If you have an estranged family member, you’re not alone. One study revealed that in Britain alone, more than 5 million people had cut ties with someone in their family. The process isn’t instant, either. It happens over time, after a series of events.
Some people, though, choose to let go of the past and reconnect. If you’re ready to rekindle a relationship with a family member, follow the 10 tips below.
1. Heal Your Emotional Scars
You can’t learn to love others if you don’t love yourself. You have to take care of both your physical and emotional well-being. Everybody makes mistakes, but it’s important to forgive yourself for the past and let go of the guilt. If you hold on, you’ll be incapable of seeing the person you’re destined to become.
Try to avoid passing judgments on yourself. We all have it — that little voice inside our head that points out each flaw. Learn to recognize and silence it. Once you heal your scars and learn to love yourself, you can reconnect with estranged family.
2. Learn How to Communicate
Communication is vital for any relationship, whether it’s romantic, platonic or professional. There are specific things you can do to improve your skills. To communicate effectively, you need to listen. If you’re confused about something the other person says, ask for clarification.
Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues like body language. A person with crossed arms, for example, might feel defensive. If they won’t make eye contact, they’re not interested in what you have to say or can’t understand your point of view. Try to keep a neutral stance and look at them when speaking.
3. Understand What You Need
It’s essential to know what you need out of a relationship if you want it to be successful. Relationships are two-sided — you each have to share what you expect from the other going forward.
One basic requirement is kind and honest communication. It’s crucial to treat each other with respect at all times, even when you’re angry or hurt. Both people must also be willing to work through difficulties and disagreements. For a relationship to develop, there needs to be a middle ground.
4. Establish Clear Boundaries
It’s healthy to set boundaries when re-establishing a lost relationship. Have an honest conversation about your expectations when you meet up for the first time. For example, you might not tolerate being shouted at or lied to. For others, boundaries might include no phone calls after 8 p.m. and a 24-hour notice for all home visits.
Be realistic with your expectations. The goal is to find a harmonious compromise, not have the other person bend to your will. Once you have realistic boundaries, be kind, yet firm. Don’t get angry or defensive when discussing what you need. This approach leads to a higher chance of acceptance.
5. Take the Process Slowly
A reconnection won’t happen overnight. Go slowly. To start, reach out through emails or texts. This space will allow you to get back into the groove without jumping straight into the deep end. You can also take this time to determine if the relationship is worth salvaging.
Don’t plan an all-day event when you meet up for the first time. Connect during lunch before you head back to work. You can also schedule a short coffee break. Save extended activities and personal visits for after the relationship has developed and you feel more comfortable.
6. Meet in Neutral Territory
Meet in neutral territory when you first rekindle a relationship. If you get together at each other’s homes, one person is bound to feel uncomfortable. The host may feel required to provide drinks and refreshments. The guest won’t even take their shoes off. Instead, pick a spot where you’ll be on equal footing.
A mall, restaurant or cafe are all excellent choices. You can also meet up in a park or museum. Pick a place with distractions if you’re worried about finding things to talk about. A movie is an opportunity to bond, and afterward, there’s a topic you can both discuss.
7. Practice Spiritual Healing
Some estranged family members find it helpful to seek spiritual renewal together. You can meditate, volunteer, hike through the woods or pray. Spiritual practice means something different for everyone. However, the result is the same — a positive impact on your well-being.
Visit a yoga or meditation studio with your family. As you follow the instructor, ask yourself:
- Who do you want to be?
- What is your dream goal?
- How do you define yourself?
- How can you best love yourself?
8. Host a Family Reunion
There’s nothing better than a picnic as a way to reconnect. Invite a handful of people to give yourself space to mingle and talk with others. Bond with estranged family over the assortment of food or Cousin Maggie’s new haircut.
Create a guest list, develop a menu and make a shopping list. You’ll also need some cookout tools, like a spatula, tongs, grill fork and wood pellets. Send out invitations, and don’t forget to include the date, time, location and RSVP info. Tell guests if they should bring anything, such as a potluck dish or lawn chair.
9. Include a Mediator
Do you feel like you can’t talk to your estranged family member? Then it might be time to introduce a mediator. Look for a nonbiased third party willing to walk you through a healthy discussion. For example, if you want to reconnect with a sibling, you might choose a loving and supportive parent.
A mediator could also be a therapist in a professional setting. A counselor is trained to facilitate discourse between two parties. You and your loved one can have a conversation with a third party willing to step in when things get tense.
10. Find a Common Bond
A common bond is a great way to connect with someone, especially an estranged family member. You might be surprised at what interests you share. Look for an experience you can have together, like a trip to an amusement park or dinner at a popular restaurant.
Don’t be afraid to talk about hardships. It’s easy to bond over shared struggles like finances and work. Talk about your goals in life and see how they align. You both might want to go back to college or help others at a nonprofit organization. Ask questions about the other person to show you have a genuine interest in their life.
Worth the Effort
It can be hard to connect with a family member after years of no communication. For some, though, the rekindled relationship is worth the effort. Are you ready to redevelop a lost connection? Follow the 10 tips above.