When our adult children leave home, we expect them to be independent and manage on their own. But a falling out or family crisis can destroy this new equilibrium. Estrangement has been called a silent epidemic and parents, humiliated and hurt, are too embarrassed to talk about it.
Divorce can be a major factor in these painful situations. It’s common for children to believe that one parent is responsible and to align with the other whom they perceive as wronged. Since there’s already animosity between their parents, they may pull away from one to protect the other. Some adult children feel smothered and overly responsible for a mother who can’t take care of the family, others feel resentful and abandoned by a father who left.
Being angry at the offending parent or sympathetic to the aggrieved one opens the door for parental alienation, whether or not there’s been infidelity. But when the cause is an affair, it often takes a major act of self control for the betrayed not to incite the children against the other parent.
Another cause of estrangement is a parent who is hypercritical and overbearing. Living in such a controlled and tense environment can lead to bitterness and a total disconnect. Some kids raised in these circumstances crave their own space to such an extent that they walk away and never come back.
Rifts can also be rooted in issues that weren’t dealt with back in childhood, such as feeling that parents played favorites. Sometimes this pain gets triggered later in life by incidents as minor as where to celebrate Thanksgiving or as weighty as parental disapproval of your partner.
Do you know someone or are you going through this kind of family crisis? If so, please share your thoughts for others who may be looking for direction. And log on here Thursday for practical tips about how your family can move forward toward a resolution.