How To Deal With An Estranged Child

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It’s Mother’s Day but, I have a lot of negative emotions as a mother.  It’s not just today but rather, it’s every day.  I haven’t seen my only child in over a year and a half.  Unfortunately, neither have her friends nor the rest of her family on both sides as she chose to be with a disordered boyfriend who uses drugs to cope with Life, all day, every day.  That thinking has rubbed off onto her as well.  His distance from his own parents has become her attitude as well in spite of knowing all too well that this sick, warped individual has and has had issues that run deeply and she’s admitted that much but, decided to oust herself from everyone as well.  He has no family he speaks to nor, friends and neither does she now, through her own choices.  It hurts.  It hurts badly.

At one point, I tore myself to shreds as both a person and a parent.  As a matter of fact, she helped do it with horrific comments that she hurled at both myself and my husband who is her father.  The words didn’t sound like hers.  They appeared to be dictated by the sick individual’s mouth and thinking that she’s living with.  It felt as though we were listening to him, not our daughter who is now a fully grown woman not a child, teen or early 20’s.  She’s now in her 30’s.  Where was her brain and heart? Where did hers end and his begin?  Was there a difference between the two now?  We think not.  It seems that she doesn’t know anymore where he ends and she begins but, don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not blaming him as much as I am blaming my own daughter for her poor and even nasty, hurtful choices in her life with not only us but, everyone else.  She has a mind of her own and should use it, not utilizing his thinking which is ill.  I truly mean ill.

A child (adult or not) who alienates themselves from their parent’s lives for whatever their reasons, doesn’t recognize that damage that they’re doing to not only their parents or parent but, also to themselves.  The reasoning for them doing this is varied.  No two children will have the exact same reasons for doing so and yet, they will all claim that they’ve had some “wrong-doing” done by their parent or parents to cause such an action. It doesn’t seem to matter how wonderful a childhood they had or how much support and unconditional love they were given throughout their lives, they somehow, feel “entitled” to having the right to walk away, abuse their parents and even influence other siblings. There’s a chain reaction that happens but, they don’t seem to care what mess they leave in their wakes.  They simply take off and don’t look back.  It’s what they want that counts in their minds.  Everyone else’s well-being is not taken into consideration.

Do we owe our children total unconditional everything?   

As parents, we are human.  The old saying of, “you didn’t come with a manual” is true.  No one wrote a manual on how parents should or can deal with everything that comes up.  For the most part, we do the best that we can as parents.  Will we make mistakes? Of course we will.  No one is perfect and what may be news for our children is that in spite of our best efforts, they are not perfect either.  However, we do not owe them total and unconditional love, attention or anything else for that matter if they are treating us with disrespect and disregard.  We wouldn’t allow others to treat us that way so, why would we lay down on the floor and allow our own children to walk over us?  Most of us do it though because we do love them that much.

We are only as happy as our unhappiest child

A doctor once uttered that line to me as she has 4 children of her own.  At first it made no sense to me because I had an only child.  What did she mean by that?  If you have 2, 3 or 4 or even 10 children, how can one child’s unhappiness ruin our happiness for and with our other children?  Then, I began to think about it more clearly and finally understood what she meant.

When a child in the family decides to estrange themselves from the family, they leave behind not only a plethora of guilt for the parents which usually isn’t justified but, they somehow poison their siblings’ minds and lives with their warped views of parents in one way or another.  Not only that but, other siblings may be feeling guilt for having stayed with the parents and have to deal with their estranged sibling’s departure from family life.  Other children we have may also become slanted, tainted, skewed and even angry at what has happened.  They can blame the parent(s) or they can act out.  After all, their worlds have been turned upside down too.  I’ve even seen it where siblings no longer speak to one another even hating each other because of it.  One child’s actions has a snowball or domino effect on everyone else concerned and leave a path of destruction whereby, everyone becomes “ill” in one way or another.  Worse than that, one child can break up an entire family or, at the least, fragment them all.

always about them

Should our love for our child or children always be unconditional? 

If you had have spoken to me a few years ago, I would have said “yes” but, now…not so much.  What changed my thinking?

