Wednesday, November 03, 2010

When an Adult Child Cuts Off a Parent

I wish I had a more chipper post for Election Day folks; this is just plain sad.

Therapists for years have listened to patients blame parents for their problems. What about the suffering of parents who are estranged from their adult children?

Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco psychologist who is an expert on parental estrangement, says that parents often report that a once-close relationship has deteriorated after a conflict over money, a boyfriend or built-up resentments about a parent's divorce or remarriage.

''We live in a culture that assumes if there is an estrangement, the parents must have done something really terrible,'' said Dr. Coleman, whose book ''When Parents Hurt'' (William Morrow, 2007) focuses on estrangement. ''But this is not a story of adult children cutting off parents who made egregious mistakes. It's about parents who were good parents, who made mistakes that were certainly within normal limits.''

Dr. Coleman himself experienced several years of estrangement with his adult daughter, with whom he has reconciled. Mending the relationship took time and a persistent effort by Dr. Coleman to stay in contact. It also meant listening to his daughter's complaints and accepting responsibility for his mistakes. ''I tried to really get what her feelings were and tried to make amends and repair,'' he said. ''Over the course of several years, it came back slowly.''

(A Singer: there is no simple answer or quick fix here. Coleman correctly states that persistence is the key)

Source: Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times