When a parent and their child become estranged, it can leave a deep wound that takes much time and effort to heal. And while some may eventually yearn for that-the vast majority are simply unable to. This is why.
Peg Streep is the author of “Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life,” and she is no stranger to parent/child estrangement. She explains that she has experienced estrangement with her mother. According to her, neither she nor her mother even tried to reconcile, and her mother eventually passed away 13 years after they had become estranged.
Through her research, she has conducted a variety of interviews and says that none of those she spoke with preferred estrangement to having a healthy relationship with their parents. However, despite this, she says that the chances for true reconciliation are pretty low.
She cites Joshua Coleman’s work, as he is an expert in estrangement and reconciliation. One of the techniques he used for reconciliation is to write a letter to the estranged child, requesting to connect. Of those letters, only 60% contact them back, and 20% of them are uninterested. Another 20% write an angry response, and the remaining 60% agree to speak. When you look at the numbers, 4 out of 10 refuse. Out of the six who remain, three give him the boot. There are three left of the original ten who accept a joint therapy session.
Even in the case of three out of ten who accept, there are still difficulties. Here are a few to keep in mind.
1. It takes a LOT for people to truly change. (Oftentimes the toxic party just won’t.)
In most cases, people will not change for someone else. They will change on their own accord, and because the process of estrangement is so long (see below) it’s likely they have already tried to go this route with little to no success.
2. Estrangement begins with a long process.
Estrangement is not the first step. Most kids will first try to establish boundaries. When that fails, they will beg their parent to change. Then, they may limit contact, before cutting contact altogether. By the time they have reached the last step (estrangement) in most cases, it has been years.
3. Some parents believe, no matter what they do, their child should accept it as a form of respect.
Some parents believe that their children should respect them, no matter what they do. Either it’s the way they were raised or the way they are wired, regardless, they don’t see that they need to change. Instead, they believe they are the ones being wronged.
4. Commitment to the current narrative.
A lot of times, the parent has built themselves up in their mind as the good parent or even the victim, as I discussed above. Because of that-they will struggle. The reason for this is that to mend the connection with their child, they need to accept that they have done wrong. And this can be difficult to do when the parent has spent years being delusional and rationalizing toxic behaviors.
5. The need for apology.
Last, but not least, apologies are necessary to mend the broken connection. And for various reasons, not all parents are willing to do that- because that would mean they must admit they were wrong.