Vail Relationships column: When your grown child rejects you
Dear Neil: My daughter doesn’t want contact with me. She will not call, and she won’t respond to my attempts at communicating. Is there any way of redeeming this relationship?
Rejected By My Grown Child
Dear Rejected: Here are some suggestions about what to do:
• When communication is possible, make the first move; don’t expect your grown child to do so. You may not be the primary person responsible for the conflict, but you are most likely the person who has to initiate repair. Ask yourself: “Who’s the full-grown adult here?”
• Stop judging, and pick your battles. You can love your child without loving his or her choices or attitudes.
• Communicate respectfully and non-defensively. Harsh words will not repair your relationship no matter how justified you think they might be. Let your child speak openly about what is disturbing him or her. You may not agree, but your child has the right to say it. And gentle your message. You might say, “This is how that makes me feel,” rather than suggesting that your child did something wrong.
• Listen for the feelings behind the words (often this is the crucial part of what’s being said), and mirror back the feelings so your child knows you are hearing and understanding him or her. Validate and empathize with your child’s feelings.
• Is there an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed? If so, then address it.
• Apologize. There’s typically a grain of truth in our children’s complaints about us. Take responsibility for your actions, and ask what you can do to right any wrongs from the past. Honestly acknowledge how you’ve contributed to the conflicts or problems between the two of you. Express regret without trying to correct his or her the past.
Remember you are talking with an adult. Seek to repair the relationship rather than fix your child. Focus on the present and what can be done now. Renegotiate the relationship with new boundaries.
It can be difficult to hear your child criticize your parenting style, what you did or how you did it. Deal with your wounded pride on your own, so you can respond with love instead of hurt, anger or defensiveness.
Don’t give up. This is your child.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 25th year of publication. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website, http://www.neilrosenthal.com. The second edition of his book, “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating A Vital Relationship,” recently hit the No. 1 best-seller list on Amazon its first day of release, both nationally and internationally.
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