- Expected 4 Mar 2021
'I've seen many parents and adult children grappling with these issues, and this is exactly the book they have all been waiting for.' - Lori Gottlieb
Has your adult child cut off contact with you?
How can you heal the pain and start to build a bridge back to them?
Labelled a silent epidemic by a growing number of therapists and researchers, estrangement is one of the most disorienting and painful experiences of a parent's life. Popular opinion typically tells a one-sided story of parents who got what they deserved or overly entitled adult children who wrongly blame their parents. However, the reasons for alienation are far more complex and varied. As a result of rising rates of individualism, an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness, growing economic insecurity, and a historically recent perception that parents are obstacles to personal growth, many parents find themselves forever shut out of the lives of their adult children and grandchildren.
As a trusted psychologist whose own daughter cut off contact for several years and eventually reconciled, Dr Joshua Coleman is uniquely qualified to guide parents in navigating these fraught interactions. He helps to alleviate the ongoing feelings of shame, hurt, guilt, and sorrow that commonly attend these dynamics. By placing estrangement into a cultural context, Dr Coleman helps parents better understand the mindset of their adult children and teaches them how to implement the strategies for reconciliation and healing that he has seen work in his forty years of practice. Rules of Estrangement gives parents the language and the emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child, the framework to cultivate a healthy relationship moving forward, and the ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible.
While estrangement is a complex and tender topic, Dr Coleman's insightful approach is based on empathy and understanding for both the parent and the adult child.
In this forceful work, psychologist Coleman (When Parents Hurt) delivers an empathetic yet imperfect solution to the issue of adult children choosing to end contact with their parents. Addressing primarily estranged parents, Coleman explains his mission is to help them "find a healthy way to reconcile" as apart from rare exceptions "reconciliation is better than staying apart." Coleman draws from his own estrangement from his daughter, case studies from his professional experience facilitating family reconciliations, and research on the societal shifts that have created new pressures on family units to present an eclectic array of perspectives from both parents and adult children. Nevertheless, there are elements that will rankle; Coleman has a troubling tendency to sideline abuse as an unusual exception for the abuser, and some readers will take exception to his argument that therapists have expanded abuse definitions to include behavior that was once normal. Estranged parents, meanwhile, may object to his insistence that "parents have to go first" in the reconciliation process by affirming their child's grievances no matter how unjust. He concludes with helpful recommendations for realigning one's expectations and crafting a letter of reconciliation. While the narrow consideration of possible outcomes for parent-child relationships will frustrate some, Coleman's comforting message will be healing for those trying to bury the hatchet.