How To Reconnect With Your Estranged Adult Child

How To Reconnect With Your Estranged Adult Child

Estrangement from an adult child is one of the most heartbreaking things a parent can experience. If you’re longing to rebuild that bond, know you’re not alone. While it won’t be easy, reconciliation is sometimes possible. Here are some steps you can take to get started on that journey.

1. Start by taking a long, hard look at yourself.

It’s tempting to blame all the problems on your kid, but estrangement usually has two sides. Be honest – were you a perfect parent? Have you made mistakes? This first step is tough, but it’s key to making real progress. Even if you believe your intentions were good, it’s important to consider how your actions might have been perceived by your child. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is start by trying to see the situation through their eyes.

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2. Accept that reconciliation might not be possible.

This is heartbreaking, but important to face, as noted by Psychology Today. Your adult child is entitled to choose who’s in their life. They might not be ready, or even want to fix things. Forcing contact can make it worse. Respecting their space, even if it hurts, sometimes leaves the door open for a future change of heart on their end.

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3. If you messed up, a sincere apology goes a long way.

Not a “sorry you feel that way” apology, but a real “I acknowledge I hurt you, and I take responsibility” kind. Even if you don’t agree on everything, owning your part shows you care. This doesn’t mean giving in to all their demands, but it’s about validating their feelings and showing a willingness to change.

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4. Don’t expect your kid to just “get over it.”

Whatever caused the rift, it was serious for them. Rushing them to forgive or forget is disrespectful. They need time and space to process their own feelings, even if it’s frustrating for you. Remember, wounds take time to heal, and emotional wounds can be especially deep.

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5. Reach out with a short, heartfelt message.

No guilt-tripping or long rants, just something like: “I miss you, and I’d like to start working on our relationship, if you’re open to it.” A letter or email could be less intimidating than a phone call. Keep the focus on expressing your love and desire for reconnection, without adding pressure.

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6. Respect the boundaries they set.

If they ask for time, give them time. If they say limited contact for now, respect that. Pushing too hard will likely backfire. Showing you understand boundaries is how you start to rebuild trust. Letting them control the pace, at least at first, can make them feel safer to consider taking those initial steps toward rebuilding a relationship.

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7. Focus on becoming the parent they might actually want back.

Work on your own issues, get therapy if it helps, become a kinder and more understanding person. That’s the best way to show them that things can be different this time around. They’re not going to reconcile with the same person who caused the hurt, so focus on being someone worth reaching out to.

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8. Don’t gossip to other family members.

It’s tempting to vent, but dragging others into the drama won’t help, BetterHelp advises. If anything, it could make your adult child more hesitant to reconcile, especially if those relatives take sides. Plus, focusing your energy on talking behind their back won’t do anything to actually resolve the conflict between you two.

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9. Find support for yourself.

Estrangement is an incredibly painful experience for parents, too. Therapy, support groups, or even just talking to trusted friends can make a world of difference while you cope. Don’t underestimate the emotional toll this takes on you – taking care of yourself makes you better equipped to handle the difficult work of potential reconciliation.

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10. Live your life, even if it hurts like hell.

Don’t sit around waiting or letting this consume you. Pursue your hobbies, take care of yourself, and keep connections with other loved ones strong. Desperation isn’t attractive, and your kid needs to see you as a whole person. Building a life you enjoy, regardless of the estrangement, makes you healthier and might even encourage them to want a place in that world.

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11. Be prepared to listen – like, really listen.

If they’re open to talking, let them do most of the leading. Don’t get defensive or try to debate their feelings. This is their chance to finally be heard, and that’s crucial for healing. Even if it stings to hear, be willing to sit with their pain and try your best to understand it, without immediately jumping in to defend yourself.

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12. Let go of the perfect “happily ever after” fantasy.

Reconciliation might not look how you imagined. It could be slow, with ups and downs. Focus on small steps of trust-building instead of expecting a sudden fairy-tale ending. Some relationships can be mended, but there might always be scars from the original breakdown.

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13. Acknowledge even tiny bits of progress.

A text back, a short coffee date – these may seem small, but after estrangement, they’re huge! Savoring those moments helps you stay patient and hopeful during the tough parts. Celebrating progress, no matter how small, keeps you focused on the potential for a brighter future, even when the process feels frustrating.

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14. Don’t center all your conversations around the rift.

Yes, the big stuff needs addressing, but also talk about their life, what they enjoy, etc. It reminds them you see them as a person, not just a problem to solve. Showing interest in who they are now helps to form a new bond, not just dwell on the pain of the past.

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15. If things get heated, taking a break is wise.

Big emotions can flare up when hashing out years of hurt. Agreeing to walk away for a bit when things get too intense prevents saying things you’ll regret. Remember, the goal is to reach an understanding, not to win an argument, and sometimes that means giving each other space to cool down.

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16. Remember, love is patient (and sometimes painfully slow).

Rebuilding a damaged relationship takes time. There may be setbacks. Be consistent in showing your love and desire for change, and that’s the best you can do. You can’t control the outcome, but you can control your actions, and letting your love lead the way is the strongest strategy you have.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.