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More About Estrangement



For thousands of years this belief was the corner stone of family life.

Kids were allowed to speak only when spoken to them, parents had more control and influence over their children, and the parenting style was more of what felt like control and command. Children had no other choice but to obey. Punishments weren’t only consequences but a way of eliciting a “good behavior” by a child. This reaction of a parent was considered normal and acceptable. 


Family structures started to change as technology and media became a part of family lives. At the beginning through radio and later through television, information about the term CHILD PSYCHOLOGY entered the realm of parents’ minds. The importance of social and emotional development of a child (social- the ability to relate to others, emotional - feelings and the expression of feelings), together with the understanding of the influences of the early-year experiences and traumas on the child’s development and on his overall wellbeing, the realization that self-actualization is the most important ingredient in the happiness of a person’s life, and overall the need of newer generations to do things differently and better than what their parents did with them, created a big shift in parenting styles. Culture began to have a bigger role on how children are shaped. It’s happening through peer pressure, media and social media, and it influences not only children and teens, but also their parents.


As a result, many parents nowadays are the most educated, loving and devoted parents ever. They invest a lot of time and money in raising their kids to become well-rounded people, they are attending to and trying to understand and help their children’s depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, learning disabilities and all other issues that come with raising children. They read books on parenting and even take classes in order to become the best parents they can be. They invest effort and money to help their child fulfill their dreams. Throughout the years of raising their children in an endless effort to be the best version of a parent they had in their mind, they suffer from many sleepless nights, endless worries, guilt, and fear, doubting if they did the right thing, if they could have chosen better, if they have failed their child. The goal was for their child to become a happy, responsible, and self-assured adult.

This is in part why parents suffer so much when their child, whom they love so much, and whom they raised in the best way they knew how, cuts them off, often without any explanation. Such estrangement causes unbearable emotional (and sometimes physical) pain. Parents are in terrible shock and very confused, many believing that they are absolutely alone in their pain, that estrangement has only ever happened to THEM and not to other parents. But the truth is that estrangement has become more prevalent in the last decade. Loyalty, commitment, and obligation to the family, has been replaced by self-actualization and self-fulfillment. The drive to achieve happiness often comes at the expense of family bonds.

While it is usually the parent who seeks help, as a family therapist, I work both with estranged parents and their adult children (if the children are willing to participate). I use Imago Therapy tools to create safety between the parents and the child that allows for non-threatening communication. The dialogues I facilitate usually begin with the adult child talking and the parents listening like never before. (Later, when the time is right, the parents talk and the child listens). This way of listening creates empathy and allows for validating the child's experiences. It takes a lot of effort on the parents' side to learn to listen in this new way, but when they do, it creates a miracle.   


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