationship with your adult child(ren)? Is it too intense? Or is it cool and distant? Is it full of conflict and/or criticism? Despite decades of association, how well do you really know each other?
When I ask rejected parents to focus on their own personal healing and growth, it’s not meant as a substitute for working on the relationship with their child(ren). It is the work.
When it comes to estranged adult children, it can only help to assume that the current trouble *between* you is expressing a difficult relationship *within* you. And that repairing the latter will ease the former.
Here are some questions for reflection:
- Are you hard on yourself?
- Do you sometimes not know what to do with painful feelings?
- Do you chronically feel empty, lonely, or angry?
- Do you have a hard time being flexible?
Any of these common experiences could point to a compromised relationship with yourself, including a mindset of fear.
And if your relationship with yourself doesn’t fill and sustain you, then as much as you want it to, it won’t be able to provide ongoing support for your relationship(s) with your adult child(ren).
Much of the time, personal growth and development in parents is exactly what’s needed to draw adult children back into contact.
Repair the foundation (you) before attempting to paint the house (the relationship). In many cases, parent-adult child relationships spontaneously regenerate when parents do this work. Try it yourself and see.
Be the Change
The next time you think of personal work as something to do while you wait for your relationship with your adult child(ren) to improve, remind yourself you’re not waiting. For unwillingly estranged parents, there’s no difference between relationship improvement and self-development. If you’re healing and growing, you are working to repair the estrangement between yourself and your adult child(ren).
In other words, personal development is not a consolation prize. It is the very thing — and possibly the only thing — that will enable a lasting reconciliation when the time is right.
As the bedrock of your relationship with your child, you can’t be separated from that relationship. You are part of an indivisible whole, and everything you are, is everything you bring.
Even if your child isn’t speaking to you right now, if you spend this time becoming the strongest and fullest version of yourself, the relationship can’t remain the same as it was when your child(ren) became estranged. You can strengthen the relationship all by yourself.
Don’t mistake personal growth for a detour from the goal of reconnection. To the extent that your growth reconnects you with yourself, it is the key to reconnecting you with your child(ren).
You don’t have to figure out how to convert personal growth into relationship growth. That’s the easy part; it happens automatically.
I know that turning your focus and efforts from your child(ren) to yourself is a leap of faith. And although I can’t guarantee reconciliation, I can absolutely promise you will never regret giving yourself the gift of self-compassion and emotional healing.
– Tina Gilbertson
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