In an earlier blog, I discussed myths or beliefs parents believe that cause undue suffering. For those parents who have experienced estrangement from their young adult and what I call the “empty chair during the holidays” problem, Josh Coleman shares some other myths that parents embrace that cause self-inflicted pain and suffering. For parents who feel alienated or estranged from their young adult children, here is my summary and comments on some of these false beliefs or myths.
Myth: I can’t be happy if I don’t have a relationship with my young adult son or daughter.
I had one father in an estranged relationship say his life was over, and if his son married and had children, he would never see them. Obviously, our children are a huge part of our lives now and as we envision the future, but other relationships are also meaningful: spouses, brothers and sisters, and close friends. It’s also essential to find a purpose or reason for living outside of our kids. Think of the pressure this belief puts on our kids – they are responsible for whether we live or die.
Myth: If my child rejects me, it proves that I have been a bad parent and unlovable.
Your value comes from who you are as a person, and you shouldn’t let the rejection of others, or their actions determine how you feel about yourself. Some of my blogs discuss the importance of doing your own report card. Ask yourself what it means to be a “good person” and “good parent” and what actions you should take to be these going forward. Then grade yourself on your progress on this, and do not give your young adult your report card to grade.
Myth: If I hadn’t made the decisions or mistakes, I made, my child’s life and our relationship would be completely different.
This is a recipe for beating oneself up. We aren’t the only determinants of how children turn out. As Coleman says, genetics, class, neighborhoods, siblings, peers, culture, their choice of partners, and luck play significant roles in how kids turn out. Add to this the false assumption I describe in my writings that we can control our young adults. Whatever the circumstances were in the past, young adults are responsible for their decisions and actions.
Myth: If I had only recognized their problems and gotten them help earlier or been there for them more, they wouldn’t be estranged.
Such a myth is another “if only” belief we tell ourselves, ignoring that the past is past, and we can’t have a redo. The best we can do as parents if we believe we have made mistakes or not helped our children enough is to apologize. I devote a short book to describe why, when, and how to apologize to your young adult.
Ultimately, we all must accept that we will not be admitted to the perfect parent’s club. As one parent once said to me: “parenting is an inherent guilt trip.” We have to show more kindness and compassion toward ourselves, let go of the past, be the best person we can be, and, as much as our young adults allow us, be the best parent we can be.
For more on estranged or alienated young adults and parents, go to Josh Coleman’s website.
- A Letter from A Grieving Mother - November 14, 2023
- Book Recommendation: Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict - November 13, 2023
- When a Young Adult’s Transition to Independence is Complicated by Special Needs - October 27, 2023