Are You Suffering From Social-Media-Induced Loneliness?

Social media’s biggest draw is that it allows us to connect with each other, so why does it make us ... [+] getty

Many people come to therapy when they are struggling with loneliness. They ask questions like:

  • “Why do I feel lonelier now than ever before, despite being more connected online?”
  • “How can I make meaningful connections with others when everything is done online?”
  • “Why do I feel like social media is causing me to tunnel into a dark, lonely hole?”

If you think about questions like these, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not just you.

What you are experiencing is an increasingly common phenomenon that is well-documented in scientific research. For instance, one study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that today’s teenagers spend approximately an hour less per day socializing with their peers compared to teenagers who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, according to the study, adolescents who reported fewer in-person social interactions and more online interactions felt most lonely and isolated.

Social media can create a false sense of connection and belonging. Online interactions lack the nonverbal cues, physical presence, and emotional intimacy that are crucial to building and maintaining meaningful relationships.

Social media can also lead to feelings of social comparison and inadequacy, as well as feelings of isolation due to constant FOMO (fear of missing out).

But there is hope. Here are some science-backed strategies to help you address and overcome feelings of loneliness stemming from too much social media.

#1. Limit your social media use

Yes, it’s easier said than done. But the benefits of timing and restricting your social media usage can be huge. Research published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting people’s time on social apps like Facebook and Snapchat to 10 minutes per day significantly reduced feelings of loneliness and depression. The sweet spot, according to the researchers, may be about 30 minutes or less per day.

By setting boundaries with technology, we can focus on developing face-to-face interactions and building real connections. Social media is designed to be addictive, so there is no shame in seeking the help of a mental health practitioner to reduce your dependence on it.

A therapist might suggest creating a schedule to limit social media usage, setting specific times of the day to check and engage with social media, and finding alternative activities to fill the time that you would have spent on social media.

While this can seem challenging at first, with the right mindset and strategies, you can develop a healthy relationship with social media and reduce your feelings of loneliness.

#2. Choose authenticity over social validation

The constant need to present a perfect image on social media can lead to a phenomenon known as ‘social surveillance,’ where users not only carefully curate their own posts, but also closely monitor the content posted by others on their profiles and pages. This can be detrimental to one’s mental health, as it encourages individuals to chase after societal norms and popularity rather than being true to themselves.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychology found that this dynamic can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, as users often find themselves questioning whether their actions will be accepted or rejected by their peers before posting something on social media.

It’s also important to realize that any validation you may receive on an inauthentic version of yourself will ultimately feel hollow and fake. If true human connection is what you value, try to attract people who like you for you by showing the world what you truly care about.

Remember, social media is just a tool to connect you with others. It is not the endgame. Focus on building real-world connections through your online presence and your loneliness will improve.

Loneliness is a difficult and painful experience. But, if you can trace its cause to social media, you’re already halfway to fixing the problem.

By limiting your social media use, being authentic online, and seeking out face-to-face interactions, you can learn to address the causes of your social-media-induced loneliness and build the real connections you need to feel less alone.

Mark Travers, Ph.D., is an American psychologist with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the lead psychologist at Awake Therapy,

Source: Are You Suffering From Social-Media-Induced Loneliness?

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Loneliness In Kids Who Learn and Think Differently

Kids who learn and think differently aren’t the only ones who can feel lonely or “apart” from other kids. Most people feel that way at some point.

But research shows that kids who learn and think differently are more likely than their peers to struggle with loneliness. And they often have a harder time dealing with those feelings when they have them. Learn more about loneliness and kids who learn and think differently.

Why kids who are different might feel lonely

Kids who learn and think differently might feel lonely for many reasons. For starters, they’re more likely to be bullied or left out. They can have a hard time making friends or connecting with people. And struggling in school and socially can make kids feel bad about themselves.

They may feel like nobody understands them or their challenges. And they might even withdraw. Kids with certain challenges are most likely to feel left out and isolated. These challenges include trouble with:

The difference between being lonely and being alone

Some people like spending time alone. That goes for kids and adults. As long as they have the ability to make friends and connect with other people when they want to, being alone is a preference, not a problem.

