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Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict

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A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children. "Finally, here's a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their a A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children. "Finally, here's a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their adult children alike."--Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Labeled a silent epidemic by a growing number of therapists and researchers, estrangement is one of the most disorienting and painful experiences of a parent's life. Popular opinion typically tells a one-sided story of parents who got what they deserved or overly entitled adult children who wrongly blame their parents. However, the reasons for estrangement are far more complex and varied. As a result of rising rates of individualism, an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness, growing economic insecurity, and a historically recent perception that parents are obstacles to personal growth, many parents find themselves forever shut out of the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. As a trusted psychologist whose own daughter cut off contact for several years and eventually reconciled, Dr. Joshua Coleman is uniquely qualified to guide parents in navigating these fraught interactions. He helps to alleviate the ongoing feelings of shame, hurt, guilt, and sorrow that commonly attend these dynamics. By placing estrangement into a cultural context, Dr. Coleman helps parents better understand the mindset of their adult children and teaches them how to implement the strategies for reconciliation and healing that he has seen work in his forty years of practice. Rules of Estrangement gives parents the language and the emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child, the framework to cultivate a healthy relationship moving forward, and the ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible. While estrangement is a complex and tender topic, Dr. Coleman's insightful approach is based on empathy and understanding for both the parent and the adult child.


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A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children. "Finally, here's a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their a A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children. "Finally, here's a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their adult children alike."--Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Labeled a silent epidemic by a growing number of therapists and researchers, estrangement is one of the most disorienting and painful experiences of a parent's life. Popular opinion typically tells a one-sided story of parents who got what they deserved or overly entitled adult children who wrongly blame their parents. However, the reasons for estrangement are far more complex and varied. As a result of rising rates of individualism, an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness, growing economic insecurity, and a historically recent perception that parents are obstacles to personal growth, many parents find themselves forever shut out of the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. As a trusted psychologist whose own daughter cut off contact for several years and eventually reconciled, Dr. Joshua Coleman is uniquely qualified to guide parents in navigating these fraught interactions. He helps to alleviate the ongoing feelings of shame, hurt, guilt, and sorrow that commonly attend these dynamics. By placing estrangement into a cultural context, Dr. Coleman helps parents better understand the mindset of their adult children and teaches them how to implement the strategies for reconciliation and healing that he has seen work in his forty years of practice. Rules of Estrangement gives parents the language and the emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child, the framework to cultivate a healthy relationship moving forward, and the ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible. While estrangement is a complex and tender topic, Dr. Coleman's insightful approach is based on empathy and understanding for both the parent and the adult child.

30 review for Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict

  1. 4 out of 5

    eyes.2c

    Family estrangement--more common than not. Sound and illuminating advice for very tricky family situations involving estrangement and broken relationships. No guarantees of reconciliation, but sound suggestions that might give clarity and ways forward towards understanding. Well worth a thorough investigation. A Rodale ARC via NetGalley (Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Simcha

