How to Deal With Estranged Adult Children (How to Stop Expecting)

Estrangement stories and experiences are characteristically varied and complicated. There is no one size fits all solution and no simple method for the outcome of resuming a relationship. However, successful reconcilers worked towards their personal growth by coming to some key revelations. Carefully, they navigated their expectations and those of their estranged family member. Parents and adult children changed their expectations, noted how their relatives had changed and evaluated the least they would accept. This article discusses How to Deal With Estranged Adult Children and How To Stop Expectations.

Research reports that differing expectations are the most common theme among parents and their estranged adult children. Dr. Karl Pillemer’s study noted three strategies of reconcilers. They essentially contemplated whether tightly holding onto expectations was worth having no relationship.

Three Strategies in Dealing With Expectations

Strategy 1. Change Your Expectation

Don’t expect your adult kid to see it your way. You may intensely want something that you may never have. You are familiar with this grueling attempt if you’ve tried to get your adult kid to see things your way. Research suggests that parents accept that they cannot expect their adult children to conform to their expectations. When there is a release of high expectations and getting a relationship on new terms increases the likelihood of reconnecting. Your adult child may never live up to your values. Accept this limitation.

Strategy 2. Assess How Your Adult Child Has Changed

You would not know first-hand how your kid has changed except through the accounts of other family members. However, social science research studies people generally change for the better as they age.

In cases where there has been abuse, resuming contact must be done considering the self-preservation of the one harmed.

If you have been exploring the topic of estrangement, you are learning and growing. You have likely followed the advice to better care for yourself. Perhaps you are practicing communication skills, getting support, learning to calm down, and doing essential self-care. You may also be focusing on ways to be more attractive to your kid. You have changed.

They may have also changed.

Research tells us that people have the potential to change for the better along their life span.

They learn to regulate their emotions better and become more oriented toward interpersonal relationships, which will facilitate a more straightforward attempt at reconciling.

Both you and your adult child have likely grown. Notice these changes even from afar.

As people age, they generally become more agreeable. Rifts are often the outcome of viewing others in black and white terms. When there is a violation of one’s expectation, there are judgments against their character. Declaring a negative character to your estranged person is what solidified the rift in the first place. However, sticking to this declaration leaves little room to believe they may have changed.

Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.” Bren Brown

Strategy 3. Decide What Is The Least You will Accept

Your expectation of your adult child may never be fulfilled. But what will you accept of them? If you think you would like to reconcile and reflect on your expectations, it will help you get closer to the possibility.

You may reconsider if holding firm to an expectation that your adult child resists is worth the rift it facilitates. You may be willing to forfeit your adult child’s following your beliefs or should, so you get to participate in their family again.

Contrary to popular belief that settling is essentially giving in, consider the cost of holding a firm.

Is it worth “settling” to bridge towards a relationship with your adult child? In relationship therapy, “win-win” is another way to say you both gain something but not everything. They aim to preserve the relationship, and both parties are comfortable with the negotiation. When there’s been an estrangement, the win for the parent is the restored relationship. A success for the adult child is the release from obligations and duty.

Many reconcilers contemplated the value of restoring the relationship, even in the face of “settling.” They were willing to be in a restored relationship accepting what the other was willing to give. If your adult child is ready to be in a relationship with you but resists your expectation, you acknowledge that fact.

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Differing Expectations

While parents hold firm to loyalty no matter what, the adult child often believes differently. Toxic relationships are highly stressful and include combativeness, defensiveness, unrealistic demands, and broken boundaries. Adult children often leave to gain relief from the discomfort they experience in the company of their parents. For them, it is weighing the option of being in a negative relationship or cutting off.

On the other hand, parents believe their kid is obligated because they did so much for them and should withstand the relationship’s chronic stress and stay firmly attached out of loyalty. Adult kids resist the notion that”blood is thicker than water.” Likewise, they do not feel obligated to remain when faced with highly stressful contact.

Reconciling

To reconcile is to make amends, settle a dispute, and call for a cease-fire. Often there is no way to reconcile the two versions, and reconciliation is accepting that fact. Reconcilers of estrangement were willing to relinquish needing to win their point. To reconcile when two opposing viewpoints relate to one’s resigning, the need for both sides to agree on one narrative. Expectations are often at the forefront of the rift between parents and adult children.