Being unhappy when alone doesn’t necessarily mean someone is lonely, though. Having a hard time entertaining yourself and feeling bored aren’t the same thing as feeling socially isolated.

Also, loneliness isn’t always about being alone. Some kids feel isolated even when they’re with others. They feel like nobody around them shares or understands their challenges. There’s nobody to connect with.

How loneliness can impact kids

When kids go through the occasional lonely spell, it usually doesn’t have a lasting impact. Feeling lonely all the time is different, though. It can affect kids in lots of ways. And it can lead to other difficulties.

Kids who feel lonely might be:

More likely to have low self-esteem. They might feel like others are rejecting them. Kids might lose confidence in themselves and eventually believe they have nothing valuable to offer.

Less likely to take positive risks. Trying new things can build confidence and lead to new interests and skills. But kids who are already feeling rejected and vulnerable may not want to take this leap. They may be afraid to call attention to themselves and risk failing.

More likely to be sad, disconnected, and worried. Kids deal with loneliness in different ways. They may keep their sadness inside and pull away from others. Or they may become angry and act out. The combination of negative emotions and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety.

More likely to engage in risky behaviors. Teens may drink, smoke or vape, use drugs, vandalize property, or do other risky things if they think it will help them feel accepted.

There are many ways to help your child handle feelings of loneliness. First, don’t force your child to become more social or to make lots of friends. Instead, work on building self-esteem. Help your child find interests that lead to meeting new kids who like similar things.

Keep an eye on signs of depression, too. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider if you have concerns. And if your child has ADHD, read about the connection between ADHD and depression.

By: Kate Kelly

Source: Loneliness in Kids Who Learn and Think Differently | Understood

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Critics by Rachel Ehmke

If your child is struggling to make friends, there are ways to help. First, try to figure out why. Some kids need help with social skills. This is common for kids who are immature or have ADHD, autism or non-verbal learning disorder. Other kids are anxious. They may feel overwhelmed in new social situations or big groups.

Kids who are depressed often want to stay in their rooms. They may interpret things negatively and doubt others want to see them. Finally, some kids may have a hard time fitting in because they have different interests.

If you think your child is lonely, ask them. Start by describing a time when you have felt lonely. If they don’t want to talk, try again in a few days. Don’t push them.

If your child says they are lonely, try to be a good listener. Show that you’re listening by reflecting back what they’re saying: “It sounds like you’re having a hard time.” You can also say supportive things like: “That sounds tough. Would you tell me more about that?”

Once you know more, you can try to help. For kids who need practice with social skills, you can break things down into small steps. Then you can role play them with your child. For kids who have a hard time putting themselves out there, acknowledge how they feel. Then remind them that they’ll probably have a good time once they’ve made the effort. Give them lots of support and praise for doing something tough.

Some kids tend to misunderstand interactions. You can give a reality check: “What makes you think he’s mad? Are there other explanations?” For kids who interpret things negatively a lot, pointing it out each time can help break the pattern.

Finally, help kids find a group or activity that is interesting to them. Many kids find success online, where there are lots of virtual groups for kids with specific interests. Getting excited about something will help them feel more confident, too.

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The Hidden Costs of Living Alone

A place setting for one: A light green plate on a green woven placemat with a knife and fork sitting on a plaid napkin. A half-full glass of wine sits by the plate.

In ways both large and small, American society still assumes that the default adult has a partner and that the default household contains multiple people. If you were to look under the roofs of American homes at random, it wouldn’t take long to find someone who lives alone. By the Census Bureau’s latest count, there are about 36 million solo dwellers, and together they make up 28 percent of U.S. households.

Even though this percentage has been climbing steadily for decades, these people are still living in a society that is tilted against them. In the domains of work, housing, shopping, and health care, much of American life is a little—and in some cases, a lot—easier if you have a partner or live with family members or housemates. The number of people who are inconvenienced by that fact grows every year.

Those who live alone, to be clear, are not lonely and miserable. Research indicates that, young or old, single people are more social than their partnered peers. Bella DePaulo, the author of How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, reeled off to me some of the pleasures of having your own space: “the privacy, the freedom to arrange your life and your space just the way you want it—you get to decide when to sleep, when to get up, what you eat, when you eat, what you watch on Netflix, how you set the thermostat.”