Our love for our children begins either at conception or sometime after they are born.  We spend sleepless nights, walk the floors with them, love them, take care of them, protect them, teach them and just about every other thing that one can think of that a parent does.  We do that out of love.  Yes, there are exceptions in the parenting realm where children are abused or neglected or both but, for the most part, most parents give up a lot for their children not the least which includes sleep, food, showering, friends, jobs or whatever we feel needs to be done for that child’s sake.  For all intents and purposes, our child or children are our lives and the centres of our universes.  They figure that out early and quickly and in later years, use it to their advantage.  We needn’t doubt that as most of us ran to our child or children the moment they cried, squirmed, said, “uhhh”, grumbled or seemed unhappy.  Heaven forbid that this precious being should be unhappy or uncomfortable in any way and they quickly learned that our existence upon this earth was solely to “serve them”.

As they grow as I’ve written in another piece on this topic and they begin to separate themselves from us bit by bit as all children must do, they still hold the belief that no matter what they do or how they treat us, we should be there for them with unconditional love, help and everything in between.  For the most part, that is true.  We are there for them but, there’s a difference as they grow up and are less part of our daily lives or with the intensity that they once were.  We start to figure out that our children cannot be the only part of our lives that we focus on or we’ll spend many days and nights, alone, lonely, pining and feeling lost.  We also need to move forward too as people.

We’re still here for you but we also have to have a life.

By the time our children are either adults or almost adults, we as parents, are also learning to let go a bit and retrieve our own identities as well lest we become fragmented people who have no sense of who we are as individuals.  We are no longer simply “Johnny’s Mom or Janie’s Mom”.  We are finding ourselves again too.  Just as they are growing as individuals, we are re-growing as people too.  Even if we have other children still at home, we also know that they too will someday, have lives of their own and we begin an inner process of rebuilding us as human beings and people.  While we still love our children without reservation and will help them in whatever capacity we are capable of doing for them, they have to learn as much as we do that they can no longer control our every waking and even sleeping moment nor, expect that we should always simply be there for them no matter what, where, when and how they think we should.  Nor, should we bend our lives out of shape completely for them any longer.  They now have the where-with-all to take care of themselves to some extent or another.  That’s where parenting has to take a turn and changes have to be made within the parent.  How much change we make is individual but, it has to be done for our own sakes as well as theirs.  We cannot remain stuck in place for their whims, needs or wants as much as we used to be.  Some kids resent that fact and expect that we should always be there with open arms to treat them the same way throughout their lives or in spite of the fact that they’d moved on for awhile or are moving on.

One child can ruin an entire family out of sheer anger or temper tantrums

An estranged child can ruin an entire family unit and tear it to shreds.  Hard to believe, right?  It does happen.  One child holds a grudge because they didn’t get what they wanted or what they thought they should have and through anger, bitterness, or several temper tantrums, set out to taint the rest of the family against the parents.  That sends everyone into upheaval and tensions arise as everyone scrambles to figure out how to cope or deal with the issues and fragmentation of their family.  An angry, bitter child has the potential of convincing their siblings or others that parents are involved with that the parent is wrong, bad, sick, abusive or a plethora of other lies that they create to sway people and siblings to their side.  In a lot of cases, it can be a type of “I’ll get you back” type of attitude towards the parent(s) but, in other cases, it can be more of a “I’m right and I’m going to prove it” type of stance that they pull.  They will or can sway everyone in their radar if they want and have people and siblings believe them.  After all, they are “the child” no matter how old they are so, they must have reason to feel that way they will reason and other people or siblings can tend to believe them.

Not only does this type of stance convince others but, it leaves parents with a layer of guilt, shame and feeling inadequate as both a parent as well as a person.  It can go so far as to being shunned by others and that heightens the negative feelings to the point where the parent either becomes ineffective in Life or severely shamed and depressed, ruining their lives in many ways if not all ways.  In other words, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch through,” as the old saying goes.

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Where is that line of when to give in and when to stand our ground as both parents and people?

This is an individual choice that cannot be answered in a few sentences.  Each parent and child are unique.  No two sets will be the same nor will their dynamics as to cause or how far everyone is going to take this but, there may be a rule of thumb here.