A considerable obstacle when considering reconciling is the insistence that the other party listens and agrees with your version of the past. Indeed, both parties’ versions are valid and deserve attention. Estrangement is filled with versions tied to painful histories. Parents may express strong beliefs about where their adult child missed the mark. The inverse may also be true. When expectations are imposed and unmet, clashes occur.

Participating in the cut-off between adult children and parents includes divorce, being too close to one or more parents, differing values, lifestyles, choices, difficult son or daughter-in-law, mental illness and addiction, and their therapist. However, differing expectations significantly impact the relationship’s erosion and maintain rifts among parents and adult children. Mismatched expectations significantly interfere with reconnecting the parent and adult-child connection.

What About Expectations?

Typically, families share expectations of how the members behave as a unit. These shared expectations are usually followed and understood. Attending weddings, and special events, regularly calling for check-ins, communicating openly, and supporting each other are ways in which families relate. In addition, there are expectations or beliefs, often framed as “family values,” that include an individual’s perception of how each member “should” behave. Dr. Karl Pillemer, author of Fault Lines Fractured Families and How to Mend Them, explains these beliefs are “judgments about what is important in family life and the moral system that guides our interactions with relatives.”

The parent-adult-child relationship often operates differently, emphasizing the carryover of parental authority and position. Respect, loyalty, and duty are concepts frequently cited by scorned parents. Expectations and beliefs develop from one’s personal experience, culture, time one grew up, and upbringing.

Parents tend to see their kids as extensions of themselves, as part of their legacy, while adult children seek independence.

Two Parental Principles and Beliefs

According to Pillemer’s research, parents believe that kids are obligated because they provide for them and that families should stay together no matter what.

  1. They provided their children with a home, food, and necessities is reason enough to maintain a lifelong relationship.
  2. Loyalty to the family unit supersedes all issues resulting from conflicts.

Parents usually view the relationship as more important and are more committed to its longevity. Parents feel more positively towards their adult children than their kids think of them. Since parents are more invested, they have more to lose when their adult children cut them off.

Distinct life accounts and positions in the family lead to unequal perceptions of the importance of the relationship. Parent and their adult children have very different views on obligations and the impact of the relationship.

Strong parental expectations are often shrouded in should. It’s a demanding approach for an adult children if they disagree. There is significant disagreement about “unbreakable ties.”

Adult Children Expectations

Adult children have their expectations based on their values. In some cases, adult kids experience rejection or defrauded of something they should have received. Often their expectations are based on fairness. Rifts occur from disappointments over the anticipation of emotional or financial support during difficulties. Kyle Agillias, in her book, Family Estrangement A Matter of Perspective, states, “children have an expectation of continued and equitable parental availability and affection and are likely to estimate their importance to the parent by comparisons with their brothers and sisters.” Adult children tend to assess their relationships based on their experience of stability and consistency if they feel loved, accepted, and able to express themselves.

Expectations aren’t the problem. The polarity of expectations with fixed beliefs of who is right or wrong contributes to estrangement and obstructs the potential for reconnection. When the expectations of one-party clash with others, the result is offenses, arguments, and resentments.

Author Anne Lamott said, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

Estrangement and Abuse

When considering the possibility of reconciling with an emotionally and or physically abusive great care is required. Reconciling may only be possible if the abuser is willing to work with a family therapist. When there is abuse, individuals estrange out of necessity and self-preservation. Consider if it is safe to resume a relationship with an abusive family member without evidence that the abuser has changed or takes responsibility for their harmful actions. 

When there is a history of abuse, the notion of reconciling requires the professional guidance of a therapist and insight into the abuser’s recognition of their behaviors. More to the point, therapeutic work is essential for both parties and the assurance of future emotional and physical safety. Kylie Agllias, researcher, and educator, in her book Family Estrangement A Matter Of Perspective, explains that commitment, insight, and integrity are needed to reestablish trust.

Estrangement stories and experiences are characteristically varied and complicated. There is no one size fits all solution and no simple method for the outcome of resuming a relationship. However, successful reconcilers worked towards their personal growth by coming to some key revelations. Carefully, they navigated their expectations and those of their estranged family member. Parents and adult children changed their expectations, noted how their relatives had changed and evaluated the least they would accept. This article discusses. How to Deal With Estranged Adult Children and How To Stop Expectations.

Get The eBook:  Feeling Heartbroken and Alone? How to Pick Up the Pieces When You are Estranged

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