The difficulties of living alone tend to lie more on a societal level, outside the realm of personal decision making. For one thing, having a partner makes big and small expenditures much more affordable, whether it’s a down payment on a house, rent, day care, utility bills, or other overhead costs of daily life. One recent study estimated that, for a couple, living separately is about 28 percent more expensive than living together.

These efficiencies are an inherent feature of sharing costs with other people, but the barriers to living alone, for those who want to, would be much lower if housing (and health care, and education) weren’t so expensive. Moreover, the types of housing that are most commonly available for one person typically privilege privacy over togetherness, but the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. DePaulo has studied communities where single residents have their own spaces, but also plentiful shared areas with “the possibility of running into other people.”

If you need to, say, move heavy furniture or get a ride somewhere in an emergency, your neighbors are easy to reach. More such options would make solo life easier. Many who live by themselves are effectively penalized at work too. “Lots of people I interviewed complained that their managers presumed they had extra time to stay at the office or take on extra projects because they don’t have family at home,” Eric Klinenberg, the author of the 2012 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone and a sociologist at NYU, told me.

“Some said that they were not compensated fairly either, because managers gave raises to people based on the impression that they had more expenses, for child care and so on.” And if many workers who live alone end up making less money, as consumers they face less favorable pricing options than other shoppers. Buying larger quantities of food at the grocery store is usually cheaper, but as DePaulo pointed out, people who live alone might not get through perishable items quickly enough.

(She wishes more stores would let people buy only as much of something as they please, instead of locking them into certain packaging sizes.) Even when a consumer good such as paper towels can’t spoil, people with a small home might not have the space for a stockpile. The bias against solo consumers runs deep: Recipes are rarely written for a single diner, and DePaulo said that she has heard from single people who have had trouble booking restaurant reservations for one.

Also, some aspects of travel, particularly lodging, are much more expensive, per person, for single people. These all may seem like small annoyances, but in practice they are regular reminders that American society still assumes that the default adult has a partner and that the default household contains multiple people.

More concerning, some health-care protocols are essentially built on the assumption that a patient lives with someone who can support them. Certain medical procedures require patients to be dropped off or taken home by someone who could stay with them. A friend can fill this role for people who live alone, but they may not want to make a burdensome request or share sensitive information about their health.

In the Facebook group that DePaulo created for single people, some members have reported paying a driver from a ride-hailing service extra to pose as a friend or just forgoing a procedure entirely. And people who live alone don’t always get to take full advantage of government policies. For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act, a (fairly meager) law that protects some workers’ jobs if they take unpaid leave to look after a loved one, covers care only for spouses, children, and parents. A person who lives alone and doesn’t have a spouse might want to look after a sibling or close friend, but the law doesn’t cover that.

According to the Pew Research Center, the share of American adults who aren’t married and don’t live with a romantic partner has also been growing, having jumped from 29 percent in 1990 to 38 percent in 2019. Many of these people live with others, such as their parents or other relatives, and some of these disadvantages apply to this group as well, depending on whom they share a home with. They may not be able to get a ride to the doctor from a homebound older relative, or may get treated differently at work if they don’t have a child.

Some of them might want to live alone, but can’t afford to do so. And many single people, whether they live alone or with others, constantly face the stigma associated with not being partnered. “It’s oppressive, always getting pitied,” DePaulo said. “People have bought into the ideology that having someone is better—[that] the more natural, normal, superior way of being is being coupled or having a family.”

She sees this norm in the political rhetoric around virtuous, “hardworking families,” and thinks that this cultural default can to some extent be blamed for the ways in which American society has been slow to adapt to people who are single or live alone. She also attributes the slowness to “cultural lag”: In the future, lots of Americans are going to live alone—tens of millions already do—and eventually, society will, with hope, catch up.