  • At a certain point, your child or children will become adults.  While they will always be your child or children, it doesn’t give them Carte Blanche to treat you like a doormat or poorly.
  • You have to have boundaries too.  They will set theirs so you also need to begin to set yours as well.
  • While you may feel guilty and lonely, wondering what you’ve done wrong, think about it rationally first.  If you’ve done something that you know is wrong, attempt to apologize with sincerity to them and let them know that you recognize their points, why and are trying to make it up to them but, that’s as far as you’re going to go.  You aren’t going to let them use it against you for the rest of your life or theirs.  End that there and don’t let them beat you up over it or, beat yourself up over it.  Everyone makes a mistake or has poor judgement.  Leave it there in your mind and theirs.
  • Try reaching out to them, asking them why they are treating you this way and listen to them.  If they cannot give you a reasonable explanation or it’s extremely vague, recognize that your child is likely being influenced by someone else.  It may be a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or a miriad of other influences that they will encounter once they’ve grown some.  You are not their only influence.
  • Let them know that they are loved at least once more.  If they still shove you away, try again but, at a certain point and with enough shoves away, recognize that they know it and back off.  There’s only so much that you can do before it becomes them dangling you off of strings like a puppet or kicking you while you’re already down.  It gives them a form of superiority or enjoyment.  It may be both.  Enough is enough.  Stop and let it go for a bit.  Let them feel your absence.  They know they are loved at this point.
  • Talk to your other children if you have them and they are shunning you to some extent or another too.  Have a frank conversation with them about what they are feeling, why and then discern for yourself whether they are justified in their feelings or whether this is a toxic reaction to their sibling’s feelings.  If there’s something that you can do or say to rectify that with them, have that discussion and work together on it even if it means Family Counselling which can help.  Don’t let your estranged child pull the strings on everyone and everything in your life.  It’s akin to allowing a gossip in a schoolyard, turn others against you with false stories. Straighten them out in a timely fashion if you can.  If not, ask them to join you in family counselling.
  • Most of all, recognize when to let go.  Your child is no different than anyone else in your life once they are capable of taking care of self.  No matter how deluded they may be, recognize when it’s time to let go of them and let them figure things out for themselves.  You chasing them only gives them more power in their minds.  This is especially true of those who are substance abusing or using and those who have others who are feeding them negative thoughts that you can’t override.  For your sanity and health’s sake, you have to let go of them until or unless they are in a better headspace.
  • Give your child credit for being able to think for themselves.  While it’s tempting to blame someone else for their thinking, the truth is, your child is capable of making up their own minds and making choices for themselves.  Give them that credit and while you may hate the person or people you feel are influencing them, realize that your child is making their own choices once they are adults.
  • If all of your efforts have failed or only made things worse, it’s time to give up and take a rest to get yourself healthy.  Head off for counselling yourself and for yourself.

This, as I’ve said, is a lengthy topic and there’s not a lot about it on the net, sadly.  There more of us out here than we’re willing to talk about.  There’s a sense of shame, guilt and blame that we go through and continue to go through when we talk about it so, we tend to keep it to ourselves more often than not.  We need to talk about it though.  It’s an important part of our lives and both physical as well as mental/emotional health.  There’s nothing more painful than a child or children who alienate themselves from their parent(s).  In a sense, it’s a form of a “death” though it’s death with hope of a return.  Nothing is more grief striking than the death of a child for a parent.  Give yourself time to grieve.  Unfortunately, not many bereavement groups for parents will allow us in or accept us right now because they will tell us that we have “hope” of our children coming back.  It’s up to us as estranged parents to band together and talk this through with one another.  It’s important to let our feelings out and know that we’re not alone in this.  At least, that’s the way that I’m seeing things from my little corner of life.

Be well.  Keep talking.  Comment below and let’s talk.

Love and Light and have a great day or evening.

 

4 thoughts on “How To Deal With An Estranged Child

Add yours

  1. A raw and powerful post. There were so many emotions you went through here. Not easy. May your daughter ‘wakes up’ and realizes she doesn’t want to continue living the way she is. Much peace to you. From one mom to another: many blessings to you. 🌼

    Liked by 1 person

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