    If you picked up this book, you are likely an estranged parent/in-law, an adult child who is estranged from their parent(s)/in-law(s), or someone in the support system of one of the aforementioned parties. When reading this book, you may need to remind yourself on more than one occasion that Dr. Coleman's intended audience here is the estranged parent/in-law. Remembering this may ward off some frustration. Dr. Coleman tries to place the estranged parent into the historical and cultural context o If you picked up this book, you are likely an estranged parent/in-law, an adult child who is estranged from their parent(s)/in-law(s), or someone in the support system of one of the aforementioned parties. When reading this book, you may need to remind yourself on more than one occasion that Dr. Coleman's intended audience here is the estranged parent/in-law. Remembering this may ward off some frustration. Dr. Coleman tries to place the estranged parent into the historical and cultural context of the child that may have contributed to the estrangement. He mentions things such as the sense of individualism that is revered in the US, a child's therapist who either pathologizes the parent (ie the narcissist) or somehow guides the child into believing there were serious issues in their upbringing and how they relate to their parents. He devotes a chapter to the spouse of their child and how that individual either wants the estrangement or empowers the child who may have already wanted one. Coleman has another chapter discussing differences in religious, political and identity-based values. Woefully absent from the contributing causes of estrangement however is abuse. Unfortunately, what little he does write of the issue seems to indicate that the new generation has a more broad understanding of abuse, or may otherwise be quick to use that term to describe a parent's behavior. I don't believe he is malicious here but is rather attempting to get the parent to understand the child's POV. However, this does a huge disservice to adult children who did indeed estrange because of abuse. While generational differences exist between parents and their children, that is not to say that the children are wrong in their assessment of their parents/in-laws behavior. Also, while the narcissistic parent/in-law trope may be popular, what does that do for children who truly do have parents/in-laws with some type of pathology? What Coleman does well is steer parents/in-laws towards finding the "kernal of truth" in the grievances their children raise. This requires parents to develop the muscle of empathy and self-reflection, to do the work of reconciliation. He also correctly identifies that while it may seem unfair, the brunt of the work must be done by the parent, since the parent-child dynamic is obviously difference from that of a peer. Coleman encourages parents to write a letter of amends, speaking to the truths raised by the adult child. The letter should not contain any justification, condemnation, or reasoning on how the estrangement has hurt them. The sole purpose should be to speak to the heart of the child and being humble to hearing more from the child, if the child is willing to meet with them. Some parents who criticize the book do so because they feel like they are coddling their child. To them I ask "Do you care more about being right or about having a relationship with your child again?" Coleman also has a chapter on the grandparent/grandchild relationship and how estrangement may be harmful to the grandchild. However, the reasons that he lists can be remedied by having someone else assume that role. This is where the concept of a "Chosen family" may come into play, or the importance of being involved in a community so a child has their village. Due to this simple remedy, his assertion falls flat. He also has an unfortunate section pertaining to grandparents rights and suing the adult child (or surviving spouse) to obtain visitation rights. While the grandparents have a high burden of proof that the estrangement is bad for the grandchild, the process of pursuing the lawsuit in the first place not only ensures that your relationship with the grandchild's parent is over, but will likely cause more harm to the grandchild in the process (kids are remarkable perceptive). I'm shocked that Coleman would even mention this in his book and I hope no grandparent is foolish enough to pursue this except in the rarest of instances. He ends the book with some encouragement to estranged parents on how they can practice self-compassion and how to navigate difficult social situations. I think he reaches too far in his attempt to empathize and connect with the estranged parent, especially when he writes of estrangement on page 260, "...[being out of contact] allows them time to calm the fuck down about whatever it is they're so upset about, to become more self-reflective about the ways they may be overreacting or blaming us." But what about the many valid reasons for an estrangement, whether it is temporary or permanent? Coleman does little to address those. In fact, he writes on page 262, "And even if you made monstrously terrible decisions with your children, nothing makes you deserving of a life without them in it." Even if the parent was abusive? Strong pass Dr. Coleman. The issue is not that it is just offensive to abuse survivors, it is also misleading to the parent and doesn't speak to the fact that some behaviors do have consequences. Where is the accountability? Overall, estrangement is a tricky terrain to navigate without a one-size-fits-all approach to resolution (if applicable.) I believe Dr. Coleman offers one approach that may be helpful and applicable to many, but not all, situations. I urge parents/in-laws who are on the receiving end of estrangement to choose the love of their child over the love of themselves and their way. This, I believe, is part of the calling of parenthood and is why it should not be entered lightly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Keldrmilne

