One of the most painful things that can happen to a parent is when an adult child treats you with distain or contempt or refuses to have any contact with you at all.

When Parents Hurt is a wonderful book full of how to strategies to help you when you and your grown child don’t get along.

The author, Joshua Coleman, is a California-based psychologist who works with parents, families and couples. He, like many others, faced issues parenting adult children when, for several years his young adult daughter had little contact. He calls those years the most painful and confusing years of his life.

Coleman takes a non-blaming stance and yet provides insight about why difficult relationships develop. He provides strategies for parents to accept the relationship and find peace even if it cannot be healed, as well as strategies to regain a positive relationship with the child, if that is possible.


Ten Principles to Help Parents Heal from Hurtful Relationships with their Adult Children

The book outlines 10 principles to help parents heal from the guilt, sadness, regret, anger and disappointment they may feel about their adult children and their relationship with them. They include:

  • taking responsibility for your actions that contributed to the problems in the relationship;
  • making amends to your child for those actions;
  • moving toward forgiving your child;
  • moving toward forgiving yourself;
  • developing compassion for your child;
  • developing compassion for yourself;
  • focusing on hope, gratitude and optimism rather than anger, shame guilt and regret;
  • developing your identity and life story based on your strengths and achievements as a parent and individual instead of a story about your suffering or failures;
  • getting support from friends, family or faith; and
  • giving back to society.

Throughout the book Coleman shows you how to apply these principles in your relationship with your adult child. He draws extensively on others’ theories and applies them to relationships with adult children. He reminds readers that research shows that only about one-third of mothers find motherhood “very fulfilling.”

Why Children Behave Badly Towards their Parents

His insights into why adult children behave badly towards their parents are particularly interesting:

  • children sometimes behave towards their parents as others behave towards them, to see what they can learn from the situation. They blame their parents for their problems to see how we accept blame and use our responses as a model;
  • children may be raising issues as a way to be closer to their parents even if they are being expressed in a way that is hurtful;
  • children may be trying to separate from their parents. They may need to extend the rebelliousness and devaluing behaviour into their mid to late twenties because they are still working on separating from their parents—it’s love, not hate that causes them to mistreat their parents;
  • Some of the shaming that children do to parents is an attempt to relieve themselves of their own shame by devaluing the parent; and
  • Children may shame or reject a depressed, anxious or unfulfilled parent as a way to decrease their feelings of empathy for them. Sometimes children find the only way they can achieve a healthy distance from their parents is through rejections or by moving away.

Some of the other topics Coleman deals with in the book include:

  • the environment in which we parent and why it is so difficult today;
  • how to handle a child who has a personality mismatch with the parent, for instance, an authoritarian parent with a sensitive child;
  • the effect a troubled marriage or divorce can have on relationships with teens and adult children; and
  • children who fail to launch.

The Book and the Website

This book was published in 2007 but it is still very relevant. It is an excellent resource for parents who are suffering from poor or no relationships with their adult children and for those who simply want to learn techniques to help them better parent their adult children.

Coleman has a current website dedicated to this topic. He offers webinars for a reasonable amount and a forum for parents to discuss their poor relationships problems. He does not respond to posted comments and in some cases they appear as rants. However they may be helpful for some parents to read and thus understand there are others who face similar problems.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the Reply Box below. 

Book Reviews
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