By Joe Pinsker

Source: Living Alone in the U.S. Is Harder Than It Should Be – The Atlantic

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Critics:

Loneliness is an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. Loneliness is also described as social pain – a psychological mechanism which motivates individuals to seek social connections. It is often associated with an unwanted lack of connection and intimacy. Loneliness overlaps and yet is distinct from solitude. Solitude is simply the state of being apart from others; not everyone who experiences solitude feels lonely. As a subjective emotion, loneliness can be felt even when a person is surrounded by other people.

The causes of loneliness are varied. Loneliness can be a result of genetic inheritance, cultural factors, a lack of meaningful relationships a significant loss, an excessive reliance on passive technologies (notably the Internet in the 21st century),[3] or a self-perpetuating mindset.[4] Research has shown that loneliness is found throughout society, including among people in marriages along with other strong relationships, and those with successful careers. Most people experience loneliness at some points in their lives, and some feel it often.

The effects of loneliness are also varied. Transient loneliness (loneliness which exists for a short period of time) is related to positive effects, including an increased focus on the strength of one’s relationships.[5][6] Chronic loneliness (loneliness which exists for a significant amount of time in one’s life) is generally correlated with negative effects, including increased obesity, substance use disorder, risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, risk of high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.Chronic loneliness is also correlated with an increased risk of death and suicidal thoughts.

Medical treatments for loneliness include beginning therapy and taking antidepressants. Social treatments for loneliness generally include an increase in interaction with others, such as group activities (such as exercise or religious activities), re-engaging with old friends or colleagues, and becoming more connected with one’s community. Other social treatments for loneliness include the ownership of pets[11][12] and loneliness-designed technologies, such as meetup services or social robots (although the use of some technologies in order to combat loneliness is debated).

Loneliness has long been a theme in literature, going back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, academic coverage of loneliness was sparse until recent decades. In the 21st century, some academics and professionals have claimed that loneliness has become an epidemic,[13] including Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General of the United States. However, this claim has been disputed, with critics arguing that loneliness has not increased, but rather only academic focus on the topic has.[14]

Loneliness has long been viewed as a universal condition which, at least to a moderate extent, is felt by everyone. From this perspective, some degree of loneliness is inevitable as the limitations of human life mean it is impossible for anyone to continually satisfy their inherent need for connection. Professors including Michele A. Carter and Ben Lazare Mijuskovic have written books and essays tracking the existential perspective and the many writers who have talked about it throughout history.

Thomas Wolfe‘s 1930s essay God’s Lonely Man is frequently discussed in this regard; Wolfe makes the case that everyone imagines they are lonely in a special way unique to themselves, whereas really every single person sometimes experiences loneliness. While agreeing that loneliness alleviation can be a good thing, those who take the existential view tend to doubt such efforts can ever be fully successful, seeing some level of loneliness as both unavoidable and even beneficial, as it can help people appreciate the joy of living.

For many people the family of origin did not offer the trust building relationships needed to build a reference that lasts a lifetime and even in memory after the passing of a loved one. This can be due to parenting style, traditions, mental health issues including personality disorders and abusive family environments. Sometimes religious shunning is also present.

This impacts the ability of individuals to know themselves, to value themselves and to relate to others or to do so with great difficulty. All these factors and many others are overlooked by the standard medical or psychological advice that recommends to go meet friends, family and to socialise. This isn’t always possible when there is no one available to relate to and an inability to connect without the skills and knowledge on how to proceed. With time a person might become discouraged or develop apathy from numerous trials, failures or rejections brought on by the lack of interpersonal skills.

As the rate of loneliness increases yearly among people of every age group and more so in the elderly, with known detrimental physical and psychological effects, there is a need to find new ways to connect people with each other and especially so at a time when a whole lot of the human attention is focused on electronic devices, it is a challenge.

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Coping with Grief During a Pandemic

Since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have experienced loss, sadness, anxiety, and grief. You will often hear how losing a loved one changes you for the rest of your life.

You learn to move forward in life carrying with you the cherished memories of this person and the love they brought into this world, into their relationship with you. For many, this is one of the hardest things they will ever experience in their life. It’s never easy, whether you have experienced a sudden loss of a loved one or losing a loved one due to an illness or cancer, that may have included stays in a hospital or hospice setting.

