Reconnecting with a difficult parent can be very difficult for adult children. No one tells us what parent/child relationships are supposed to look like as adults. Emotional hurts that go unattended have a can drive a wedge between family members. And what seems like the smallest amount of distance just grows over time. Next thing you know, it has been months or years since you have spoken to your parent. If you’re wanting to or even just wondering how to reconnect with a parent. read on. This will be enlightening.
What Drove You Apart?
We have a tendency to pick up where ever we leave off in relationships. When you come back together you will not be able to avoid that thing that drove you apart. The key is to make sure that you approach things differently. Odds are that whatever drove you apart involved both of you taking a very rigid stance on something. You will want to make sure that before trying to make contact again, you are ready to be more flexible about that original conflict. Maybe this involves going to therapy individually before. Or it might mean that you make sure to have a supportive friend or partner that you can go to when you need to talk through things. Always remember that your relationship is more important than whatever drove you apart.
Taking the first step can be really scary. You might be feeling a lot of pressure about doing it the right way. Or you might be worried that the other person does not want to reconnect. And that might be the case. That is why it is important to test the waters before diving in head first. Try reaching out through text, email, or even messaging on social media. A direct phone call or showing up in person can be a lot if you have not been talking for a while. Let them know why you are reaching out, and that your relationship is important to you. Let them know that you are open to reconnecting and ask if they are. This will help you figure out if it is safe to jump in.
Hopes vs. Expectations
This part is where it gets tricky. Expectations and assumptions, when unspoken, can be the first step toward disappointment. You are setting the other person up to fail when you hold onto expectations without overtly communicating about them. Unspoken expectations and assumptions are the first step toward disappointment in a relationship.
Secondly, you will want to think about how you will talk about these expectations. You do not want the other person to feel like you are dumping your expectations on them. They will most likely feel forced to act a certain way, which does not put them in a mood to try to reconnect. Instead, ask yourself what you hope for your relationship to be like. How would you like to spend time together? What things do you hope to talk about? Talking about your hopes will help you reengage with your parent or child in a way that does not feel like an attack to the other person.
Here is another article that might be helpful in reconnecting with your adult child. And if you are looking for help in rebuilding that family connection give us a call at The Marriage & Family Clinic.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.