Friday, January 13, 2012

When parents hurt

Back when my son 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!


  1. Hallelujah for the answers to prayers for the the softening of hearts and "thaws" taking place! Thank you for your prayers, Sheryl!

  2. My mother has given up on me, in fact she told me that no one in my family wants anything to do with me ever again, no one loves me or needs me. All because after dealing with years of her negative treatment of me, I stood up for myself. I called over to put out a fight between her and my father (both in there late 70's). I was having heart palpatations becase of all the stress and negativity that was taking place in my family at the time. I reacted poorly to the situation and said a curse word cause neither of them showed me any appreication or understanding of how stressful this was on me. So I got dismissed told to leave that that is not what I was called to do. I was in trouble for having my own feelings to the fight, but because I didnt fulfill the expectations like I had in the past, where I just listened calmly and tried to help put out the fight, I was in trouble and thrown out like a rug. I expressed to her how i felt, she didnt care, has no abilty to apologize, she didnt even think she owed me an apology, she said Aunt Nita doesnt act like that when she comes over to put fights out between your father and I. And I am like, well that isnt her father now is it. She says she wants to live her last days in happiness which to her is Bingo, I am not as importnat as Bingo I guess. I am so hurt and I do not know how to heal.

  3. Give your heart to Christ, Sara. Give everything to Him.

  4. It has been time and do pray Sara, you have been able to now forgive and heal from this broken relationship with parents and siblings or maybe even better you have re-connected? But overall one cannot always make things happen as we want and that is when we must rely on God. Remember how that saying goes about " I accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can,and have the wisdom to know the difference?" That has helped me through the pain of being estranged from our oldest son and his wife and our own grandchildren. I have no clue what happened and they will not discuss it or go for help which I have suggested we seek counseling.I do beat myself up all the time and my husband hates it.. and I must stop as it has been five years. It is deeply hurting and yet like you I now must realize it is in God's hands as we can only do so much then we must know when it is over our own heads. We must move forward from the rejection and betrayal and also bullying. These things are becoming the "norm" now and people get away with it. If we do not want to face something or someone, we just discard them/it! Just like we do stuff. Then it becomes their problem once they go in that direction, not ours anymore. If we try to seek forgiveness and love and they reject it again, we just walk on. God understands and will forgive us all. He can sift it ll out ,in the end. We ask love them and help us to continue to love them too .