Pre-pandemic, one vital aspect of this process that helped us grieve was being surrounded by our loved ones and friends. Being present with your loved ones as they were in the hospital, being present with loved ones at a viewing or mass, being present with your family and friends at a luncheon after the funeral, just being physically present with others helped us to cope.

Currently, we are almost a year into the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and unfortunately, like everyone, I have felt loss. Like others worldwide, I missed casual visits with friends and family, holiday gatherings, having my children’s education interrupted, struggling to adapt to zoom and other online video tools, fear of contracting COVID-19, etc.

The list can go on! My family also experienced two personal losses within a very short time frame. Both were my uncles; both were my mother’s brothers. One uncle contracted COVID-19 and passed away in under a month, and my other uncle lost his lengthy battle with cancer.

How the Pandemic Impacts the Grieving Process

In any time period, losing a loved one is a very difficult experience. You will hear individuals experience stages of grief and loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Maneuvering through these stages is often supported in part by aspects that we are missing because of the pandemic. One of the elements that are different is not being able to hug someone, to give or receive a simple embrace!

People often say that you might not remember what people say, but you will remember how they made you feel. An embrace of love, support, and I am here for you without saying a word is missing these days. Further, visitation limitations in hospitals and nursing homes due to the pandemic have strongly impacted the grieving process.

This deepens the void felt in the time with a loved one who is sick leading up to their passing. This may cause us to feel like we missed out on being there, caring for, and helping our sick loved ones feel like they are not alone. Also, some people are nervous about attending the viewing and funerals. Constraints on large gatherings impact how many people can attend, and even those who attend are spaced far apart.

The purposeful distancing helps to keep it safe in the pandemic but takes away some of the comfort in gathering together to mourn. Some wanted to attend but also wanted to make sure they were safe. In regards to my uncle, one family friend explained, “I really wanted to go, have closure, pay my respects and love to him and all of his loved ones,” but due to COVID-19 and his physical health concerns, was not able to attend.

Recommendations to Help with Loss During a Pandemic

This pandemic has had a huge impact on how we cope with grief, and it may lead us to use some new methods to help us through the tough times. If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss, the recommendations below may help to ease the pain and additional loneliness felt when losing a loved one.

Therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you process your grief and sadness.

Group Therapy (Bereavement groups). Attending a bereavement group can help you connect with others who have lost loved ones. It also may help with feeling like you are not alone and learn coping strategies from others that may better support this extremely difficult time for you.

NAMI or other support groups. Joining a group like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or other support groups such as those offered on social media platforms. This will help you broaden your scope of supportive networks. These groups and support networks are often at zero cost and can be extremely beneficial.

Support and Time. There is no specific way to mourn a loved one. For some, it may take a long time to pass through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). For those supporting someone who lost a loved one, just being present with them (virtually or physically distanced) and encouraging them to talk about their loved one is extremely beneficial.

They may not remember what you said, but surely will remember how you made them feel. This is especially true with grief – just knowing that you are there, listening, and offering comfort means so much!

Talk. Continue to talk about your thoughts and feelings related to the frustrations, anxiety, sadness, and grief due to the loss of the loved one. Shutting down, avoiding, and isolating can be an instinctual response with grief and understandable due to the significant loss.

Talk about the good times you had with the person, talk about the anger you have related to your situation, talk about the sadness that you have about the loss. The most important thing is to express yourself.

Pictures of your loved one. Looking through pictures of my uncles really helped me and my family. Remembering good times, funny moments, and speaking about their character, values, and personality was extremely beneficial to my family.

Memorialize the loved one. There are various ways you can memorialize your loved one. Some ideas are dedicating and planting a tree, flower, or garden for your loved one, contributing to a local charity, creating an online memorial, or creating a picture box.

Engage in Self-Care. Take care of yourself. Yoga, meditation, walks, music, exercise, gym, and eating right are a few things that can help you during a time of grieving.

Be kind to yourself. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest situations a person can experience. Self-compassion throughout this experience is one aspect that may help you process your grief. This is also easier said than done.

A beautiful quote by Rick Hanson from his book Just One Thing is “you can have compassion for yourself- which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that ‘this is tough, this hurts,’ and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you.”

By: Patrick McElwaine Psy.D.

