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Aug. 13, 2022, 8:50 a.m. EDT

Estranged from your adult child? Here’s how to work through the pain and regain some peace.

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By Morey Stettner

There’s a primal bond between parent and child. But sometimes it bends—and snaps off.

As the child enters adulthood, longstanding resentments may intensify. At some point, unspoken conflict can fester and drive a wedge into the relationship.

A new and painful stage sets in: estrangement. The parties are no longer in contact. And the parent may not know why.

“Many parents are befuddled by this,” said Debbie Pincus, a psychotherapist in Larchmont, N.Y. “They feel in the dark. On the surface, there has been no rupture.”

Read: Is your adult child moving back home? Make sure you have this conversation

For parents of children in their 20s, estrangement can sometimes result from clashing needs. Newly retired parents with more time on their hands may yearn for a closer connection with their son or daughter.

Meanwhile, the 20-something’s life is getting more hectic by the day.

“They’re beginning to develop their own relationships and establish their own life,” Pincus said. “If the recently retired parent feels more emptiness, they tend to lean on their adult child at a time when that child wants to stand on their own two feet.”

Creator of “ The Calm Parent AM & PM ” training program, Pincus urges parents to detach themselves from the situation rather than personalize it.

“Otherwise, you may feel anxiety and hurt, which can lead the adult child to turn away even more,” she said. “Stepping out of it helps you manage it.”

If you’re unsure why your child has severed contact, brace for a potentially long wait to find out. Searching for quick answers may prove fruitless.

In some cases, an adult child may prefer not to share adverse news with a parent, Pincus says. Examples include substance abuse, politically different or extreme beliefs, divorce or job loss.

Read: Gray divorce can be financially devastating — especially for women

“Estrangement may stem from adult children making choices that the parent wouldn’t easily accept—choices that don’t accord with the parent’s way of thinking,” she said. “It’s more about how enmeshed we are with each other” that sets the stage for conflict.

Parents with controlling personalities can make matters worse. If swirling anxiety affects how they relate to their son or daughter, it can morph into unwelcome intensity that upends the relationship.

Anxious parents confront myriad worries:

Will my kid depend on me financially?

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