What You Should Know About Reverse Parental Alienation
Family Dysfunction Can Lead to Alienation
Every day, hundreds of family ties are severed, mostly due to lack of understanding or communication. How does one come to grips with such a sad outcome, yet go on to live a happy and peaceful life with so much animosity and unsettled emotions hanging over their head?
If you are a parent, especially a mother, please think about the long-term consequences before allowing your anger, judgment, or a grudge against your adult child (or any relative) to ruin your relationship forever. Think about the effects of these negative actions and how behaviors of today will impact other family members and future generations for years to come. Is this the legacy you want to leave behind for others to remember you? My hope is the answer is "no".
Negative reactions can have a very painful and lifelong effect on your child, and others within the family as people generally feel forced to choose a side. What is the point of such reactions and behaviors? Is the sake of being right, controlling, or wishing to guilt your adult child worth the long-term agony it causes?
Instead, try taking the high road and let go of your inner narcissist. Instead, offer a listening ear, and allow your adult child to make his or her own decisions—and then do your best to support whatever those decisions are, even if you disagree. It takes a strong will, a conscious effort, and dedication to your child to not make knee-jerk reactions you may forever regret. Being a supportive parent is the best gift you can give your child.
Adult Children Need a Healthy Relationship With Their Parents
As a parent, you needn't approve or agree with your adult child's choices. But as with many situations in life, pick and choose your battles wisely and decide if your family bonds are worth sacrificing over a difference of opinion. You can provide the support they need and help them navigate through life's challenges. They need comfort, acceptance, safety, and love, not opinions or judgment that make their issues even more difficult to face and ultimately, overcome.
Our children are not a possession to control. In most cases, our children were wanted and desired, and some parents even worked hard to have them. Adult children should not be expected to live up to a parent's expectations, just because we created them. They are individuals. I cannot stress this enough. Allow them to be their own people; not a clone of you or who you want them to be.
As mothers and fathers, we must raise our children to be kind-hearted human beings with a good work ethic and respect for others. We also must help and support them through life's struggles and teach them the necessary skills to survive and cope with such challenges. On a side note, it's never helpful to throw religious guilt into the equation. Not everyone believes the way you do, even if it is "how you raised them". That is yet another form of control and mentally abusive too.
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions.— David Stoop and James Masteller
No One is Guaranteed Perfect, Loving, Understanding Parents
If you find yourself the target of family aggression, parental estrangement, or as a victim of emotional abuse from a parent or other family member, it's time to remove yourself from that situation if you have exhausted all measures to reconcile or even agree to disagree.
It may sound cliche', but when your parent alienates you, the issues they have with you, may not actually be with you, but with themselves. You have no control over how your parent feels about, treats, or behaves towards you. You can only control how you respond to the abuse--and it is abuse. This may mean allowing the parent to walk away and not chasing them or trying to convince them to accept you and this may be temporary or in severe cases, permanent.
Your happiness must be a priority. As tough as it is, this may mean having to cut out this toxic parent from your life forever if they are not willing to work on themselves and have a healthy relationship with you. If this happens, you must find a way to forgive your parent and give yourself permission to break free of the guilt that is being put upon you.
Why Some Mothers Can't Love
Some mothers have a very difficult time loving their children, particularly their daughters, as in my case. These are some of the reasons:
- Jealousy that her child has accomplished things she didn't have the courage to do.
- They have nothing in common and simply can't find a common ground on which to connect.
- She has high or unreasonable expectations.
- She feels she they must always be the center of attention, not you.
- Perhaps the parent/child relationship was always stressed--she did not handle an active, opinionated child well (the "seen and not heard/speak when spoken to, your opinion doesn't matter, show me respect at all times" kind of parent). This was my situation. I was never allowed to have a voice. I was always being told to slow down, walk don't run; basically stifled from being my true self. This always caused tension as we moved forward into an adult child/parent role.
- Maybe being a tough mother stems from not feeling loved by her own mother (or father), or something terrible happened during her childhood she cannot process or overcome and the adult child bears the brunt of the anguish.
Ways to Cope and Respond to Reverse Parental Alienation
Whatever the case may be, if you are the victim of any or all of the above actions by your own "tough mother", you must first and foremost understand it's perfectly acceptable to take care of yourself before you try to repair the damage caused by these behaviors. Practice self-love by doing what you need to do to get life on your desired path, whether that be moving and starting over, finding a new job, taking up new hobbies, or establishing a new relationship/marriage--even if she does not approve of this.
Distance and silence are key at first. Try reaching out slowly with a call or even an email or a card. Then try a meet-up for coffee or lunch. Don't expect a happy reunion at first; actually, don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed. The most important aspect is that you tried.
If you continue to try in good faith and persistently get bitten, it's time to resume the silence and distance until she is ready to seek counseling and work on her reactions and approaches towards you. For some, the painful reality is it may never happen and the situation may never change.
There are many excellent books loaded with advice from experienced writers and professionals who have lived this situation or helped those who have. Take advantage of these reads. Talk to your friends or see a family counselor. Start a yoga practice or take up a sport as an outlet for your frustration.
My two favorite books on this topic are as follows:
It is written by a man who had a strained relationship with his mother and he even wished he could have had a different one. He wanted her to be proud of him (something that I tried and struggled with my entire life, to no avail). His outcome has a happy ending and he shares how they repaired their strained relationship. When I first read it, it gave me hope that my relationship could also be repaired, and I'm sure many can be; unfortunately, mine was not one of them. Difficult Mothers Cure: Toxic Relationships With Narcissistic Mothers Understood and Overcome Forever.
I then had to look for advice on how to cope and move forward without my mother. That's where the book came to my rescue. The author is a therapist who has helped many people with their feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem etc. as a result of feeling unloved or controlled by their mothers. She further breaks down the types of difficult mothers, such as the "competitive and the narcissistic mother". This book provides emotional support for people like me, who have had to proceed with permanent parental separation. Mothers Who Can't Love: A Healing Guide For Daughters
Another way to cope is to connect with others in the same situation. As a result of writing this article, I met another woman, Jessica, who is facing a similar family crisis. I encourage you to also read her story: "When Your Adult Child Stops Talking to You: 5 Things They Want You to Know".
If you are an adult child of a tough mother (et.al), you might even find improvement with the manners in which you respond or react to your own children in their times of need or change. I know I did. I have more patience, understanding, tolerance, and acceptance for my own adult children. I am cognizant of my boundaries and let them live their own lives, in the manner they choose. If I don't like something or feel they are making mistakes, I think before I let my words or actions ruin our relationship. I agree to disagree and I support their decisions, without enabling or criticizing. It's crazy how we can turn terrible situations into valuable learning experiences.
I will probably always feel unloved by my own mother, but at least I know now it's not my fault and it's out of my control. All I can do is use what I have learned to be a better mother and grandmother today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.
I value any comments and feedback or the sharing of your own personal experiences with your own "tough mother". We are all in this together and it's nice to share coping and learning strategies.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Debra Roberts