Family is forever. However, “a survey by sociologist Karl Pillemer revealed that about 25% of people live with some kind of family estrangement, and those damaged relationships take a toll — mentally and physically”. When your family doesn’t bother with your child, it can have a detrimental effect on the health of the entire household.
It is important to note is that “Pillemer [also] found the No.1 motivator for people to mend relationships was to do it for themselves — not the person who hurt them”. So how does one bridge this gap and when is it appropriate to cut ties?
The Importance of Family
According to the American Psychological Association, “Babies whose needs are met quickly and warmly (e.g., feeding, changing, holding/cradling, and soothing them) achieve a crucial developmental task – attachment.
This bond of affection between parents and children is necessary for a healthy parent-child relationship, and also extends to relationships between children, their siblings, and other family members (e.g., grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc) and caregivers.
When infants attach successfully to their parents and caregivers, they learn to trust that the outside world is a welcoming place and are more likely to explore and interact with their environment. This lays the groundwork for further social, emotional, and cognitive development.”
What does this mean? Research indicates that when positive connections are established at an early age, children are much more likely to have academic success, improved self-esteem and are less likely to get involved in criminal activities in later life.
This small contribution has such a colossal impact on your child’s future. We as parents want the best for our children so it is important that at a young age, they are taken care of properly.
Mending Relationships Starts With Conversations
In order to trigger a change, you must start the conversation.
Talk to your extended family about their distant relationship with you and your child. What is the root of the problem? How did you play a part in this estrangement? What can you do to mend fences?
It is imperative that during this conversation, you are not malicious or accusatory.
Remember, you may not be aware of the big picture. The protagonist in the award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird states that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.
Without more investigation, you will never truly know the reason behind their neglect.
Your main initiative as a parent is to produce a confident, capable and successful adult. No one said that parenting was easy. Sacrifices have to be made, including dealing with uninterested and contentious family members.
Choose a time that is not centered around another activity. The focus should be on the issue at hand — their relationship with your child.
Enter into the conversation with an open heart and mind. If you aren’t willing to listen and potentially make a change, then why should they?
Lastly, keep your expectations low and prepare for rejection. You can only control your actions and then hope that your family sees the light.
Know When To Let Go
Unfortunately though, if both parties are unwilling to adapt, forgive and move forward, then this relationship will never reach a cohesive point.
It is important to remember that there is a difference between disengaged and disrespectful.
Give the person a fair chance to reprioritize this connection. Moreover, be realistic — this change will not happen in a day, a week, or even a month.
After trust is broken, it can take months or even years to rebuild.
What matters is that this person is taking the steps to remedy the issue. However, not every person is going to work towards reconciliation.
If your family continues to not bother with your child or they treat them with contempt after addressing your concerns and feelings, it might be time to sever your ties with them.
Sometimes You Can Choose Your Family
What is a family? Let’s be honest — blood makes you relatives, but love, compassion, and care make you a family.
The people who choose to put you and your children first are the people who deserve your time. If your biological family does not want any part of your child’s life, then surround them with the wonderful people who do.
Seven million Americans are adopted. This is a prime example of how truly unimportant genetic relations are to a child’s development. We all want to know where we came from, but it is possible to raise healthy and happy children without this similarity. All that a child cares about is that the people they love show up for them.
Moreover, by bringing in individuals who prioritize your child, you instill a sense of belonging, you provide stability and continuity and you support their mental health.
One of the most important jobs of parenthood is fostering a healthy environment for your children to grow up in and if your family doesn’t want to oblige, then build a community that does.
Talk To A Therapist
Letting go of the people who have been present throughout your life can be a debilitating decision.
This can lead to issues with trust in future relationships and even depression. Your child may not even be aware of your heartache or the difficult decisions that you have to make for the betterment of their mental health, but it is important for you to work through it.
Speaking to a specialist can help you to find ways to accept this new reality and cope with your emotions.
If your children are also feeling neglect by this person, then involve them in the process of healing. Oftentimes, an outside perspective can help you move forward and to live a happier life.
Remember That They Are The Ones Missing Out
The most important thing to remind yourself of is that your family members are the ones who are missing out.
You have a beautiful, vibrant and exceptional piece of you living in this world so take time to relish every moment with them.
A great thing you can start doing is to practice mindfulness — you cannot control the past so live in the now and be present in your child’s life as much as possible.
While extremely difficult, it is important to remove toxic people from our lives. These individuals can have a detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of you and your family.
Final Thoughts — Family Don’t Bother With My Child
The Mental Health Center at Destination Hope reports that “An increasing body of research demonstrates that negative family relationships can cause stress, impact mental health and even cause physical symptoms.
Research has demonstrated that non-supportive families can detract from someone’s mental health and or cause a mental illness to worsen.”
Thus, if you have made efforts to alter the estranged relationship that your family has with your child to no avail, know that choosing to walk away is the best thing you can do as a parent. The job of a mother and father is to put the needs of their child above all else.
Remember to be patient and know that it will take time to heal. Author and Pastor John C. Maxwell once noted that “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
Make the decision that is best for you and your family because that is what it takes to be a good parent.