Dear Thelma: Daughter cut ties after I stopped her relationship

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Dear Thelma,

We're a Christian family with a 22-year-old daughter still clearing her last two papers in an external exam (ACCA) while doing full-time studies online with another institute. She continues to stay at an accommodation near her college.

End-2019, she worked part-time at a food outlet and fell in love with a 30-year-old Buddhist man with SPM qualifications and from a single-mum family.

When I put a stop to the relationship, with the reason that she is better off alone, she cut ties with me even though I still have to financially support her staying outside.

I last saw her a year and three months ago. I just wish she could come back, for her safety and to bring down her monthly expenses.

It doesn't matter what she has done, I just want her to come home.

Hurting Parent

Dear Hurting Parent,

Oh dear, I'm sorry you're fighting. Let's start with some common principles and then see about an approach that may heal the rift.

It's a parent's job to nurture a baby until it is an independent adult. That means the child and parent have a continuously developing relationship.

When the child is tiny, mum and dad pretty much decide everything. But as the child matures, the parent has to let go gradually, allowing the child more and more autonomy.

When the child reaches a certain age between 18 and 21, the relationship changes, with all parties accepting that everyone is an independent adult.

This is a process, and it's hard on everyone. Of course, there will be stress and adjustments and arguments as relationships change. Every family goes through it.

At this point, you are an adult with your views, and she is a young adult with her views. When these views conflict, neither of you gets to impose on the other.

This can be very hard to accept, especially if you think your chick is making a mistake or adopting values you don't share. However, you cannot live other people's lives for them.

As such, trying to put a stop to her relationship was a mistake. You are not entitled to decide who your daughter can be with. At 22, she is an adult.

Also, while it is your right to think as you please, telling other adults that you have judged them and found them wanting is rarely sensible, no matter how close you are.

I think you know this in your heart because you continued to support her financially. That shows that you are principled. You very carefully did not use your financial power to scare or blackmail your child. I suspect that will work massively in your favour.

All in all, you have a good chance at getting back to communicating. Therefore, I suggest you try these steps:

Get your mindset in order by considering what kind of relationship you might have with your adult offspring. How would you like to be together? Consider how people you admire handle it and see if their style appeals.

Then write a short text to say you miss her, you would like to mend fences, and would she meet you for a one-on-one lunch or coffee.

You mention that you want to bring down her monthly expenses. If you are in financial difficulties (and who isn't in these difficult times?), be open about that as well, and let her know: "While I do not intend to pressure you, my financial circumstances are changing and this may affect you."

When you meet, there will be some tension. I strongly suggest you deal with this in a very practical manner and clear the air with a short, frank apology. Some parents find it hard to apologise to their children, but all humans make mistakes. Saying sorry shows you are fair and accountable.

A simple,"You are an adult, entitled to make her own choices and I should not have interfered. Sorry" is probably enough to get you two talking again.

However, I should caution you that I think you may be in for quite a lot of conversation. Your daughter had a tiff with you about a boyfriend; this is really standard stuff. Usually, the fight rumbles on and off over days or weeks but people keep talking even if some of that communicating goes on at foghorn level.

The fact that your daughter walked away and did not reach out, suggests there is a lot of anger there. If I'm right, then there may be a legacy of issues your child wants to address.

My advice is to take it slowly. Listen, think before you, and keep your cool. Focus on areas where you agree, not just where you differ. Also, don't try and have it all out in one go. Pacing is important!

Ideally, you listen to each other, explain and explore your past with respect, and if there are differences, that's OK. As adults, you can agree to disagree.

As for the man you don't like, at some point in the future you can say calmly and with respect what concerns you. And your daughter will listen respectfully and decide for herself. You make your decisions and live with the consequences, and so does she.

Does this sound like a lot? If it is, and you quail, then you might also send her this article with a note,"My letter to Thelma. Can we talk?"

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