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How Can I Reconcile When I Don’t Know What’s Wrong?

How Can I Reconcile When I Don’t Know What’s Wrong??”


We have a split with my son because of a daughter-in-law. They have an 11 year old girl and a 8 year old boy who are caught in the middle. I’ve made so many overtures in an attempt to bridge whatever has caused this gap but whatever I say or do seems to be the wrong thing.

It’s rather like my daughter-in-law simply wants to be mad about things. I could live with that, but it’s taking a huge toll – especially on the 11 year old. She and I have been close since her birth. She doesn’t understand this rift any more than I do, and for her sake, this breaks my heart. The grandparent topic is going to be of special interest to me.

If I have one question I would like an answer to it would be how does one find out what caused a rift if the adult child and spouse won’t tell you?”


You may well be right that your DIL needs to be mad and she’ll stay mad no matter what you do. That said, I would continue to reach out to your grandchildren on a frequent basis. Sometimes, not always, the grandchildren can pressure the parents into behaving better than they might otherwise because they can’t adequately justify their behavior. It’s also good for you to have a record in the hearts and minds of your grandchildren that you continued to reach out even when you were being denied contact.

The other option is to write something to your son and DIL such as, “I can only assume that I did something that was very hurtful or wrong to one or both of you for you to need this distance in our relationship. While I have plenty of faults, I actually don’t know what it was and am wondering if you’d be open to talking with me about it?  I really want to have a closer relationship with you both, and I really miss seeing you and my grandchildren as much as I used to.”

Dr Coleman speaks to all of the issues below:.

  • How can understanding your childhood make you more resilient in dealing with estrangement?
  • What are some of the ways that conflicts get passed down over the generations?
  • What are some ways that your childhood traumas make it harder to either make amends, or not personalize your child’s treatment of you?
  • Based on your own childhood, what might you have concluded about what you do or don’t deserve in life?
  • What is emotional regulation and why is it so important?
  • How might experiences in your childhood made you more vulnerable to making mistakes with your own children? _
  • How might you have been impacted if you were raised by self-centered parents?
  • What has been the effect on you if you were raised by rejecting parents or raised in a chaotic environment?
  • If you lost a parent to death or divorce, how might you have been affected by that?
  • How might you have been impacted if you were raised by perfectionistic parents?
  • What are some ways to work more deeply on self-forgiveness and self- compassion?

NEED A 1:1? email Dr. Coleman at josh@drjoshuacoleman.com



Dr. Joshua Coleman is an internationally known expert in parenting, couples, families, and relationships. His book, WHEN PARENTS HURT: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along (HarperCollins) was released in 2007. He is a frequent guest on the Today Show, he has also appeared on ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, the BBC, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, and NBC television. Dr. Coleman’s advice has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, The London Times, and many other publications. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families and has a private practice in San Francisco and Oakland, California.




Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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