    wish my parents would read this book.... One thing I thought was missing was the topic of how adoption might influence/affect estrangement.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict. BY: JOSHUA COLEMAN One of the most devastating and heartbreaking ordeals that a parent will ever have to face except the death of a child or children is dealing with the pain and suffering when your Adult Child decides to cut off all contact with his/her parent(s). Joshua Coleman who is the author of this book could also be summed up as an expert in estrangement in families. He has had first hand experience because hi RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict. BY: JOSHUA COLEMAN One of the most devastating and heartbreaking ordeals that a parent will ever have to face except the death of a child or children is dealing with the pain and suffering when your Adult Child decides to cut off all contact with his/her parent(s). Joshua Coleman who is the author of this book could also be summed up as an expert in estrangement in families. He has had first hand experience because his eldest child who is a daughter had at one time cut all ties with him. He also cites numerous composites of both estranged parents and also the estrange adult child's viewpoints. First off I am amazed at how often this happens in today's day and age versus when I was growing up. Parent's of estranged adult children have to take 100 percent responsibility for causing the estrangement if they ever hope to reconcile with their adult child. They may not agree with the reasons that the estranged adult child gives for reasons of the cut off. But if they hope to end the estrangement the parents must come from a place of empathy and try to view the estranged adult child's perspective. This is done by attempting to draft an apology letter to the estranged adult child. What struck me about this book's powerful message is that as a parent most try their best to be the best parent that they can be by not repeating the same mistakes that the parent experienced growing up by their own parent. Parent's generally try to give their children all of the advantages that they themselves were not given and still that doesn't guarantee that your adult child won't accuse you of hurting them or for their reasons from cutting off their parents. The list of reasons for adult children cutting off their parents either one or both is much too exhaustive to go into in a single review. Divorce can be a contributing factor where one parent tries to alienate the adult child from the other parent. Getting angry or defensive or blaming the adult child in any way can be a recipe for disaster. Joshua Coleman suggests that if an estranged parent has any hopes of reconciliation with their adult child whom has chosen to cut ties the parent or parents must take the high road. There is also sibling estrangement which occurs if one of the adult child perceives that a particular sibling was the favorite child or has been given more materialistic opportunities. He suggests that sibling estrangement does not cause the same degrees of pain and suffering in each other as it does to a parent. Some parent's cited their estranged adult child's girlfriend, fiancee and later daughter or son in law is the reason for parent estrangement. He urges estranged parents never to put down or criticize the daughter or son in law no matter what as this will lead to their estranged adult child to side against the parents with their spouse. I found that the subject was given a broad assessment as to the multitude of reason's that this rising epidemic occurs. This was not a topic that made for easy reading but it does offer steps, myths and ways of carrying on a joyful and peaceful life if reconciliation doesn't happen. Joshua Coleman does seem to have a high success rate if he can successfully email or urge the estranged adult child to enter therapy with the estranged parents and the estranged adult child if both are able to enter family therapy. Publication Date: March 2, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Joshua Coleman and Rodale Inc./Harmony publishing for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. #RulesOfEstrangement #JoshuaColeman #RodaleIncHarmonyPublishing #NetGalley

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lanette Sweeney

    Helpful, informed and compassionate, Dr. Josh Coleman has made a career out of helping estranged family members heal--whether they are able to reconcile with their estranged family or not. I have learned through this book and Coleman's many online workshops that I am far from alone in having been cut off, possibly forever, from my granddaughter.Changing family and parenting norms, coupled with a new empowerment strain of therapy that encourages patients to cut "toxic" and personality-disordered p Helpful, informed and compassionate, Dr. Josh Coleman has made a career out of helping estranged family members heal--whether they are able to reconcile with their estranged family or not. I have learned through this book and Coleman's many online workshops that I am far from alone in having been cut off, possibly forever, from my granddaughter.Changing family and parenting norms, coupled with a new empowerment strain of therapy that encourages patients to cut "toxic" and personality-disordered people from their lives, have led to a huge surge in family estrangement. If you are a parent cut off from your adult children or young grandchildren, Coleman forecasts that the only way to possibly heal the rift is for you to write an abject, groveling, apologetic letter of amends. This sometimes opens a door but not always, so the doctor's subsequent advice is to move on, practice radical acceptance, and build a happy life without your kids or grandkids. Although this can sound impossible when one is caught up in trying to right a wrong, I wish I had gotten this advice sooner. Because I've already written the abject amends and been ignored for two years, I have already reached the radical acceptance stage. I imagine this must be harder for parents who don't want to give up hope-- though Coleman suggests that the more able you are to build your own happy independent life, the more likely your children are to invite you back into their lives. Either way, he makes clear, building a good life for yourself is possible. I am also listening to seminars Coleman leads on the book contents and that one of his associates is leading on working with your emotions. Both Josh and the associate, Barbra Drizin, have been estranged from their adult children and are now reunited with them, but they are clear that can't be the outcome for everyone. In the language Coleman uses in the book and the seminars, he says things that might anger adult children about how entitled and demanding they are, but in the end his message is that we (the estranged parents) have to listen to our adult children if they are setting limits for our relationship with them, calling us narcissists, telling us we have no boundaries, etc. His message, if adopted, will help more families heal -- and will help more individuals have fulfilling lives, even if their adult kids never come around. My only issue with the book is that he doesn't say clearly enough how challenging it is to win grandparent visitation in court. Though he definitely says this should only be an absolute last resort, that it will be expensive and bloody and probably permanently damage your relationship with your adult child, I feel he should spell out more clearly the very strict parameters grandparents have to meet to even be heard in court. (Your child has to be dead, you have to have had a pre-existing relationship with the grandchild, the child has to have lived with you for the previous year, and you have to prove the child is being harmed by being cut off from you--not just that it would be good for the child to see you but that actual harm is coming to the child who isn't seeing you.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    HalKid2

