Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Healing the Rift

Malkie Schulman

Your adult child is not speaking to you. You’re estranged. Alienated. You have no idea how you got here and worse, no idea how to get out. And the pain for both of you is devastating. What causes relationships between parents and children to break down? And more importantly, how can you delicately put the pieces back together?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Malka and her daughter Shifra were close when Shifra was a child. Immediately after her marriage, however, Shifra began to distance herself, rarely visiting and never inviting her parents to her home. 

“I was beyond bereft,” Malka says. “I tried everything — I wrote letters, apologizing for what I thought I might have done wrong. (Shifra would never say.) I said I wanted to go back to our old closeness. Nothing worked. She continued to behave coldly to me. This went on for 15 years!”

 

Intense Emotions

Aside from the spousal relationship, there is no relationship more intense than that of parent and child. Even when the adult child is old and gray, “Mommy” will always be important to him. Long after “Junior” has left home, his mother will fondly recall his first steps, and even though Yosef HaTzaddik hadn’t seen Yaakov Avinu for years, the image of his father protected him from sin in the house of Potiphar.

The downside of the intense relationship is the strong potential for conflict. As children grow up there’s often a lot of conflict. Once the child matures, the dissension usually subsides. But not always.

In Rivka’s case, the roots of her alienation from her father stemmed from her parents’ divorce when she was five years old. It wasn’t until she was 14 that she stopped visitations with her father, eventually cutting off all contact as a young adult. 

“I did not have the tools to deal with my parents’ divorce,” she explains. “I was insecure and did not want to hurt my mother who was still very angry at my father. When I got married at 24, I did not invite my father and stepmother to my wedding.”

Sometimes, it’s the parents who sever ties with their child. Masha recalls the escalating power struggle that began when her son Eliezer was an adolescent which ultimately led her to reduce her contact with him.

“I would feel like my blood was being sucked out,” Masha shares. “He fought us on everything, even refusing to take his medicine when he had strep. He’d constantly say things like, ‘Why did you send me to this school when I was little?’ ‘Why didn’t you come when I told you to come? You need to take me to my friend now.’”

“As he got older, it got worse,” Masha continues. “He would advise my husband and me how to be mechanech our children. My rav told me to tell him it’s never a child’s place to rebuke his parents. He could daven for us, but we could not continue these kinds of conversations. It came to a point where I felt I had to curtail our contact until he learned what was acceptable to talk about. I said, ‘You can call once a week and say good Shabbos and chitchat for a minute or two, but that’s it.’ It was tough for him. And for me. But for almost two years, our conversations were limited to two minutes a week.” 

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you