Exploring Counseling Sessions For Parents

Exploring Counseling Sessions For Parents

Parental Estrangement By Adult Children: A Painful And Often Puzzling Phenomenon

Rebecca Pena

Maybe this has happened to you: you see your child through grade school, high school, and even college, successfully, you think. Then wham! One day they cut off all communication with you. While there are no hard statistics on parental estrangement by adult children, this problem is more common than you might think, judging from the number of support groups and forums online. Here's a look at why this painful and sometimes puzzling phenomenon can happen and how to deal with it if you are struggling with estrangement from your adult child.

What Is Parental Estrangement?

Parental estrangement is defined as a lack of communication between parent and child, frequently to the point of complete loss of contact. Sometimes this is just between the adult child and one parent, sometimes between both parents, and on other occasions with the entire family.

Parental estrangement by adult children can come out of the blue, where suddenly a child refuses all contact or only participates in grudging conversations for birthdays and holidays. It can also come on gradually over time, with an insidious cooling-off period that ultimately results in total estrangement.

Why Does Parental Estrangement Happen?

Every family situation is unique, but there are some general reasons why parental estrangement can happen once the kids are grown. Sometimes there is an obvious problem, like abuse, trauma, or conflict from a remarriage. More often, however, parents are left scratching their heads as to why the estrangement occurred.

Some common causes include:

  • child has a mental illness, personality disorder, or substance abuse problem
  • parental alienation, where one parent in a divorce turns the child away from the other parent
  • child is married to or partnered with a possessive or mentally ill person
  • young adult in retrospect perceives they did not receive the support or affection they desired

This last point is often exacerbated by changes in parenting styles today from past generations. The increased focus on giving kids everything they need and nurturing their individuality can actually backfire.

In some cases parents spend what kids think is too much time at work, while these parents are trying to provide for the high cost of raising children. And some young adults have so much attention and praise piled on them they come to feel nothing a parent does is ever enough.

How Can You Cope with Parental Estrangement?

If you are challenged by estrangement from your adult child, there are some positive steps you can take:

  1. Seek family counseling. If your child is willing to see a family counselor with you, a big hurdle has already been removed, and you may be able to reconcile by working through your issues. If not, a counselor can help you cope with the individual and family repercussions of the estrangement and suggest forums or support groups for peer interaction.
  2. Keep trying. Sometimes it takes multiple requests to get a child to go to counseling or to even speak with you. If you do establish a dialogue, make sure to use active listening.
  3. Accept blame for things you did that may have contributed to the breakdown of the relationship.
  4. Don't take responsibility for things that are not your fault or enable destructive behavior, such as substance abuse or addiction.
  5. Try to understand how your offspring perceived their childhood.
  6. Dispel any misinformation that may have been perpetrated by third parties (an angry ex-spouse, a vindictive family member, etc.).
  7. Avoid criticizing your child's spouse, lifestyle, sexual orientation, or parenting of grandchildren.
  8. Find forgiveness for your child, so you can move on, together or separately.

Parental estrangement can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be permanent. If you are faced with this agonizing rift in your family, know you are not alone, and find help. With professional guidance and perseverance, you may be able to emerge from this challenge even stronger than before. Talk to experts like Andover Counseling Center for more information.


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About Me
Exploring Counseling Sessions For Parents

Hey everyone, my name is Lori Grffin. When my son was born, I was completely unprepared for the difficulties of raising a sensory deprived child. The stress of trying to parent a difficult child definitely takes its toll. Eventually, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up enrolling in individual counseling sessions. The counseling appointments helped me work through the emotions generated while coping with fits and meltdowns from my son. I emerged from each session better prepared to provide my son with the support he needed. I also learned how to pay attention to how I was feeling during the process. I created this site because I want to share the benefits parents receive from going to counseling sessions. Thank you.