When Should Parents Give Up On an Estranged Adult Child?

ambiguous loss

The question of whether and when to give up on a relationship with an estranged adult child is a painful one. It’s also difficult to answer. As much as it hurts to be estranged from your child, continually hoping for reconnection invites another kind of suffering. There can be a fine line between hope and …

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Who “Owns” the Problem of Estrangement?

If your adult child has distanced himself from you and/or other family members, it’s tempting to think of this as a problem that belongs to him. After all, he’s the one who created the estrangement by refusing contact. So doesn’t he, in some sense, “own” what’s happening? That thinking is understandable, and it makes sense …

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Feeling Powerless in the Face of Estrangement

Many parents of estranged adult children feel powerless. They can’t make the child call them. They can’t force her to respond to texts. He won’t tell them where he lives, let alone let them see the grandchildren… It’s no wonder parents feel powerless. But that’s a painful way to live. All adults need to have …

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Contacting an Estranged Adult Child During the COVID-19 Crisis

NOTE: A podcast episode covering the material below is also available. Find The Reconnection Club Podcast, hosted by Tina Gilbertson, in your favorite podcast player app. If the COVID-19 pandemic has ramped up your concerns about being estranged from your adult child(ren), you have plenty of company. The question of contact during any time of estrangement …

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When Reconciliation with Your Estranged Adult Child Doesn’t Stick

As you may already know, reconciliation with an estranged adult child doesn’t always “take” the first time. Or even the second. For many, reconciliation happens in fits and starts. Sometimes it feels like you’re back on track, and then suddenly there’s a problem again, and contact falters… That’s why I often say that reconciliation is …

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Why Adult Children Cut Off Parents They Used to Say Were Wonderful

If your estranged adult child once gave you a greeting card addressed to #1 Mom or Dad, you might be confused. How did you go from being the best parent ever to being rejected by your child? It happens. The child who won’t return a parent’s texts today is the very same one who wrote …

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What’s Your Parenting Style?

Permissive, authoritarian, or authoritative?

Think for a moment about how your parents raised you. Were they permissive, authoritarian, or authoritative? Psychologist Diana Baumrind (1927-2018) observed these 3 different parenting styles and noticed distinct outcomes for children… Permissive parents view their children more or less as equals. The parent is a resource for the child to access, but doesn’t place …

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4 Surprising Things to Expect When You Reconcile with Your Estranged Adult Child

I often say that reconciliation between parents and estranged adult children is a process, not an event. It’s not like on Monday you’re estranged, on Tuesday you reconcile, and on Wednesday everything is back to normal. During and after reconciliation, things can feel anything but normal. You’re walking on eggshells, trying to avoid a replay …

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Why Apologize? And How to Do It Well

Well over half of all estranged adult children, according to one website, would like to receive an apology from the parents they’ve rejected. Of course, many of those parents would appreciate receiving an apology themselves. Their hearts are broken by what feels like callous disregard and disapproval from their estranging children. This creates a dilemma. …

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Staying Connected (to Yourself) During Estrangement

Living with estrangement from an adult child or children is like living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You’re often in your own world of pain. You may spend a lot of time in your head, in the past or future, more than in your body and the present moment. The “here and now” of your …

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Reconnect With Yourself First for Best Results

Here in the U.S., we’re celebrating Independence Day this week. And while you may be thinking about your child’s “independent” decision to cut ties with you, I’d like to talk about your independence. Actually, independence is just one aspect of a developmental process called individuation, which you may have heard me talk about with regard …

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Mothers Day / Fathers Day Survival Guide

NOTE: Prefer listening to reading? Listen now to the Reconnection Club Podcast audio adaptation of this article. It’s Episode #36: Four Steps to a Better Mothers Day. *   *   * Mothers Day and Fathers Day are just around the corner, causing anticipation, hope and dread for estranged parents everywhere. Most of those parents won’t hear …

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Being Best Friends Could Cause Trouble Later

Were you and your child ever best friends? It happens a lot in single-parent families that the child gets “promoted” by circumstances to friend, partner, and confidant. It can happen in any family. Maybe when you were growing up, you were your parent’s friend, helper, and companion. It might have made you feel good to …

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Why We Act Impulsively (And How Not To)

I recently attended a 2-day training with J. Eric Gentry, an expert on trauma and grief. During the training, I found myself thinking about what Dr. Gentry called “the threat response” and how it might affect estrangement and reconciliation between parents and adult children. There’s something important to understand about dealing with any stressful situation: …

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