Estranged? Seems like an unusual topic, but unfortunately it’s not. Since beginning Ministry Minutes a few months ago I have had contact with at least five people who are hurting from the loss of their adult children. By loss, I am referring to children who have chosen to, in effect, divorce their parents and break off all communication. This has been called a silent epidemic, with numbers growing daily. As I did some internet research, I found literally thousands of sites discussing this topic.
There are undoubtedly times that it is healthy to do such a thing with good reasons backing the decision. Where there is abuse, addictions or other situations where people are unsafe, it is recommended to distance onself at least temporarily, until some level of resolution is reached. However, in each of the situations I have encountered recently, the parent has done nothing abusive and in most of the cases has no idea why this situation is what it is. They were not even offered an explanation to contemplate.
Some of these parents have made every effort to communicate, make amends for perceived wrongs, and tried to use mediators or simply sit down and work things out. In each case, the adult children refused to try to find any common ground. The pain and heartache these parents are suffering is deep and tragic. The bond between parent and child is strong and in a parent’s heart, can never be severed without leaving a bleeding wound inside. When grandchildren are involved, the pain is multiplied.
What counsel can I offer? I certainly offer compassion and prayer. It seems that either the adult child has been hurt and chooses to stay angry and unforgiving, or they are simply self-focused and maybe even narcissistic. “Generation ME has never known a world that put DUTY before SELF, and believes that the needs of the individual should come first” -Bobby Conner. To refuse to make any effort at reconciliation indicates a big problem within themselves. Blaming parents for every negative aspect of their lives, perhaps they are simply refusing to grow up and be responsible adults. It’s easier to blame. There are no perfect parents. Sometimes it takes becoming a parent to begin to realize the complexity of child rearing and appreciate the human frailties that enter into the process.
Many times parents of adult children have difficulty in cutting the cord. They will demand daily calls, visits or other involvement that crosses healthy boundaries. Adult children need their space and to be shown the same respect as any other adult. Advice on child rearing or any other aspect of life should be given only when asked for, unless your child has given you that permission to speak into his/her life at any time. Some do have that type of relationship and it works fine. It must be a mutual agreement.
Seeking God in prayer moves one in the right direction, which hopefully will lead to finding a path of communication that works for all parties. Talking through issues can shed light where confusion has reigned. Compromises are inroads to making a win-win situation for everyone.
If you are ministering to someone grieving the loss of their child’s relationship, consider suggesting a mediation meeting with an objective, outside party or someone they both respect and trust. If they reject any effort at all, the parent will have to find a way to let it go. This is extremely difficult, but making peace with the situation is important. If the parent knows they have done absolutely everything possible to make things right — to no avail, there is at least the peace of knowing that the choice lies with their child.
If you are that adult child reading this, I beg you to go to the Lord and really ask for His help to forgive, to consider the pain you’re bringing to your parents, the damaging effects of denying your children grandparents, and your own need for inner peace. The decisions you make will have lasting effects on the generations which follow you. In the increasing darkness of this world, family relationships are critical. That support system which provides a rich history, an intricate interweaving of love and connection, is a legacy that cannot be replaced by anything else.
If you are that parent, hold fast and trust God. Prayer has moved many mountains and as your child matures, there is always the hope that he/she will return to you. In the meantime, find your peace in knowing that you have given it your all, your best shot at keeping the door open. We never know what God is working out behind the scenes, and sometimes it takes time. If you have done something you regret, confess it to God and leave it with Him. If you have asked His forgiveness, you have it. Consider the Serenity Prayer and ask God to give you peace in knowing you have done all you can do. He has a way of bringing His love and other people into your life who can help to fill that void.
Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr
Scriptures for Encouragement:
Psalm 34:17-20 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
1 Cor 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Prov 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Prov 11:29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.
Joel 2:25 I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.
Parents of Estranged Adult Children: http://www.dovechristiancounseling.com/Parents-of-Estranged-Adult-Children.html
How to Bond with Estranged Adult Children: http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/bond-estranged-adult-children-14695.html
Does Generation Y have too much Self-Esteem?: http://aspeneducation.crchealth.com/articles/article-entitlement/