How to Cope when Your Adult Kids Alienate You

The anguish of having a child who refuses to speak to you is profound, and it can have a significant impact on your happiness. Perhaps you and your child had a squabble or an argument that got out of hand. Whatever the cause, the pain of alienation can be excruciating. You can deal with this estrangement by concentrating on self-healing and moving on with your life.

Part 1 Healing the Hurt

1. Consider the estrangement honestly. It’s easy to look back on your child’s history through rose-colored glasses, absolving yourself of guilt or claiming that you’re a better parent than most. However, this will not solve the problem or help you cope. Consider your relationship honestly, including the times you have hurt your child and the times they have hurt you.

Keep a journal to record your thoughts.

Speak with someone you trust; they may be able to point out issues you haven’t considered.

2. Recognize your emotions. Do not deny your hurt feelings at this time. Allow yourself to be moved by them. Coping with this alienation will be an ongoing process unless your relationship is repaired, but suppressing your emotions will only allow the pain to grow deeper and worsen.

Allow yourself to cry if necessary.

3. Stay away from ruminating. This estrangement may consume your thoughts, but do your best not to dwell on it. You should talk to your friends and family about your difficulties coping, but don’t make it the only or main topic of conversation. Distract yourself from obsessing over it by engaging in enjoyable activities.

Set a daily time limit for thinking about the estrangement and then commit to doing something else afterwards.

To take your mind off things, read a book, watch TV, or go out.

Physically active activities and creative endeavours are especially recommended.

4. Concentrate on the positive aspects of your life. Make a list of all the good things in your life, despite your child’s alienation from you. Perhaps you enjoy your job, have a good spouse or close friends, or are involved in a church that you are passionate about. Spend time attending to and expressing gratitude for these blessings.

Tell your spouse how much you adore them and do nice things for them.

Make plans with your friends.

Set personal and professional goals for yourself.

5. Self-care is essential. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time. The better you feel, the better you will feel. Exercise, eat healthily, and engage in hobbies that you enjoy. Take a hot bath or cross some things off your bucket list.

Set aside time each day for yourself.

Some days, you will need to spend more time on self-care. For example, if you have recently had a negative interaction with your child, you may need to devote more time to self-care.

6. Seek professional assistance. You may find that your sadness over your relationship with your child is overwhelming. Seek counselling to help you deal with these emotions. Your counsellor will be able to assist you in working through your issues and will be able to provide you with coping strategies.

Part 2 Moving Forward

1. Make a letter. Letter writing can be a very cathartic process that allows you to express yourself without fear of being interrupted or yelled at. If your child is not communicating with you, write them a letter outlining everything you want them to know. Discuss your previous relationship, what you did wrong, and what you would like to have with them in the future. Please express your regret for any distress you have caused them.

Send the letter by mail or give it to a relative to deliver.

You have the option of keeping the letter. This is a great way to express yourself without fear of rejection from your child if they do not reach out.

2. Say, “I adore you.” It can be liberating during this process to continue doing and saying things to your children that you would do if your relationship were not in disrepair. Tell them how much you adore them. Knowing that they are aware of your situation will help you to feel better and move forward.

You can also express your feelings for them by performing random acts of kindness for them.

3. Let go of your ego. If your child has been mean or disrespectful to you, it might feel tempting to follow suit. However, avoid being petty and take the high road instead. Don’t allow your pride to further damage your relationship with your child.

4. Avoid getting into a fight. This is critical in regaining your peace of mind. Do not engage if your child only engages with you when they are insulting, yelling, or cursing. Keep in mind that you are still their parent and that you set the tone for the relationship. Even if they are disrespectful, you are still expected to set a good example for them.

You can say something like, “I love you, but I refuse to fight with you.” Do you want to step away for a moment to relax, and then we can talk again?”

There may be times when you must accept that a communication pause is the best option. At these times, focus on self-care.

If the situation becomes violent, leave immediately and call for assistance if necessary.

5. Never give up trying. Regardless of the circumstances, you should never give up on trying to have a relationship with your child. You will be able to cope better if you know you are doing your part to repair the relationship. Continue to contact them on a regular basis and make plans with them.

Send them birthday cards to show them you care and that they are on your mind.

6. Keep the spirit of hope alive. You may believe that your child’s situation is hopeless, but it is not. There is always hope for improvement or change, no matter how bad things are. Don’t wallow or be pessimistic about the situation; instead, be optimistic and open to future reconnection.

Things can change and tensions can lessen over time. Life is not a static state. Perhaps your adult child has recently become a parent and is more open to the idea.

7. Accept and forgive them. You must forgive yourself and your child, even if it is difficult. Accept them and their decisions, even if they aren’t always kind or reasonable. Write down your feelings and concerns on a piece of paper and burn it to let go of your anxiety about the situation.

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