I am an 18-year-old guy and I am currently doing my A-levels. I want you to help me about an incident that happened a few years ago but is still having repercussions on my life.
I was in grade 4 or 5 when one of my teachers wrongfully accused me of stealing something that belonged to her. I had not done anything. Even then, my mother was summoned to my school and was informed about the entire incident. I expected her to support me after hearing my side of the story. However, instead of listening to me, she slapped me in front of everyone in the school.
So many years have gone but to this day, I still have not been able to figure out why she behaved like that. She is my mother and I am sure she must have slapped me believing it was for my own good. However, from that day, a gap has appeared between the two of us. I am unable to share anything with her now, may it be anything personal, as is the norm in a mother-children relationship. I feel lonely and even she doubts my acts.
I fear that if I am going to share anything with my mother, she will slap me again instead of guiding or helping me. I have tried hard to overcome this fear but all my efforts have so far been in vain. I need your help so I also can have a normal relationship with my mother like others.
A fearful son
Dear fearful son,
It is true that being estranged from a parent, especially if it is your mother, can be extremely painful. Nevertheless, in your case, repairing your broken relationship with your mother is possible but it will require time and lots of patience.
Communication is key
Talk to your mother. Write down your thoughts and feelings before reaching out to her. This will bring clarity and you can prepare yourself to resolve the issues with her. Be clear about what went wrong. You need to inform your mother, in detail, about how you felt when she slapped you. Make sure it is just the two of you when you talk to her. Having other family members around will complicate the matter, as they might be tempted to interfere and take sides.
Be patient and do not rush. Try to talk to your mother when you both have enough time to have a word in detail and process the emotions that might arise from it. You both should feel comfortable while talking. Listen to her without arguing and getting defensive or angry. Do not interrupt. The entire point of having a chat is to understand, from your mother’s point of view, why she did not believe you. Interrupting her or arguing with her is not going to help.
If your mother refuses to respond and settles the issues with you, that is fine too. Give her some time and space to think about it. Keep trying, do not give up.
Accept her version
A person’s point of view about a situation may be very different from others based on his or her age, the power dynamic and closeness of the relationships. Separate realities are a part of family life. You and your mother both may have lived in the same house and spent most of your days together, but one person’s perception of a situation can still be completely different from another’s. Acknowledge that your mother’s recollection or perspective is just as valid as yours is.
Do not judge
Remember that your mother’s point of view can be valid, even if you disagree with it. Healing can occur when a person feels listened to and understood, and you remain open to their perspective. Listening without being judgmental and defensiveness allows a person to be honest in his or her response. What you hear from your mother may be upsetting, but understand that she probably needs to say it. Understanding her perspective is important. Request her to do the same when you tell her your side of the story.
Good things take time
Do not expect miracles to happen instantly. In most cases, a broken relationship cannot be fixed overnight. Keep in mind that you may need to have several rounds of hard conversations with your mother about the estrangement as both of you process your feelings. It is unlikely that with just one conversation, everything will be back to normal. It could take weeks, months, and even years to settle issues between you two.
Consider family therapy
Trying the family therapy will be helpful if you are unable to resolve your issues with your mother. A family therapist can guide you to identify dysfunctional family behaviour and develop your own solutions to the problem. Family therapy also works to acknowledge and enhance the connections family members have with each other. It is generally short-termed and focuses on a problem plaguing the family.
If your mother and you are unable to resolve your mutual differences and if going for a family therapy is not possible too, try counselling for yourself. Dealing with an estranged relative can be a very stressful and painful event in one’s life. Therefore, it may be worth getting help from a qualified health professional to help you deal with your emotions and coping with them by developing effective communication strategies.
Let go if necessary
Keep in mind that reconciliation may be difficult especially if your mother does not want it. In that case, it may be best to come to a place of acceptance for the sake of your own health and step back from pursuing an ideal relationship with your mother. In the end, I hope and pray that your relationship with your mother turns out to be a beautiful and loving one.
All the best!
Asad is a counsellor, life coach, inspirational speaker and a personal-development expert. He advises on social, personal and emotional issues. You can send him your questions for this weekly column at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Ask Asad” mentioned in the subject line and provide as many details as possible.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Express Tribune.
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