Patrick McElwaine is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and also Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Holy Family University and a faculty member at the Beck Institute.

Source: Coping with Grief During a Pandemic | Psychology Today

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Family Estrangement: Why Adults are Cutting Off Their Parents

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Polarized politics and a growing awareness of how difficult relationships can impact our mental health are fueling family estrangement, say psychologists. It was a heated Skype conversation about race relations that led Scott to cut off all contact with his parents in 2019. His mother was angry he’d supported a civil rights activist on social media, he says; she said “a lot of really awful racist things”, while his seven-year-old son was in earshot.

“There was very much a parental feeling like ‘you can’t say that in front of my child, that’s not the way we’re going to raise our kids’,” explains the father-of-two, who lives in Northern Europe. Scott says the final straw came when his father tried to defend his mother’s viewpoint in an email, which included a link to a white supremacist video. He was baffled his parents could not comprehend the reality of people being victimized because of their background, especially given his own family history. “‘This is insane – you’re Jewish’, I said. ‘Many people in our family were killed in Auschwitz’.”

It wasn’t the first time Scott had experienced a clash in values with his parents. But it was the last time he chose to see or speak to them. Despite a lack of hard data, there is a growing perception among therapists, psychologists and sociologists that this kind of intentional parent-child ‘break-up’ is on the rise in western countries.

Formally known as ‘estrangement’, experts’ definitions of the concept differ slightly, but the term is broadly used for situations in which someone cuts off all communication with one or more relatives, a situation that continues for the long-term, even if those they’ve sought to split from try to re-establish a connection.

“The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon,” explains Karl Andrew Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University, US. “It is different from family feuds, from high-conflict situations and from relationships that are emotionally distant but still include contact.”

The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon – Karl Andrew Pillemer

After realizing there were few major studies of family estrangement, he carried out a nationwide survey for his 2020 book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. The survey showed more than one in four Americans reported being estranged from another relative. Similar research for British estrangement charity Stand Alone suggests the phenomenon affects one in five families in the UK, while academic researchers and therapists in Australia and Canada also say they’re witnessing a “silent epidemic” of family break-ups.

On social media, there’s been a boom in online support groups for adult children who’ve chosen to be estranged, including one Scott is involved in, which has thousands of members. “Our numbers in the group have been rising steadily,” he says. “I think it’s becoming more and more common.”

The fact that estrangement between parents and their adult children seems to be on the rise – or at least is increasingly discussed – seems to be down to a complex web of cultural and psychological factors. And the trend raises plenty of questions about its impact on both individuals and society.

Past experiences and present values

Although research is limited, most break-ups between a parent and a grown-up child tend to be initiated by the child, says Joshua Coleman, psychologist and author of The Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict.

One of the most common reasons for this is past or present abuse by the parent, whether emotional, verbal, physical or sexual. Divorce is another frequent influence, with consequences ranging from the adult child “taking sides”, to new people coming into the family such as step siblings or stepparents, which can fuel divisions over both “financial and emotional resources”.

Clashes in values – as experienced by Scott and his parents – are also increasingly thought to play a role. A study published in October by Coleman and the University of Wisconsin, US, showed value-based disagreements were mentioned by more than one in three mothers of estranged children. Pillemer’s recent research has also highlighted value differences as a “major factor” in estrangements, with conflicts resulting from “issues such as same sex-preference, religious differences or adopting alternative lifestyles”.

Both experts believe at least part of the context for this is increased political and cultural polarization in recent years. In the US, an Ipsos poll reported a rise in family rifts after the 2016 election, while research by academics at Stanford University in 2012 suggested a larger proportion of parents could be unhappy if their children married someone who supported a rival political party, which was far less true a decade earlier. A recent UK study found that one in 10 people had fallen out with a relative over Brexit. “These studies highlight the way that identity has become a far greater determinant of whom we choose to keep close or to let go,” says Coleman.

Family Tree

This story is part of BBC’s Family Tree series, which examines the issues and opportunities parents, children and families face today – and how they’ll shape the world tomorrow. Coverage continues on BBC Future.

