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Rebuilding a Relationship with Your Estranged Child

Much of the winter holidays focuses on family and togetherness.  Many of the images of the holidays show happy families of parents and grandparents and children all gathered around a menorah or a Christmas tree.  But what if you are estranged from your adult child?  What if you have grandchildren with whom you do not spend time because of this estrangement?  How do the holidays look for you?  Many people with estranged children have found other ways of celebrating the season with friends or other loved ones.  It is possible that you would like to begin to rebuild this broken relationship but do not know where to start.  If you would like to rebuild a relationship with your estranged child, there are a few things that you should know and remember.

1. Do not go in without a game plan.

Something has happened between you and your adult child that caused a rift.  It might have been something that you did or something that he or she did.  Regardless of who is at fault, if you are ready to rebuild the relationship, amends need to be made.  You may not know what your child wants from you to be able to start the rebuilding process, so asking may be a good place to start.  Then again, if he or she thinks that you should know and you do not, asking could backfire.  Do some research into techniques for talking to adult children in a non-confrontational manner.  Find an approach that suits your abilities and your comfort level.  If you have someone with whom you are comfortable, practice some of what you would like to say before you make your first attempt.

2. Keep your expectations realistic.

Rome was not built in a day. And your relationship with your child will not be a vision of perfection overnight either.  It is possible that your son or daughter sees your situation in a very different light than you do and is not ready to begin this rebuilding.  Relationships are built on trust and forgiveness.  These things take time to rekindle once they have been extinguished.  It is certainly acceptable to have hope for what you would like your relationship with your child to be eventually, but try to keep your expectations to a minimum.  Having too many expectations can put undue strain on an already difficult endeavor.

3. Commit to the effort.

Do not take the first steps if you are not fully committed. Starting the process of rebuilding and then abandoning your efforts will make it so much harder for your child to be able to trust you should you make the decision to try to rebuild at another time.  It could alienate your child further.  Committing to being all in for the long haul is best demonstrated rather than said.  Being committed to the effort means that even if you are rebuffed at your first effort, you will continue to make attempts at rebuilding the relationship.  Being committed to the effort means that you will persist because you love your child and care for your child despite all that has happened between you.  The nature of what occurred between you and how long that situation lasted for will really determine how long it may take for you to rebuild your relationship if it is possible to do so.

4. Be ready for your life to change.

Regardless of how old your child is, he or she may need you to be there and learn to put your family first. Putting your family first does not mean that you have to give up all of the other areas of your life.  It does not mean that you have to give up the life that you have built for yourself and the things that you regularly engage in, but it does mean that you will need to make time in your schedule for your child.  If he or she is ready to start working on this relationship, do not make it difficult for him or her to talk to you.  Allow some time for just the two of you to talk or work out some of your difficulties.  This is where you start to keep your promises.  And the most important thing about promises is that you only make the ones that you can keep.

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