As I write this first post for the Reconnection Club blog, we’re in the thick of the holiday season here in the U.S.
I’m often asked in consultation whether an invitation should be extended to an estranged child for a special event or holiday. Of course your strategy should always take into account your personal circumstances, but for most parents, 99% of the time the answer is No.
“But what if she thinks we don’t love her?”
She won’t think that. If your contact is consistently warm and loving, she won’t confuse the lack of an invitation for a lack of love.
“But what if he finds out we got together without him?”
Then he might well ask himself, “What did I expect when I stopped talking to them?” It’s called consequences.
Here are some reasons to AVOID inviting your estranged child home for the holidays…
- It ignores their stated or implied desire for distance. They don’t feel seen, heard or respected.
- They interpret your invitation as meaning your needs are more important than theirs. And they hate that.
- It puts them in a position of having to be The Bad Guy, rejecting you again. Neither of you wants that.
- In short, they find it sort of irritating. Which of course isn’t exactly a draw.
But the Number One reason to avoid reaching out with an invitation is:
- They need to have room to miss you.
If they want to come home for the holidays, let them reach out to you.
As long as you’re chasing them down with invitations, loving thoughts, gifts, cards, etc., etc., they can focus on your behavior.
And as long as they’re focusing on you, they don’t have to marinate in their own emotions. You get to carry all the unhappiness for both of you.
Don’t relieve your child of the burden of feeling the estrangement. The less you reach out, the more they can experience the reality of your absence. You’re not gone for them as long as they’re hearing from you.
Let them wonder what you’re doing for the holidays without them. Curiosity is much more constructive than irritation for drawing your child back into contact.
Instead of extending an invitation to an estranged child this year, take time to grieve their absence instead. Leave your heart open to whatever happens, and then attend to the joys of the season.
Surround yourself with people who love and appreciate you, and take a generous stance toward not only others, but yourself.
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