Dealing with estrangement and conflicts within your family can be an emotionally draining and heartbreaking situation. Whether it comes in the form of emotional distancing, a lack of communication, or all out family war, estrangement is deceptively common among families around Australia. While it doesn’t always last forever, it can have a detrimental effect on our health and our other relationships, and can be a difficult period to navigate.
While estrangement is common in families around Australia and the world, not much has been known about the reasons behind it until now. A new report has revealed the main reasons parents and children become estranged and how long the estrangement lasts for. By talking to hundreds of people, researchers found more people are estranged from their mothers than from their fathers. Similarly, more parents are estranged from daughters than from sons. Interestingly, however, estrangement from males tends to last longer than estrangement from females. The reason for this is the classic ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Men tend to lean towards ‘flight’, which causes the estrangement to last longer because they aren’t confronting the issue or talking about it to resolve the problem. Women on the other hand will often choose ‘fight’ and tend to feel guilty about the estrangement. While they might not resolve the conflict straight away, women usually make amends sooner as they are more willing to talk through to issue to find a solution.
Children were more likely to cut off contact from their parents, rather than the other way around. In fact, over 50 per cent of children said they were the ones who stopped talking to their parents, while only 5-6 per cent of parents said they have cut off contact with their children.
When asked if there was a possibility of reconciliation the answers from children and parents were wildly different. Up to 71-79 per cent of children said they could not picture reconciling with their parents, while at the other end of the spectrum only 13-14 per cent of parents said they could not reconcile with their children. This difference is thought to be because parents have a stronger connection with their children than their children have with them. It is thought to be a primal and instinctual connection that dates back centuries. The bond between parents and their children is always strong, but when children have their own kids the bond with their parents changes. Now they have their own children they form stronger bonds with them, and the bond with their parents becomes secondary.
Being estranged from your child when you have grandchildren adds a completely new layer to the issue. Grandchildren are often withheld from their grandparents, meaning they are unable to form a meaningful relationship with them. The report strongly suggested that when trying to reconcile with daughters, emotional issues are primary. As a grandparents it suggested you try to provide emotional support, reduce drama and be less critical.
When trying to reconcile with sons, relationships with other family members are primary. As a grandparents you should strive to get along with your son’s wife or partner and also with his in-laws.
Finding a way to reconcile is not always easy and it can take months or even years of talking, arguing, and negotiating to find even ground and learn to get along again. While it can be difficult to go through, an overwhelming amount of people said they were far happier after reconciling and finally felt like a family again.