Like any other structure, a relationship requires a strong foundation upon which to build trust, forgiveness and a willingness to continue. For fathers or want-to-be mentors to be successful in re-creating a relationship with an estranged son they must recognize what these 'cornerstones' are and understand how to repair them, because, as with most things, there are rules to work by.
The one thing that is crucial to remember is - there are never any guarantees anything will work for sure.
The following 4 'cornerstones' are important because they are the foundations that allow trust to become more of a reality. Without the possibility of creating some kind of trust base there is no hope of being able to establish any kind of quality type relationship. This, really, is true for ANY relationship between people who care for and about one another.
I. Gather Knowledge
In this day and age of electronic education there is no shortage of free resources to help people learn what they need to know about parenting. learning simply requires time, patience and a willingness to do what needs to be done in order to begin the process of fixing a broken parent-child relationship.
If the relationship with a son, for instance, is broken, your instincts and earlier practices didn't get the job done so now is the time to consider other options, other opinions and other approaches. Just go to the browser on your computer and type in "parenting" and you will find more information than you thought possible. Look for qualified experts who have a track record of good solid information to provide for you. Read through what's being offered and choose an approach that best suits your abilities and comfort zone. If you try to repair this relationship with fancy words and techniques that don't make sense your efforts will be short lived. Be real with new information to support your efforts.
Most community colleges offer courses where good direction and feedback can be found for very little investment.
II. Limit Expectations
Having unrealistic expectations about what this new relationship should look like or be like is the kiss of death. Remember that you, as a father, are only one part of this equation and that your son is the other part. He may very well see things completely differently and if that's the case right from the beginning you both will be working at cross purposes. This is not how you want to begin this process.
Having hope is much different than expecting things to be a certain way. Repairing and developing a new relationship is a process NOT an event. Fathers need to concentrate on doing all they can do, each day, to ensure that these four cornerstones we are discussing here are demonstrated as much and as often as possible. The rest will take care of itself. If there is pressure brought to bear in order to move closer to the expected outcomes the likelihood of being successful diminishes dramatically.
III. Be Committed
Being committed to the process is something that is demonstrated and not spoken. Telling a son how much you want this to work is not going to be helpful. It could, in fact, alienate him. He may have heard it all before so what would make this time different? My mother used to say 'show me--don't tell me'. Great advice if you are trying to show that you have changed in some way or that you are willing to do things differently.
Being in for the 'long haul' means that you are ALL in--that you are ready to make being a good parent your top priority. But first off you have to decide if that is something you want to do or can do. There is no pre-determined time frame here. In some cases, seeing any progress could be tied directly to the type of damage that was done previously (mental, physical or emotional), whether addiction affected parenting, and how long that situation persisted. There could be any number of reasons why a great deal of time may have to pass before any trust can be established.
If you can't be OK with this then my suggestion is don't start the process in the first place. Tell him you love him and walk away. He doesn't need to be devastated more than he has been.
IV. Be Ready to Adapt
It will be very important that you demonstrate an ability to adapt your life to the type of lifestyle that supports a family type experience - putting family first. It doesn't mean that, as a father, you have to forsake all other forms of personal growth, fun or entertainment. It doesn't mean that you can't enjoy time with your own friends doing things you enjoy that are adult oriented. But it does mean that you need to allow for blocks of time where you spend time with your son, just the two of you. It means that you do what you promised you would do. If you say just the two of you will go to the football game then you make sure that that happens as scheduled. Never make promises that you can't keep.
Sons want to know what their dads know. You are or need to be his teacher. That's one of the things that he wants from you, but he has to trust that you want to teach him.
Creating an environment that fosters the growth of trust is essential to having a strong four-cornered foundation to build the relationship on. Creating that environment demands consistency, honesty, listening to him and being sure that he always knows he is valued and has a place at the table where he can talk about what is going on in his life. He needs to feel connected and that his life has meaning.
Anyways, that's how I see it--James. Please feel free to contact me through the choosehelp.com site if you have any questions or comments about this article.
- About the author James Cloughley:
- My experience would include the lessons taught by over 20 years of active use, leading to 23 years of sobriety and what I consider to be a state of quality living. I learned many things in a practical sense from attending A/A, C/A and N/A. Sometimes the best education can come from the most unlikely sources. I graduated from College and completed the Addiction Studies Program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. I also completed a variety of courses concerning mental health issues and gambling addiction, family systems and relationships.
Page last updated Nov 30, 2014