A child’s development is greatly dependent upon the bond they have with both parents. That bond provides the child with the framework for how they view themselves and the world around them. Perhaps more importantly, that bond will determine how well they form relationships with others throughout their life. Situations may occur that cause this bond to be broken:
- A parent’s physical or mental state may keep him/her from being able to relate to the child or take into consideration the child’s needs. Such illness as, depression, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addictions may cause impairments that make difficult for the child to maintain a relationship with the parent.
- A divorce and the conflict that may come with it can disrupt a child’s life. The child might become hostile toward either or both of their parents if they feel the parent is failing to meet their need for security. Normally such situations resolve themselves quickly. However, there are times when anger, hurt feelings and conflict can cause a long-lasting estrangement between parent and child.
- One parent may deliberately attempt to cause a rift between their child and the other parent. When a parent purposefully alienates a child from a parent without intervention the chances of rebuilding the child/parent bond grows increasing difficult as time goes by.
- A parent who isn’t able to handle emotional pain and anger in a constructive way may distance himself/herself from the child to keep from having to deal with their own pain. They may feel that life without the child is easier than dealing with an angry child or dealing with their own discomfort caused by their child’s negative emotions. They will choose to avoid the conflict even though it means no contact with their child.
Re-building a relationship with an estranged child requires participation from both the child and the parent. When a parent reaches out to a child there are no guarantees that their efforts will pay off but, if no effort is made, the chance of re-building the relationship is remote. There are a number of things a parent can do and not do while attempting to connect with an estranged child.
- Keep the lines of communication with your child open. Make phone calls, send emails, and send cards, postcards or letters. Never allow the child to believe that you are not thinking of them on a daily basis.
- Maintain an interest in the child and what is going on in their life. Know who their friends are and what activities they are participating in. Participate in school activities such as parent/teacher conferences, school plays and eating lunch with the child on a regular basis. If you aren’t able to participate due to the physical distance between you and the child then communicate regularly with your child’s teachers. Request copies of report cards and school pictures. Call and help your child do their homework and keep up with what subjects they are taking.
- If your phone calls go un – answered continue to call. If the child does not respond to emails, cards and letters keep sending them. At least once a week, attempt to communicate with your child in some way. You will eventually get through to your child that you love him/her and aren’t going away. Allow your child to be angry but don’t allow the child’s anger to cause you to stop reaching out as a parent. Your constant show of love is the thing that will eventually break through that wall of anger.
- If you believe your child is not being told you called or your emails and letters are being intercepted take action. Send letters requesting a return receipt so that the child will have to sign for them. If you doubt the child being able to accept delivery at home, send letters for the child to his/her school. If you have a court ordered schedule for visitation go to your local police department and request they accompany you to pick your child up. If the child is not made available to you, you will then have proof of parental interference in your relationship with your child.
- Do not ever stop attempting to communicate with your child. Don’t let a birthday or Christmas pass that you do not send the child a gift and card. Don’t allow your child to ever think that you are not thinking of them on such special occasions.
- Your anger at your ex-spouse should never play a role in your relationship with your child. Keep the two separate. You may not like being around your ex but if it means continued participation in your child’s life put your own discomfort on the back burner. Don’t miss a parent/teacher conference, a school play, a church activity or anything else that goes on in your child’s life just because your ex might be there also. Remember, you are the parent, not the child so, act like a parent and put your child’s needs first in every situation.
- Don’t make excuses for the reason you are not a part of your child’s life. If you have made the conscious choice to not contact or see your children own it. Get honest with yourself about why you made the choice. Once you have done that you can either continue the status quo and live without your child in your life or make some changes in the way you have dealt with the situation and start trying to re-build the relationship. If the relationship is fractured because of your actions the only way back is to apologize and be willing to put forth the work and effort no matter how emotionally uncomfortable. Be an adult and do it because, as important as you are to your child’s development, the child is more important to you and the happiness you are able to find in life.