Back when Patrick shut me out, I couldn't find anyone to the same situation or resources on estrangement. Nowadays, the Internet has lots of forums, blogs and websites, some of which I've mentioned here on this site. The number one expert on the subject seems to be Dr. Joshua Coleman, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. On his website, you can access links to televisions interviews, articles, forums and his book, When Parents Hurt.
A minute ago, I watched his interview on The Today Show (December 2007) with Al Roker and Hoda Kotb. According to Dr. Coleman, parental estrangement from children of any age is a "silent epidemic" because many parents feel shame. If their kids refuse to talk to them, then they must have done something terrible? That's may be the feeling, but it's certainly not true in every case.
The biggest cause of estrangement, Dr. Coleman says, is divorce. "Sometimes kids often feel loyal to one parent or the other," he told Roker and Hoda. Or "one parent tries to poison the children's feelings about the other...."
To help heal the broken bond, Coleman advises parents to:
1. Take responsibility. Apologize sincerely for whatever you may have done wrong.
2. Stay in the game. Don't give up on the relationship!
3. Get support.
For more thoughts and information on estrangement, read "When the Ties That Bind Unravel," by Tara Parker-Pope with the New York Times.
In the meantime, I've gotten an e-mail from a hurting parent on our Prayer List whose two of three estranged children are beginning to thaw! Praise God!