Scott says he’s never discussed his voting preferences with his parents. But his decision to cut them off was partly influenced by his and his wife’s heightened awareness of social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and MeToo. He says other adult children in his online support group have fallen out due to value-based disagreements connected to the pandemic, from older parents refusing to get vaccinated to rows over conspiracy theories about the source of the virus.

The mental health factor

Experts believe our growing awareness of mental health, and how toxic or abusive family relationships can affect our wellbeing, is also impacting on estrangement.

“While there’s nothing especially modern about family conflict or a desire to feel insulated from it, conceptualizing the estrangement of a family member as an expression of personal growth, as it is commonly done today, is almost certainly new,” says Coleman. “Deciding which people to keep in or out of one’s life has become an important strategy.”

Sam, who’s in her twenties and lives in the UK, says she grew up in a volatile household where both parents were heavy drinkers. She largely stopped speaking to her parents straight after leaving home for university, and says she cut ties for good after witnessing her father verbally abusing her six-year-old cousin at a funeral.

Having therapy helped her recognize her own experiences as “more than just bad parenting” and process their psychological impact. “I came to understand that ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ were words that described my childhood. Just because I wasn’t hit didn’t mean I wasn’t harmed.”

She agrees with Coleman it’s “becoming more socially acceptable” to cut ties with family members. “Mental health is more talked about now so it’s easier to say, ‘These people are bad for my mental health’. I think, as well, people are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people.”

The rise of individualism

Coleman argues our increased focus on personal well being has happened in parallel with other wider trends, such as a shift towards a more “individualistic culture”. Many of us are much less reliant on relatives than previous generations.

“Not needing a family member for support or because you plan to inherit the family farm means that who we choose to spend time with is based more on our identities and aspirations for growth than survival or necessity,” he explains. “Today, nothing ties an adult child to a parent beyond that adult child’s desire to have that relationship.”

People are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people – Sam

Increased opportunities to live and work in different cities or even countries from our adult families can also help facilitate a parental break-up, simply by adding physical distance.

“It’s been much easier for me to move around than it would have been probably 20 years ago,” agrees Faizah, who is British with a South Asian background, and has avoided living in the same area as her family since 2014.

She says she cut ties with her parents because of “controlling” behaviours like preventing her from going to job interviews, wanting an influence on her friendships and putting pressure on her to get married straight after her studies. “They didn’t respect my boundaries,” she says. “I just want to have ownership over my own life and make my own choices.”

The impact of estrangement

There are strong positives for many estranged adult children who’ve detached themselves from what they believe are damaging parental relationships. “The research shows that the majority of adult children say it was for the best,” says Coleman.

But while improved mental health and perceived increased freedom are common outcomes of estrangement, Pillemer argues the decision can also create feelings of instability, humiliation and stress.

“The intentional, active severing of personal ties differs from other kinds of loss,” he explains. “In addition, people lose the practical benefits of being part of a family: material support, for example, and the sense of belonging to a stable group of people who know one another well.”

Feelings of loneliness and stigma seem to have been exacerbated for many estranged people during the pandemic. While the ‘Zoom boom’ enabled some families to feel closer and stay in touch more regularly, recent UK research suggests that adults with severed ties felt even more aware of missing out on family life during lockdown. Other studies point to Christmas and religious festivals being especially challenging periods for estranged relatives.

“I have my own family and my partner and my close friends, but nothing replaces those traditions you have with your parents,” agrees Faizah. Now in her thirties, she still finds the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr particularly tricky, even though she’s distanced herself from her parents’ religion. “It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking.”

Estrangement, though difficult to navigate, may not be permanent as people can successfully reconcile (Credit: Getty Images)

Choosing not to stay in touch with parents can have a knock-on effect on future family bonds and traditions, too. “For me, the biggest regret is my kids growing up without grandparents,” says Scott . “It’s preferable to [my parents] saying – gosh, I don’t know what – to them [but] I feel like my kids are missing out.”

Of course, all of this also has an impact on the parents who have, often unwillingly, been cut out of their children’s – and potentially grandchildren’s – lives. “Most parents are made miserable by it,” says Coleman. As well as losing their own footing in the traditional family unit, they typically “describe profound feelings of loss, shame and regret”.

