Parents become very frustrated and worried when their children no longer shares their thoughts, feelings, or events in their lives.
A wall develops as a result of this frustration…but it isn’t impenetrable.
It can be melted.
The length of time required to melt the wall depends on how deep the divide between parent and child has become. The good news is that your perseverance can create a reconnection.
Some walls are thin.
With thinner walls, as soon as you start the reconnection process (which I will discuss below), you can melt the barrier quickly.
Other walls are thicker, due to your child feeling hurt and protecting his or herself repeatedly over several years.
Special challenges, such as sensory integration, anxiety, inattention, or impulse control, make walls especially difficult to melt.
It’s normal for you to feel frustrated on a daily basis, and that frustration can cause hurtful words and actions by both of you.
But, there is no need to fear, because even a thick wall of mutual hurt and lack of trust can melt, when you learn the reconnection process.
Take Full Responsibility
The reconnection process begins with you taking full responsibility for discovering which of your past actions have hurt your child and then taking steps to melt the wall.
If you keep waiting for your child to change first, you will feel powerless, frustrated, and discouraged.
The full responsibility approach gives you the power to improve your relationship.
Men and women, as boys and girls, are socialized differently. So you may experience less openness from boys.
Keep in mind though, that we all come into this world as emotional beings, with our limbic system fully functioning.
Stay focused and continue working on connecting with the emotional side of your child.
As soon as you say, “Okay, I’m going to make our relationship better,” it’s time to be vulnerable with your child and discuss communication blocks.
This is the scary part of the process because what if you admit that you’ve been blocking communication and he or she uses it against you?
Even though every parent fears this response, in my 25+ years as a certified parent educator, I have never heard of a child turning on her parent in this way.
Your vulnerability starts to warm your child’s heart toward you, even if this isn’t outwardly apparent right away.
Although they won’t turn on you, your child’s response will range from talking openly about the communication blocks to getting upset and refusing to talk with you about it.
Refusal to Talk Means that Trust is Broken
If your child refuses to talk with you because they feel deeply hurt, trust is broken, and they aren’t ready to forgive you yet.
In fact, expect his wall to remain in place for a while as you become vulnerable and they learn to trust you again.
As you work on being vulnerable, which can include writing a letter to him or her, not blocking communication, and remembering to use the appropriate parenting role – Director, Collaborator, or Supporter/Confidant – for each situation.
You have likely used an incorrect parenting role in the past, such as being a Director rather than a Collaborator, which has contributed to your child putting up a protective wall.
Don’t get frustrated, or feel like the damage has been done. It can be undone.
In summary, the reconnection process requires taking full responsibility, being vulnerable as you discuss your communication blocks, and choosing the appropriate parenting role for each situation.
A Mom of a Teenage Girl Shares Her Success
On one occasion, a mom came to me upset and at her wit’s end because her 17-year-old child wouldn’t speak to her or return her text messages.
She felt hopeless, but I knew she could melt the wall between herself and her child because she had built it.
First, I taught her about avoiding communication blocks and how to listen openly with empathy instead.
Through reviewing her communication blocks, the mom realized that she regularly used interrogating, giving advice, and commanding. She was also using the Director role and taking charge in situations that were her child’s to decide.
Following our work together, she learned how to be a Supporter/Confidant rather than a Director so her child wouldn’t have to put up a protective wall to keep her parent out.
The mom worked hard to avoid telling her child what to do and instead listen with empathy when her child started trusting her and sharing more.
Within a month, her child didn’t need to keep her parent out by putting up a wall.
The child trusted her parent so much that she wanted to spend a Friday night with her parents. Obviously, they were shocked!
But loved the time they finally had together as a family.
In another two weeks, the child took her mom to a concert of her choosing, and they had great parent-child time together.
Because this mom took full responsibility for changing, she created a beautifully connected relationship beyond her wildest dreams.
Focus on What You Want to Create
As you practice the reconnection process, focus on the loving relationship you’re determined to create with your child rather than the wall that remains between you.
In order to maintain a positive attitude, seek out a support system of people who understand the challenges you’re facing and encourage your progress.
A loving and connected relationship with your child is possible if you learn to take full responsibility, stop blocking communication, and melt away the walls that have been built over time. You will find that those walls come down quicker than they were created.
Even if you feel that there’s no way to melt the wall, I believe there is: because you love you and your child are working on improving your relationship.
Once you understand how your words have unintentionally hurt them, without feeling guilty, you can choose to change.
Your child will see this change and start to feel reconnected with you.
Your child is waiting for you to help her melt the wall and build a bridge so she can cross over to you again.
©2017 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding. This is based on a chapter from Cynthia’s book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation.