Reconnecting with a Parent: The Biggest Obstacle to Reconnection is Ensuring the Destructive Patterns Are Not Repeated


Family relationships are often quite complicated and experience normal periods of conflict, instability and turbulence. When it all gets to be too much, the damaged relationship could end in estrangement, with both parties engaging in “no contact”. Adult children seeking reconciliation after a prolonged period of silence carries significant weight and needs to be carefully initiated.

Whether driven by a major event sparking the desire to mend the relationship or witnessing positive changes in the parent, there are numerous compelling reasons to seek reconnection. Navigating this process can be a daunting and challenging task, but the desire to reconnect and rebuild the lost bond is a brave first step.

Seven Steps for Healing and Reconnection

Self-reflection and Healing

Before initiating contact, it’s essential to take some time for self-reflection and healing. Only by digging deep and understanding your own emotions will you have a chance to heal the past damage. You’ll have to take a hard look at the reasons behind the estrangement and identify any unresolved pain or trauma.

As you navigate this process, it could be quite beneficial to seek assistance from trusted friends, therapists, or support groups to help you process your feelings and build healthy emotional resilience.

Clarify Your Motivation

Before reaching out, clarify your motivations for reconnection. Is it solely for closure, forgiveness, or the desire to rebuild a healthy relationship? Having a clear understanding of your intentions is invaluable for navigating the process and communicating effectively with the estranged parent. 

“You could say, for example, “I enjoy having you in my life, but I am cautious, and I do not want to end up in this position again,” suggests Fiona Yassin, founder and clinical director of The Wave Clinic, “What can I do to protect our relationship going forward?”

Establish Boundaries

A crucial role in rebuilding any relationship is establishing healthy boundaries. Before starting the process of reconnecting, identify the behaviors, actions, or situations that led to the conflict and eventual estrangement. Often, the conflict in the family is circular, so it’s helpful to identify and acknowledge what you don’t want to happen or experience again. 

By determining what is acceptable and what is not and communicating these boundaries of self-protection, you’ll be building a foundation for a more respectful and sustainable family relationship.

Open and Honest Communication

Without effective communication, it will be nearly impossible to address the past issues. In order to prevent their recurrence, you’ll need to initiate an open and honest conversation while expressing your feelings and concerns.

Doing so without blame or accusation is crucial in this step, as Yassin stresses, “Very little will be achieved if you ask a parent to admit their wrongs or apologise. Likewise, using accusatory language such as “you weren’t there for me” or “you weren’t nice to me” comes with a big dose of blame. It’s important to only speak in the first person, which is less guilt-inducing and shows a willingness and openness to work on the relationship.”

This is a time to share your perspective while also actively listening to their point of view. Emphasize that you understand the strong feelings of the past but miss having them in your life, and you’re ready to move forward. 

Seek Professional Help

In some cases, you have to accept the damage is simply too big to navigate on your own. There is no shame in seeking the guidance of a family therapist or mediator to provide invaluable support during the reconciliation process. A neutral professional can help facilitate difficult conversations, mediate conflicts, mitigate disappointments and provide realistic next steps.

Slow and Steady Progress

Reconnecting with a parent after a period of estrangement is a delicate process that takes a lot of time and endless patience. By taking small steps, you’ll have a better chance towards rebuilding trust while gradually increasing the frequency and depth of interactions. Rushing the process runs the risk of repeating past patterns. 

Yassin explains, “Once the relationship has had a little time to heal, which will be different for everyone, an important question to ask is “how can we ensure we do not get into the same mess again?”.

Forgiveness and Letting Go

Rebuilding a parent-child relationship requires forgiveness from both parties as you each let go of past grievances and resentments.

If everyone is in agreement, this process can be liberating and help create space for a fresh start, but it might not have the happy ending you’re looking for. While you may desperately want to reconnect, the other party may not, and you reaching out may come as a shock and surprise.

Yassin stresses to remember that forgiveness could mean letting go forever, “Prepare for a situation where you do not get the response that you’d hoped for or wanted. Lots of people who try and reconnect with a family member can feel an added layer of abandonment and rejection if the parent doesn’t want to rekindle the relationship.”

Fiona Yassin, the founder of The Wave Clinic, recently spoke extensively to Metro UK about this topic which you can read here.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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