From the Therapist's Desk

GUIDANCE FOR ESTRANGED PARENTS

First, be prepared to go slow. It is natural for a parent to want to jump in with high energy, intense determination and 110% enthusiasm. Many expect to pick up from where they left off, or start a relationship if they recently learned that a child existed.

The parent has a sense of urgency about catching up on what has been missed with the child. However, a plan for renewing or creating a relationship with a child when there is estrangement must be built entirely around the the child. This means careful preparation and proceeding at a pace and level of intensity that the child can handle.

Trust in a close relationship builds slowly based on interaction and shared time and shared activities. This is especially true when there are wounds to be healed. The time invested carefully at the beginning can create a foundation for a lifetime of involvement between parent and child. Don't rush it!

Consistency and predictability are an absolute must for the child. Trust is earned, not automatic, for any of us in our important relationships. This means being honest about your own ability to be patient, be present, be consistent, and be predictable. This means that the parent has to be ready and willing to overcome barriers and make the child the top priority.

This also means no cancelled appointments unless you are in the hospital. Talk to your friends, family, employer, and coworkers to make sure they understand the importance of this journey you are about to embark on.

No matter how you ended up disconnected from your child and their life, you must think about this process and your absence from the point of view of your child not yourself.