If your daughter has cut you out of her life, you may be wondering how to reconcile with your estranged daughter. While reconciliation is never guaranteed, there are healthy steps you can take to better understand the situation and improve your chances of making appropriate contact with her.
How to Reconcile With Estranged Daughter
One of the most important concepts to understand when considering reconciliation with your daughter is knowing that it may not happen, and if it does, it may not be on your time frame. At some point, you will need to grapple with these notions before moving forward so you aren't driven to force contact with her before she is comfortable doing so.
Tips if You Have Been Estranged or Cut off From Your Daughter
Simple tips to keep in mind when considering making contact with your daughter:
- Respect her boundaries - if she has asked you not to contact her, give her time until she's ready.
- Do not ask other people to get involved in the situation and speak on your behalf or pressure her to contact you - this is totally inappropriate and violates her boundaries, which can push her further away.
- Do not send gifts or bribe her with money - this is not a healthy way to make contact with her.
- Do not contact any of her friends, her place of work, school, or her children and/or immediate family - again this is an inappropriate boundary violation, which will likely push her away.
- Before diving into a conversation with her, sending her a long text, or leaving her a voicemail, ask her if she's comfortable speaking with you or if she'd like more time.
- If your daughter doesn't respond to your request to speak with her, let her know you respect her decision and am here when she's ready to talk.
- Consider beginning your own individual therapy both for support during this painful situation, as well as an opportunity to increase your insight into the situation.
Letter to My Estranged Daughter
If you have decided to write a letter to your daughter in hopes of connecting with her, it's important to take responsibility for your mistakes within the relationship, avoid blaming her or mind-reading why she chose to cut you off, and reinforce the notion that you are committed to respecting her boundaries and want to mend the unhealthy aspects of your relationship. In this type of letter, wording is crucial:
- Example of parentification (asking her to parent you inappropriately): "I'm a failure of a parent and this whole mess is my fault. I shouldn't even try any more." In this example, the parent is asking their daughter to take care of them emotionally instead of owning up to their missteps.
- Example of healthy alternative statements: "I know I've made mistakes as a parent, and I'm working with a therapist now to better understand my parenting decisions, as well as the history of unhealthy attachment patterns within my own family of origin. While this in no way excuses my behavior towards you growing up, I wanted to let you know that I'm working on becoming more aware of unconscious choices I've made that have negatively impacted you."
- Example of unhealthy and pressured communication: "I'm your parent and you need to talk to me. How you are behaving is hurting me and is unacceptable."
- Example of honoring your daughter's boundaries: "I want to let you know I can understand your reasons for no longer wanting to speak with me. I am working with a therapist and learning more about unhealthy family patterns that have been in my family system for generations. I will not be making any further contact with you unless you initiate it. I want to give you your space and make sure you know that I am working hard to gain more insight into our relationship. I love you and am here for you if or when you are ready to speak."
Questions to Ask Your Estranged Daughter
Initial questions you may consider asking your daughter:
- Are you comfortable speaking with me today?
- Can you let me know when you feel comfortable speaking with me in the future? If not, I understand and respect your decision.
- Can you help me understand your perspective?
- Would you consider going to see a therapist with me? I'd love to work on making our relationship healthier.
- Are you comfortable sharing why you decided to no longer speak with me?
- How would you like to communicate with me going forward? I understand if you don't wish to speak at all.
- Would you prefer to speak in person, through text, or on the phone? (if she has agreed to speak with you)
How Do I Talk to My Estranged Daughter?
If your daughter has agreed to speak with you, it's important to focus on understanding her perspective, without judgment, and refraining from stating your point of view until she feels heard. When speaking with her, use phrases and questions like:
- Thank you so much for speaking with me. I love you so much and really want to understand your point of view.
- I can understand why you feel that way.
- While it's difficult to hear that, I so appreciate you being honest with me about your feelings.
- I am so grateful that you felt comfortable speaking with me today. Would you be open to speaking again?
- Thank you for sharing your perspective. It has really helped me understand my role in your decision to take some time for yourself.
- If she asks you why you made a certain decision, or anything that brings up defensiveness for you, say you need to think about it for a bit, instead of responding in a way that could trigger an argument.
- I am here to listen and really want to understand your point of view.
- Would you be open to doing a therapy session with me?
- What can I do to help you feel heard during this conversation?
- Are you comfortable sharing with me what you need from me going forward? I want to make sure you feel loved and respected by me.
When speaking with your daughter, do not blame her, make yourself the victim (it's my fault, I'm terrible, etc.), or engage in an argument with her. Go into the situation with the perspective that you are there to listen and understand her point of view, and that's it. She may not be in a place to hear your point of view yet, and it's your job as her parent to facilitate an interaction where she feels safe sharing with you.
How Do You Reconnect With a Child You Abandoned?
Abandonment is quite tricky to work through as a parent because when it is experienced by a child, it triggers core survival related feelings of unsafety. This feeling of unsafety can lead to unconsciously feeling as if you're going to die, but this will depend on what age the child was when abandoned. If you have decided you want to try to reconnect with your child:
- Understand the weight of how your decisions may have impacted them growing up
- Know that it is up to them if they feel comfortable reconnecting with you and you'll need to be respectful of their choice
- Reach out by first asking if they are comfortable having a conversation instead of assuming they will be
- Ask if it's okay if you check in with them to see how they are doing and how frequently they'd like you to do so
- See if they would be comfortable going to therapy with you to work on your relationship
Why Adult Children Cut off Their Parents
Children cut off their parents for a variety of reasons, and it can be difficult to understand why if you feel like this was done without warning, or in your opinion, justification. In many cases of cutoff, the parent or parents are completely unaware as to why this happened. It's really important to be open to understanding your child's reasoning if you want to have a healthy reconciliation and work towards improving your relationship. This means instead of blaming them, trying to understand their unique perspective without judgment. Some common reasons for cutoff include:
- Unhealthy attachment pattern with one or both parents - these are very likely in these circumstances and can feel like the invisible barrier between you and your daughter
- Verbal abuse, physical abuse, manipulation, and/or emotional abuse
- Instilling in her that you are correct and her instincts are wrong
- Teaching her she can't trust herself (belittling her opinion, telling her she's wrong often, pointing out her faults often)
- Forcing a rigid self image and/or belief system on her that she doesn't subscribe to
- Parentifying her throughout her childhood (asking her to emotionally take care of you, which you may have done unconsciously based on your own history of family or origin patterns)
As a parent, it's your job to love your child unconditionally and provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for them to thrive and become the person they want to be. If your daughter feels otherwise, it's critical that you take the time to understand her perspective so you can work on boosting the health of your relationship. Remember that even if you feel you provided a safe space for her, if she doesn't, that's what matters and it's up to you to self-reflect and understand her perspective.
How Do I Reconnect With My Daughter?
Reconnecting with your daughter after being cutoff can be an incredibly intense emotional process. If you feel defensive or emotionally unprepared to connect with her in healthy ways, it's critical to reach out to a therapist who can help you develop insight. Doing so may not only help you improve your own mental health, but increases your chances of being able to connect with her in an emotionally safer way if she agrees to communicate with you.