Over the years, I’ve heard more than one parent express the concern that their estranged adult child doesn’t have reason to reconcile, because they don’t even like the parent in the first place. Recently, one of our Reconnection Club members posed this question in our forums:
If your estranged adult child doesn’t like you, is it a hopeless case?
The idea of a hopeless case is heartbreaking, so I try to reassure parents that, in the vast majority of parent-adult child estrangement cases, there is hope for reconciliation.
Listen to Reconnection Club Podcast Episode 24 to learn about cases that may be truly hopeless. And don’t worry! Most readers won’t see themselves there.
If it seems like your child doesn’t like you as a person, I would ask myself the following questions:
1. “How much do I like my child?”
Is it really the case that you love her to pieces and she just doesn’t even like you, despite the warmth you exude toward her?
According to some research, we tend to like people who like us. If your child doesn’t see affection in your eyes when you look at her, she might have decided not to like you, either. In which case, her dislike is a reaction to a perceived rejection, not to your personality.
There may be hope, if you can somehow find affection for your child in your heart today. But if not, it makes sense to stop focusing on her dislike and tell yourself the truth, knowing that it’s not a crime not to like your own child. Nor is it necessary to desire reconciliation.
This point in itself could turn into a whole article. So I’ll leave it at that.
2. “Is it dislike, or something else?”
Disappointed, angry adult children certainly don’t act as if they like their parents. But the apparent “dislike” is not about the parents as individuals, but as parents.
If parents can understand, acknowledge, and address their children’s disappointment, this is not necessarily a hopeless case at all.
3. “How well does my child know me?”
I mean the real you. He sees what you present to him as his parent. But if you spent his childhood selflessly serving his needs, he has no idea who you are.
You were the cleaning person, the cook, the chauffeur, etc. But there’s no one for him to relate to. He might treat you now as if you’re the most boring person on earth, because he’s never met the passionate, creative, imaginative person behind the curtain.
This is not necessarily a hopeless case either, if you can find the courage to step out from behind your role of Mother or Father, and show him who you really are. Now that he’s an adult, why not?
4. “When have I felt this way before?”
Have there been times in your life when you didn’t feel liked? What about in your own family growing up? Was there a particular family member who never seemed to like you, no matter what you did?
What about at school? At work? How likable do you feel in every corner of your life? Any insecurities you carry through life will affect your relationship with your child(ren). And possibly even be amplified.
That’s another factor that’s more about you than about your child.
In general, if your child doesn’t seem to like you, look inside. Do some self-analysis and think about the context of your entire relationship.
Your feeling of not being liked by your child could open a fruitful area of exploration for you. Always remember during estrangement from an adult child: As the parent, you have more power to change the picture than you might think.
To make the most of your considerable influence, read my book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.
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