When Your Grown Child Rejects You

Dear Neil: My daughter does’t want contact with me. She will not call, and she won’t respond to my attempts at communicating. Is there any way of redeeming this relationship?

Rejected By My Grown Child

Dear Rejected: Here are some suggestions about what to do:

  1. When communication is possible, make the first move; don’t expect your grown child to do so. You may not be the primary person responsible for the conflict, but you are most likely the person who has to initiate repair. Ask yourself: “Who’s the full-grown adult here?”
  2. Stop judging and pick your battles. You can love your child without loving his/her choices or attitudes. Not everything is worth a fight.
  3. Communicate respectfully and non-defensively. Harsh words will not repair your relationship no matter how justified you think they may be. Let your child speak openly about what is disturbing him/her. You may not agree, but your child has the right to say it. And gentle your message. You might say “This is how that makes me feel,” rather than suggesting that your child did something wrong.
  4. Listen for the feelings behind the words (often this is the crucial part of what’s being said), and mirror back the feelings so your child knows you are hearing and understanding him or her. And very important—validate and empathize with your child’s feelings.
  5. Is there an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed? If so, address it.
  6. Apologize. There’s typically a grain of truth in our children’s complaints about us. Take responsibility for your actions, and ask what you can do to right any wrongs from the past. Honestly acknowledge how you’ve contributed to the conflicts or problems between the two of you. Express regret without trying to correct his/her version of the past.
  7. Remember you are talking with an adult. Seek to repair the relationship rather than fix your child. Focus on the present and what can be done now. Renegotiate the relationship with new agreements and new boundaries.
  8. It can be difficult to hear your child criticize your parenting style, what you did or how you did it. Deal with your wounded pride on your own, so you can respond with love instead of hurt, anger or defensiveness.
  9. Don’t give up. This may take longer than you wish, but keep reaching out. This is your CHILD.

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