Parents of adult children, whether estranged or not, sometimes (or often) bump into boundaries they didn’t know were there.
They might be asked to call before dropping in, to speak to their child’s spouse a certain way, or to respect a grandchild’s dietary restrictions, bedtime or other limits.
Even when boundary lines are clearly drawn, they can still be a source of friction in the parent-adult child relationship. But when boundaries are unclear or seem to change frequently, parents may feel both frustrated and insecure.
The “walking on eggshells” feeling that many parents experience around their adult children is in large part a fear of setting the relationship back by unwittingly crossing invisible lines.
In this episode, Tina offers some thoughts about boundaries, including why your adult child may be withholding information about them, and how to find out where the lines are.
For practical tips on how to repair estranged relationships with adult children and their spouses or partners, see Tina's book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.
More episodes from "The Reconnection Club Podcast"
122. Language Matters
9:01Vicious. Nasty. Controlling. Mean. How do you feel when you read those words? If you've been thinking about your estranged adult child(ren) in these terms, the language you're using may be affecting your ability to solve the problem of estrangement. Compare "My child is being cruel" with "I miss feeling close and connected." The first statement is stark. It invites a lack of trust, and a sense of powerlessness. If your child is simply cruel, where does that leave you? The second eases the nervous system with words that feel better: "close" and "connected." Even if those feelings are currently missing, just the sound of them can soothe an aching soul. Get inspired by this episode to manage your experience of estrangement, by managing your vocabulary. You may not get to choose whether you’re estranged, but you do get to choose how you respond – including what you say when you talk to yourself and others. Members can discuss this episode in the General Discussion forum inside the Reconnection Club. Not a member yet? Learn more and join. Check out Tina’s book, Reconnecting with Your Estranged Adult Child.
121. "I'm Not Perfect"
7:38If you've ever apologized to your estranged adult child and included the fact that you're not perfect, chances are you didn't tell them anything they didn't already know. If they're honest with themselves, estranged adult children also know that they're not perfect, either. Because no one is. "I'm not perfect" is a common refrain from those seeking forgiveness. But as apologies go, that phrase is... well, less than perfect. In addition to being redundant, the statement may stir up negative feelings, because of what it leaves out. In this episode, Tina gives 4 different reasons to avoid using this statement, especially during apologies. Full show notes are at reconnectionclub.com/121
120. Rules of Thumb Are Not Rules
8:58Have you ever heard the following rules of thumb for parents of estranged adult children? "Always give your estranged adult child the last word when texting." "Never reach out to them if they’ve asked for no contact." "Don’t send gifts." "You have to apologize if you want to reconcile." These rules of thumb get bandied about in conversations between unwillingly estranged parents. And instead of starting points, they’re often treated as a hard line that parents have to toe. But even with hard-and-fast rules (which these aren’t), not every rule applies in every case all the time. In this episode, Tina cautions against treating rules of thumb as if they were natural laws. She urges you to think through the rationale for everything you do during estrangement, and provides examples of what that looks like. For a guidebook to help you understand the principles underlying rules of thumb, read Tina's book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.
119. Finding Out Where the Boundaries Are
8:33Parents of adult children, whether estranged or not, sometimes (or often) bump into boundaries they didn’t know were there. They might be asked to call before dropping in, to speak to their child’s spouse a certain way, or to respect a grandchild’s dietary restrictions, bedtime or other limits. Even when boundary lines are clearly drawn, they can still be a source of friction in the parent-adult child relationship. But when boundaries are unclear or seem to change frequently, parents may feel both frustrated and insecure. The “walking on eggshells” feeling that many parents experience around their adult children is in large part a fear of setting the relationship back by unwittingly crossing invisible lines. In this episode, Tina offers some thoughts about boundaries, including why your adult child may be withholding information about them, and how to find out where the lines are. For practical tips on how to repair estranged relationships with adult children and their spouses or partners, see Tina's book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.
118. Does Your Adult Child Lack Communication Skills?
11:19Parent-adult child estrangement is essentially a communication problem. Many unwillingly estranged parents are dismayed by what they view as a lack of communication skills in their adult children. “If only he’d tell me what’s wrong,” they lament. Or, “Why does she have to such awful language?” Fortunately, communication takes two. If you have any contact with your estranged adult child, you can contribute greatly to improved interactions. Even without direct contact, anything you send in writing will have an impact on the tone of your relationship. In this episode, Tina points out that nobody communicates in a vacuum, least of all family. Listen to this thought-provoking episode to learn how to enjoy better communication with your adult child(ren), and others. Find Tina's book at Amazon: Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child
117. Heroes and Villains
7:12Family conflict is inherently dramatic. This is according to one dictionary that defines drama as “any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results, e.g. the drama of a murder trial.” The dictionary might as well have used parent-adult child estrangement as an example of drama, since it entails the elements mentioned above. In this episode, Tina reminds us that most dramas involve heroes and villains. But in parent-adult child estrangement, that dichotomy presents parents with an obvious problem. If the parent (as the rejected party) is the hero, then they must live with the notion that they raised a villain or villains. But if the estranged adult child is the hero, then the parent must make sense of how his best efforts to parent well, including the sacrifices he made, landed him in the villain role. As a matter of expediency, Tina suggests refusing to view the situation in black-and-white terms.
116. What Do We Owe Our Parents?
10:02Part of the pain of being rejected by an adult child is knowing how much, and for how long, you sacrificed energy and time to parent her or him. You did as well as you could within the given circumstances. Why can’t your adult child cut you some slack? Estrangement can uncover expectations of reciprocity from one’s children. “I’m not asking for much,” you might say; “I just want to know my child is okay.” Or “I’d just like to see my grandchildren once in a while.” When parents’ desire for contact with an adult child and/or grandchild(ren) is thwarted, the sense of injustice can be consuming. It raises the question of what we all, as somebody’s children, owe our parents. After a brief ethical exploration of this question, Tina suggests that certain conditions are usually in place before adult children reciprocate. She also addresses the problem of how to deal with feelings of injustice. Episode link: Check out Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them on Amazon
115. Before You Apologize
8:58Once they recover from the shock of realizing their adult children have become estranged, many parents are quick to apologize in order to make things right. While the desire to make amends usually comes from a good place, early apologies can miss the mark. Before you consider apologizing to an estranged adult child, first ask yourself whether an apology is necessary. In many cases, an apology would be very much appreciated. But for others, it's not important. If you know an apology is in order, it may mean more to get it right than to do it soon. In this workshop-style episode, Tina describes an exercise to do before you sit down to write to your child, and gives you 5 reasons why doing this first makes sense. For more tips and tools, check out Tina's book, Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child.
114. Why Your Adult Child's Reasons for Estrangement Keep Changing
10:19You might be surprised when your adult child's reasons for estrangement seem to change over time, or depending on whom they're telling. But if you think it's because they weren't valid in the first place, this episode could change your mind and help you find a path forward together.
113. Your Adult Child's Difficult Partner
10:16Raise your hand if you think your estranged adult child’s spouse or partner is the main cause of the estrangement between you. If your hand is raised, you have lots of company. Parents who are unwillingly estranged from an adult child often worry that a son- or daughter-in-law has driven a wedge between them. They feel powerless in the face of that person’s influence, and wonder if they’ll ever be allowed to be close to their adult child or grandchildren again. This is admittedly a frightening and frustrating position for parents and grandparents. But as Tina points out in this thought-provoking episode, things are not always as they seem. Show notes are at reconnectionclub.com/113