Dr. Joshua Coleman in San Francisco specializes in family estrangement issues. I get updates and info by email regularly. Now and then, I like to share what he sends out, like this recent advice on writing a "letter of amends."
According to Dr. Coleman, the most important ingredients of a letter are:
Make a fearlessly honest admission of your mistakes to your child. Leave out the reasons, justifications, or any other detail that makes it sound like he or she has no right to complain.
Express heartfelt empathy for how your child may have felt in response to your behavior.
Avoid responding to your child's anger or sadness by defending yourself. There are times to provide the reasons for your behavior or choices, but not in the act of making amends.
- Express gratitude to your child, both at the beginning and at the end of making amends, for taking the time to hear you out.
- Let your child know that you are open to talking about this again whenever he or she wants in the future."I understand that some of you may have already tried to make amends," he says. "But most of the time when people feel like they're written a good letter of amends, they actually haven't. Not because they didn't want to. But because it's really difficult to do!"