Thursday, July 16, 2015

Post Estrangement - Coping Strategies - guest author Nina Wornham

I am devoting today's blog to my fellow author Nina!  
Here is her excellent post on "Coping Strategies" 

Coping Strategies 
by Nina Wornham

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the process of understanding our responses to various situations is best described as a triangle of having a thought that leads to a feeling which leads to a behaviour.

Therefore how we think directly relates to how we feel and then how we respond.

It's been said that shunning and cutting off another human being is down to passive rage. But so far no one knows why.

When I began researching estrangement almost 2 years ago, there was nothing on the internet except a silent wall of shame. I noticed the occasional parent had made a veiled comment but apart from this, estrangement was a mystery. I had a hard time finding anything concrete about the topic which is why I started this group.

Parents felt it was only happening to them and because of this they felt that they'd somehow failed.

They thought if they openly revealed their situation they would be judged and made to feel worse so they said nothing and hid away suffering in silence instead.

Slowly the floodgates began to open and while the finger naturally pointed at blaming the parents originally, even the few experts that were noticing the rise in EC cutting their parents off, began to realise that it couldn't be a simple case of just blaming the parents. Something else was wrong.

Today, the internet is overflowing with parents sharing their concerns and stories about their children estranging from them. A tide has turned, the stigma has retreated and now it's out in the open appearing somewhat worryingly as a new trend.

No one knows why. No one knows what's breaking the glue that bonds a child to their parents.

Originally divorce was an issue but even the traditional married parents that have sacrificed everything are finding their children are ditching them without a backward glance.

I have a retail business and hear it regularly from my customers. Respectable, solid, upstanding people that have been devoted parents only to watch their relationship with their children fall apart over the most minor issue such as not agreeing to a request, saying no to a loan, having a different opinion or simply not being available to babysit.

It's staggering the wrath that the adult child can inflict on a non compliant parent.

The few 'experts' that there are on estrangement, (I don't think there are any), are baffled. If they don't know, we're not going to know either. The whole thing is mind boggling.

There are obvious indicators such as parental alienation, we know this is a major problem in severing a child's loyalty and affection to another parent.

But it's hard to guess what other factors are involved in encouraging our Adult Children to make such drastic decisions when they cut contact with their parents. It's tragic because not only are the parents isolated and estranged, the Adult Child is also cut off and estranged although this probably won't dawn on them until much later in life if the estrangement continues.

What can you do? Immediately, there isn't much you can do if you've tried to resolve the issue without any progress. All you can do is learn how to manage and cope with the fallout of being estranged hence the reason for (support) groups.

One thing I would advise is not to get into right fighting (I'm right no matter what!), or a power struggle to control the situation. This only polarizes the situation further. I have listened to my daughter scream abuse at me and rant many times. I have stopped defending myself or trying to reason with her. Instead I've recognized that she has an anger problem and when she vents her anger onto me, I walk away. This kills the argument.

Many EC are angry and while they may feel justified in being angry, it may not be you that's made them angry. They've simply chosen to direct their anger towards you either by shunning and ignoring you or by sending you rage filled vents in emails.

Either way, one thing you can do is refuse to be on the receiving end of their anger. You do have power in this sense.

Listen to them by all means but don't be a verbal punch bag. Staying calm, explain to them that you love them and that you want to listen and make progress but they have to communicate with you calmly and in a civil manner.

Too often we get browbeaten into a position of being submissive and because we're parents, we accept a lot, far more than others would. Our love for our children and our emotional attachment often means we allow them to treat us unfairly. This is perhaps our downfall. They get used to treating us in this way and by accepting it, it creates a pattern of how we ourselves expect to be treated. This is not a healthy relationship and we need to resist the urge to tolerate this dysfunction simply to be on speaking terms with our children.

One coping strategy is to develop a healthy expectation of what you will tolerate (within reason).

Being yelled at, blamed, threatened or held to ransom is not acceptable. If you can learn to walk away from this kind of unhealthy treatment, or at least erect a mental barrier from it, you start to move the relationship onto a new footing even if it seems you are as far away as ever from a solution.

By setting down a boundary of expecting to be spoken to and treated with the same level of fairness and civility as anyone else, you are at the start of changing things positively.

And so going back to the thought, feeling, behaviour process, ideally you could begin to manage your situation and feelings better if you start to think...'I deserve to be spoken to in a civil manner'. This should make you feel slightly more stable and able to cope. Your response would then be if you need to respond to an email containing angry comments............'I love you and I'm sorry that you're so upset. I want to resolve things but I find it difficult to reply when I receive angry comments in an email. I hope we can find a better way to communicate and understand each other soon'.

(shared with her permission and acknowledgement) 
clip art credit - as marked or unknown

About the author:
Nina Wornham is a life coach and is currently studying CBT.  She writes from experience as an estranged parent. She is a published author of "Darker Side of the Sun" available on Amazon.

My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
this goes for the words of my fellow author Nina Wornham as well.
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If you want to quote Nina please provide a link back to this page so that she may receive the recognition. 

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