**Reconnecting with My Kids After 17 Years: Is It Time to Let Go?**

Q: Meghan, I got married again 18 years ago (as did my ex). We attempted shared parenting, but my two children (then 14 and 10) were informed that my new marriage wouldn’t last. Fortunately, we are still happily married.

I haven’t seen my children since 2007 (ages 16 and 12) and my last conversation with my son was a decade ago. Despite sending gifts, cards, texts, and making calls, my efforts have failed to bridge the gap. I was even prohibited from attending their graduations or weddings. Should I resign myself to giving up?

End of carousel

A: Thank you for reaching out. Estranged family relationships have become a prevalent issue, prompting an increase in inquiries on the topic. Your query revolves around whether you should surrender, and my initial response is to urge you not to do so. Regardless of estrangement, your parents will always hold that role in your life, and unresolved parent-child issues can have lasting repercussions, necessitating interventions like therapy. Even if reconciliation seems unlikely, making an effort to establish a more mindful, considerate, and accountable connection is worthwhile. It may not be the easy path, but it lies between mere gift-giving and complete resignation.

Rather than simply contemplating giving up, consider what your children truly need to hear from you. The situation with your children likely involves more complexity than just the skepticism surrounding your new marriage. While external influences can poison children’s minds, there are likely underlying issues contributing to the separation. Reflecting honestly on the past could unveil the answers you seek.

Perhaps your children resisted your new marriage due to external pressures, leading to conflicts. Did they struggle with the disruption caused by split parenting and new relationships? Or did they distance themselves, and in an effort to protect your new marriage, you allowed them to drift away? Your relationship with your children is undoubtedly influenced by more than just your remarriage.

Experts in family therapy specializing in estrangement often emphasize the importance of addressing deeper underlying issues openly, taking responsibility, and offering genuine apologies—actions that go beyond mere gestures like gifts and cards. While well-intentioned, holiday greetings may not suffice if your child seeks acknowledgment of their pain or a sincere apology to start the healing process. Reconciliation, if possible, is a complex journey of acknowledging hurt and rejection from all parties involved in the estrangement.

Even if your children have distanced themselves or requested space, seeking guidance from a therapist well-versed in family dynamics is advisable. While your children may not be present in therapy, a professional can help you understand the type of relationship you desire with your children, reflect on past events, and envision a path forward. It’s crucial to explore whether maintaining a relationship with your children aligns with the best interests of all involved.

Consider consulting books on estrangement between parents and adult children, such as “Reconnecting with Your Estranged Adult Child: Practical Tips and Tools to Heal Your Relationship” by Tina Gilbertson. Embracing a growth mindset and taking ownership of your actions and thoughts are essential steps towards potential reconciliation. Regardless of the outcome, introspection, self-healing, and a commitment to personal growth are valuable endeavors. While the past cannot be altered, each new day presents an opportunity to choose a different path. Best of luck.