Parents estranged from adult children get plenty of advice from friends and relatives. And that advice tends to come in just two colors: Black and white.
It’s usually pretty harsh.
“Kick him to the curb.”
“Cut off her tuition money, then see how long it takes her to pick up the phone.”
“You’re creating a monster by putting up with that c^@p.”
Others equate your compassion and empathy for your child with groveling at her feet. You seem to lose their respect just by listening to her, trying to understand her point of view.
But are you really creating a monster by seeking first to understand?
Beauty & The Beast
I’m reminded of the allegory of “Beauty and the Beast.”
In the well-known story, Beauty is forced to live with an ugly Beast as payback for her father’s crime of stealing a rose from the Beast’s garden. In a surprising turn of events, she falls in love with her frightening captor.
In the end, it is her love that saves the Beast’s life, and makes him human again. Turns out he was really a handsome prince all along, locked by an evil spell inside the body of a beast.
If your child is acting like a beast towards you and other family members, treating him like a monster won’t transform his behavior. Nor will it teach him a lesson.
Monsters are made human again only by being loved in spite of their ugly appearance. (Or in the case of estrangement, their ugly behavior.)
Your child wasn’t born a monster. Think of him as having a spell cast upon him. Break the spell by seeing through “beastly” behavior to his true self — the child you once knew, and still love.
No one else is in your shoes. Your friends don’t love your child as you do. They don’t know her as well, nor are they as invested as you are in the relationship. So don’t be too concerned with what others think as you bring love, compassion and understanding to the task of repairing your relationship with your child.
Compassion and empathy may be in short supply in our society. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right tools for the job.
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