    More parents are estranged from their children than ever before. RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT helps to explain why and offers concrete ways parents may be able to heal that estrangement. In the last generation, societal attitudes and effort around parenting have dramatically changed. Today, Millennials in the U.S. face more obstacles to achieving the traditional hallmarks of "success" (both professionally and personally) than previous generations. Previous expectations that children have a responsibili More parents are estranged from their children than ever before. RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT helps to explain why and offers concrete ways parents may be able to heal that estrangement. In the last generation, societal attitudes and effort around parenting have dramatically changed. Today, Millennials in the U.S. face more obstacles to achieving the traditional hallmarks of "success" (both professionally and personally) than previous generations. Previous expectations that children have a responsibility or duty to their parents have diminished. Instead, today's adult children have been raised to believe that focusing on their own individual values, goals, and desires gives them the best chance of happiness. Consequently, if a relationship with one or both parents stands in the way of that happiness, that relationship SHOULD be cut away. Peppered with lots of anecdotes from his own therapy practice, psychologist Joshua Coleman offers ways for parents to work on their relationships with estranged children, with the goal of having SOME degree of relationship rather than NONE. His approach puts most of the responsibility for healing the rift on the parents, which may be hard for some parents to handle. And the advice he offers is not easy to follow. But the book offers a reasonable explanation of why estrangement has become more common and how parents can channel their reactions (anger, sadness, guilt, etc.) into more potentially productive avenues. It's very readable non-fiction and if nothing else, the book helps parents feel better about themselves and shows they are not alone in being estranged from an adult child.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    In Rules of Estrangement, Dr. Joshua Coleman describes the phenomenon of adult child/parent estrangement, the many causes, ways to repair the damage, and how to manage the pain and heal if your child has no interest in rekindling the relationship. Coleman is an experienced psychologist, having worked with hundreds of estranged families throughout his career, but he also has personal first-hand knowledge of how painful estrangement can be, as his daughter cut him out her life for several years. T In Rules of Estrangement, Dr. Joshua Coleman describes the phenomenon of adult child/parent estrangement, the many causes, ways to repair the damage, and how to manage the pain and heal if your child has no interest in rekindling the relationship. Coleman is an experienced psychologist, having worked with hundreds of estranged families throughout his career, but he also has personal first-hand knowledge of how painful estrangement can be, as his daughter cut him out her life for several years. This book can serve as a helpful guide for the bewildered parents who wonder where everything went wrong and how they can repair their relationships with their adult children. Coleman, who takes great strides not to take any sides, may alienate some readers with his opinion that in order for parents to begin anew, they must coddle their children, listen patiently to their complaints, find the kernel of truth in them, and seek to become better parents, all without defending themselves or sharing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Some might argue that it is this very behavior that has led to a spoiled, immature, self-centered generation that has no qualms in cutting off their parents in the first place. Still, it would seem that the methods Coleman advocates do work, if parents are willing to swallow their pride and accept a large part of the blame, however fair or unfair that may be. There was one F-word thrown into the very end of the book that was jarring, considering Coleman's professional tone throughout. I couldn't figure out why it was thought necessary to add, and it should be removed before the final version is printed. Thank you to Netgalley and Rodale Inc. for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Drawing not only on his experience as a therapist, but as a parent who suffered a painful estrangement by his child, Coleman provides a sensitive and insightful overview of some of the many ways in which family members can throw up walls against each other, the reasons why they do so, and the ways-- few of them easy, some of them very challenging-- in which parents can reach out to heal a breach. His survey of many common conflicts didn't happen to cover the one that I, personally, was looking f Drawing not only on his experience as a therapist, but as a parent who suffered a painful estrangement by his child, Coleman provides a sensitive and insightful overview of some of the many ways in which family members can throw up walls against each other, the reasons why they do so, and the ways-- few of them easy, some of them very challenging-- in which parents can reach out to heal a breach. His survey of many common conflicts didn't happen to cover the one that I, personally, was looking for help with, but even so, I found his intelligent compassion and humility cast a revealing light on the problems that try families' souls.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Dr. Coleman's newest book, Rules of Estrangement, is not for the faint of heart. If you are dealing with a family estrangement and are ready to do the work to try to repair it (at least on your part), it is a great resource. With real life examples of how estrangements happen, as well as ways to communicate and possibly reconcile, Dr. Coleman gives tangible advice and empathy to those suffering an estrangement. He explains estrangement from both the parent's and adult child's perspective, as wel Dr. Coleman's newest book, Rules of Estrangement, is not for the faint of heart. If you are dealing with a family estrangement and are ready to do the work to try to repair it (at least on your part), it is a great resource. With real life examples of how estrangements happen, as well as ways to communicate and possibly reconcile, Dr. Coleman gives tangible advice and empathy to those suffering an estrangement. He explains estrangement from both the parent's and adult child's perspective, as well as how to navigate an estrangement. I highly recommend this book! I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathi Lynch

