It doesn't make any sense, we used to be so close, what happened?
Children rejecting their parents goes against everything we know about attachment and parenting. We are biologically programmed to NEED our parents for survival so when a child turns away from that, it’s a sign of deep emotional and psychological trauma.
Having worked within Child Protection for many years, I have seen children who have been severely neglected by their parents (through substance misuse or mental health) cling to them like a lifeboat. That’s how parents feel to children. In a scary world, their parents are (on a biological level) their protectors.
Sadly for many children the reality is that it is their parents who they cling to, who they see as their protector, who are really the ones who are putting them at risk.
But a child does not usually comprehend that. In many cases they actually profess MORE love for the high risk parent because they need it more. They have learnt that they need to work extra hard to get their needs met by that parent and so they do exactly that. They become so eager to please that parent that they can be controlled and will surrender their own wants, needs, thoughts and feelings just so that they can get what they believe they need (attachment) from this parent.
Signs of an insecure ambivalent attachment:
A child’s anxiety and uncertainty are evident as when the incident becomes very upset at separation from the caregiver and both resists and seeks contact at reunion
So what happens when a child completely rejects a parent?
At the core of the rejection is the complete suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations towards you, a healthy and available parent. This occurs when the child is put in a loyalty conflict position where they have to align with the higher risk parent in order to retain a relationship with them. This is induced with subtle and covert behavioural manipulations. The essence of which is a clear message to the child – “it is not safe to love this parent, I am the only parent who can love and protect you, if you show any affection for that parent you will not receive love from me”.
It’s important for you to understand this process as it will help you with dealing with the rejection. It shows that you have done nothing wrong. That your child is under enormous pressure and has no choice but to reject you.
At this point many parents will realise the abusive nature of the behaviour of the other parent and go to Family Court to ensure they remain an active part in their child’s life. Whilst I appreciate there is little option but to do this, I do feel it is important that you face the rejection and the emotions that brings up first so that you can present the as the healthy, available parent your child needs and remembers.
5 Stages of Healing
Whereever you are at in the process now, know that your feelings are normal and that you will move onto the next stage when you are ready.