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Lean Into Conflict to Strengthen Your Connection with Your Child | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Most of us are taught that if someone has a feeling and we dismiss it, it will go away, AND if someone has a feeling and we talk about it, it will make it worse. We tend to avoid “negative” emotions, so we avoid acknowledging a person’s pain to help them feel better. When children are upset, they actually need us to “lean” into their “feelings world” so they feel validated and supported. 

When we lean into conflict, we move towards conflict by following up and checking in with a child after a conflictual interaction. We need to use the attunement skills of active listening, validation, and empathy to do this. Sometimes, relationship injuries begin with an argument that ends with the parent leaving their child alone and not checking back in later to see if they’re okay. As a result, the child is left in some kind of ‘limbo state’ with unresolved feelings. These feelings, if left to fester, can lead the child to make inferences that aren’t true and that go on to form the basis for false narratives. 

For instance, a child may start to feel like the parent doesn’t care about them anymore. A possible untrue inference a child might make is:

“Dad never cared about what happened; he didn’t even come back to make sure I was okay. Dad doesn't love me…”

At this point, the child's focus on their negative feelings can lead them to make inferences that reinforce their belief that their dad doesn’t love them. In the absence of any other contradicting input, children will fill in the blanks in ways that make sense to them but may not be entirely accurate. These inaccurate narratives, if left unaddressed, can take on a life of their own, potentially leading the child to reject their parent. 

How to Lean into Conflict with a Child

Leaning into conflict with your child can be done in a few ways: 

  • Acknowledge your child's feelings in real time as the conflict is happening. Do this only if you can keep from being defensive. Use your attunement skills:

  • Active listening: Listen to what they are saying, and focus on understanding their perspective.

  • Validation: Express understanding of their feelings and why you think they would feel that way.

  • Empathy: Try to feel what your child is feeling to understand their perspective and emotional reaction to a situation.

  • Keep in mind that children view the world from their developmental stage at this moment. Their perception of life is completely different than an adult’s sometimes. Try to see the situation through their eyes.

  • After a conflict, it’s never too late to circle back to what happened previously. Then, you will find out if the relationship is damaged. If it is, work on repairing it. You can do this by acknowledging the other person's feelings and perspectives. 

Don’t avoid feelings; instead, lean into them. You might find that all sides feel more heard at the end of it and your relationships grow stronger as a result.

-Cathy Himlin


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