If you are estranged from a child or a parent you are not alone. Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., a psychologist in San Francisco and the author of When Parents Hurt says it is so common that he calls it a “silent epidemic”. Sometimes a big heated feud started it causing someone to walk away: other times it may have been a more drawn out series of problems that created a slow drifting apart. Either way, after a long time there can be regrets and a desire to get make contact again. Here are some tips for getting back in touch with your loved one.
1. Reach out several times. Not just once. The main reason that so many familial relationships deteriorate over the years can often be traced to simple lack of communication and stubbornness. Perhaps you feel that you’ve been wronged by a family member, or vice versa. The other thinks you should make the effort, whereas your reality dictates that they should make the effort. This situation can often lead to a communication deadlock that can last for years. Instead, offer an olive branch and make the effort yourself. Let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back. And try not just once, but several times until your family member comes around
2. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Whatever it is that’s holding you back from being close with your loved ones, it’s likely that both parties were in the wrong. If your son or daughter no longer talks to you out of shame after some argument, go out of your way to forgive them. Don’t just forgive them in your heart, but forgive them with words. On the flip side, if it’s you that’s caused the schism with your family members (even if it’s a misunderstanding), admit to your transgressions and ask for forgiveness.
3. Confront the issues. Asking for forgiveness is a good start, but it won’t go extremely far in your pursuit to mend broken relationships. You and your family have become estranged from each other for a reason or set of reasons. You cannot forgive each other and then proceed to ignore the elephant in the room. No matter how painful it is, talk about what went wrong. Don’t argue; discuss. Talk about how you felt, and explain that actions are often perceived in different ways by different people. Whatever you do, talk through all your problems.
4. Once you’ve resolved problems, follow through. Reuniting, talking, forgiving all have strong roles to play when mending family relationships. But it doesn’t end there. After being estranged for so long, it’s so easy to slip back into old habits. The reason you’re seeking reconciliation is to have a strong relationship. And strong relationships are tended to with patience, care, and communication consistently. At the very least, call your loved ones once or twice a week. Remember birthdays. Show your love.