    Feeling lighter after reading this I have been estranged from my 3 daughters for 9 years. After reading Dr. Coleman's book I've decided to stop reaching out to them for a year, per his suggestion. This act takes a weight off my shoulders, the weight of constant worrying about what to do next to bring my daughter's back to me. I realize now that it's not my call, whatever will be will be and I can accept that. Thank you Dr. Coleman for lightening my load. Feeling lighter after reading this I have been estranged from my 3 daughters for 9 years. After reading Dr. Coleman's book I've decided to stop reaching out to them for a year, per his suggestion. This act takes a weight off my shoulders, the weight of constant worrying about what to do next to bring my daughter's back to me. I realize now that it's not my call, whatever will be will be and I can accept that. Thank you Dr. Coleman for lightening my load.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    I found this book more relevant to my experience than “When Parents Hurt.” There is no more painful experience than estrangement of a child, other than perhaps the death of a child. The author walks through different scenarios and possible strategies to reconcile as well as strategies for living with and accepting the estrangement. Thought-provoking.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andres

    This book is a treasure. I am not in the situation described in numerous examples in this book, but certainly know a few people who would benefit from it, and it made me realize something and made me appreciate the relationship I have with my parents and my child. A ton of valuable information, and the letters are priceless.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Garry

    Self help book focused on the problem of adult children estranged from their parents; strategies for honest appraisal and reconciliation. There is too much focus in our society on "me and my happiness" and not enough on compassion, empathy and understanding. Self help book focused on the problem of adult children estranged from their parents; strategies for honest appraisal and reconciliation. There is too much focus in our society on "me and my happiness" and not enough on compassion, empathy and understanding.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nick Salenga

    This is a great book that gives parents language & emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child in framework to cultivate healthy relationship moving forward & ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Taylor

    I found this to be incredibly interesting and insightful, written from the PoV of someone who has experienced this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    Helpful, direct, and well organized.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Very important book Dr. Coleman’s experience and perspective on this is incredibly helpful to frame your own challenges through a clear lens, not distorted by storms of emotion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Lim

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Fizer

  21. 4 out of 5

    Monica Gilfillan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Cataldo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lady Brainsample

  26. 4 out of 5

    Charlie White

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maria McAdam

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rosa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

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