by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Have you seen the television show called Intervention? The few times I’ve watched, the stories are heartbreaking, and the interventions have limited success. But something in the show the other night stuck with me.
Intervention: Who gets help?
If you’ve have ever watched the show, you know that the addict’s family members have suffered. Sometimes a grandparent cares for the addict’s child. Family members have tried to talk sense into the individual, and have offered all sorts of help. They may have felt as if they had no choice but to enable the adult child with money so he or she doesn’t end up on the street. But nothing has worked. They’ve watched their loved one’s life unravel—and often, parts of their own lives have unraveled too.
The family’s decision to do an “intervention” represents more than helping the addict. The family members are helping themselves. They all agree that enough is enough. Something must change. They can no longer enable and allow the addict to interfere with their own happiness. By setting up boundaries to support themselves, which includes things like disengaging from the relationship, no longer giving money, and letting the addict suffer the consequences of their behavior, they hope the addict will agree to get immediate help.
How’s this apply to estranged parents?
In the episode I’m referring to, the family waited for the addict to arrive at the pre-intervention meeting as always. The counselor brought up some important points that apply to estrangement from adult children.
First, the counselor said: Whenever you think or talk about the addict, it’s a mood-altering experience.
The family agreed. No doubt, parents experiencing estrangement from adult children can relate. Thinking about an estranged adult child brings them down. It’s a mood-altering experiencing. And it’s no wonder. For most parents, it’s difficult to even believe the estrangement has occurred, let alone try to accept it. The emotional trauma of estrangement is tough to contend with and bleeds into other areas of parents’ lives. It can be so draining. That’s why I wrote my books to help parents of estranged adult children cope, founded RejectedParents.Net, and am sharing with you in this article now.
Next, the counselor told the family: The thing is, the addict may never change.
It’s the same with estrangement. Many parents hope for their estranged adult child’s change of heart, and for a reconciliation like the prodigal child. But it’s important to realize that this may never happen.
Finally, the intervention counselor told the family: You cannot be casualties of the addict’s behavior.
Parents estranged from adult children need to think the same way. Your estranged adult child may never change. Don’t be a casualty.
No intervention for your estranged adult children
For absolute clarity, let me say outright that I am in no way suggesting you do an intervention with your estranged adult child. Many families have tried this, and of the stories I’ve heard, the results were not good. I’ll share a few of those experiences in a future article, because I hear from parents all the time who are wondering about the tactic.
Estrangement: Focus on you
In Done With The Crying, there are examples of how repeatedly reaching out can become hurtful to parents of estranged adult children. Suffering rejection over and over again can further dismantle self-esteem, and puts parents at the feet of a child to whom they’ve handed all the power. Reconciling may not even be wise if the relationship will be hurtful. Coming to terms with estrangement involves examining the situation with clear eyes rather than through rose colored glasses. In my latest book, Beyond Done, there are even more examples of how this hurts and how to heal.
As the New Year is set to start (or any time!), draw the curtain on the dark thoughts such as where you must have gone wrong. If you’re like most parents, in estrangement from your adult children, you’ve beat yourself up for every possible mistake.
Starting this new calendar year, let go of the worries and what-ifs about your estranged adult child’s possible future regrets. Instead, focus on the good you did, the times you tried, and the effort you made to be the best parent you knew how.
Don’t be a casualty. Do a personal intervention on yourself. Join thousands of parents who, despite estrangement, have embraced their lives and moved happily into the future.
Happy New Year!
Estrangement from adult children: Five ways to move forward