Scott says his mother recently tried calling him. But he texted her saying he’d only consider re-establishing contact with his children if she recognised her comments had been “horribly racist” and apologised. So far, he says she hasn’t done that. “Even if all those things happened, I would always limit what I tell them about my life and certainly supervise any visits with the kids. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that happening.”

Attempting to bridge rifts?

With political divisions centre-stage in many nations, as well as increasing individualism in cultures around the world, many experts believe the parent-child ‘break-up’ trend will stick around.

“My prediction is that it’s either going to get worse or stay the same,” says Coleman. “Family relationships are going to be based much more on pursuing happiness and personal growth, and less on emphasising duty, obligation or responsibility.”

Pillemer argues that we shouldn’t rule out attempting to bridge rifts, however, particularly those stemming from opposing politics or values (as opposed to abusive or damaging behaviours).

“If the prior relationship was relatively close (or at least not conflictual), I think there is evidence that many family members can restore the relationship. It does involve, however, agreeing on a ‘demilitarised zone’ in which politics cannot be discussed,” he says.

It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking – Faizah

For his book, he interviewed over 100 estranged people who had successfully reconciled, and found the process was actually framed by many as “an engine for personal growth”. “It is of course not for everyone, but for a number of people, bridging a rift, even if the relationship was imperfect, was a source of self-esteem and personal pride.”

He argues that both more detailed longitudinal studies and clinical attention are needed to get the topic of estrangement further “out of the shadows and into the clear light of open discussion”. “We need researchers to find better solutions – both for people who want to reconcile, and for help in coping with people in permanent estrangements.”

Scott welcomes the growing interest in adult break-ups. “I think it will help lots of people,” he says. “There is still a big stigma around estrangement. We see these questions in the group a lot: ‘What do you tell people?’ or ‘How do you bring it up when dating?”.

But he’s unlikely to reconcile with his own parents, unless they recognize they’ve been racist. “The whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ – I mean, that’s great if you have a cool family, but if you’re saddled with toxic people, it’s just not doable.”

Scott, Sam and Faizah are all using one name to protect their and their families’ privacy

Image By: Maddy Savage

Source: Family estrangement: Why adults are cutting off their parents – BBC Worklife

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ChatterPal    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/324615
Clientfinda   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/370806
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Content Gorilla   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/330783
Content Tool Kit   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/329145/
CourseAlly eLearning   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/384759/
CourseReel   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/355249
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Creaitecontent  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376986
Credit Repair   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/377815/
Cryptokit    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/383809/
CryptoRocket    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378113/
CryptoUnderworld     https://jvz8.com/c/202927/374345/
Dealcheck     https://dealcheck.io?fp_ref=armin16
DesignaSuite      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/297271
DesignBeast    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/371547
DevelopSelfEmpowerment     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/383094/
DFYContentClub     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/381337/
DFYSuite   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381194/
Diabetes Guide    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/358870/
Diddly Pay’s    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/315596
Diet fitness diabetes   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/286851
Domainname    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377005
Dominate Email   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/386980/
Dropshiply   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383483/
DUX Forex Signals   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/128215/
EBook Agency    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/384573/
Ejaculation Total   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/75989/
Email Monetizer    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386337/
EngagerMate  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/328172
EngageYard   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383051/
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Extreme Adz   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/379244/
Extreme Coupon  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/216101/
EZ Local Appointment  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385180/
Ezy  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/381935/
Ezy MultiStores  https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381935
Facebook Cash Machine   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/382333/
Facedrip  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376325/
FaceSwap   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381768/
Fade To Black   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/344541
Fanpage  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/144349
Fitness Nutrition   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/353334/
Followup Builder   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386313/
Forex Atlatian   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/25069/
Forex Blizz   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/144577/
Forex Blue Stark  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/47481/
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Forex Hybrid Scalper    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/95037/
Forex Joustar   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/381617/
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GMB Magic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377194
Graphic Alta  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/324492/
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High Converting Emails  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386305/
HostLegends    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/384755/
Hostley Domain Creator   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379223/
Human Synthesys Studio  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/367353/
ImageX   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/363237/
IMSyndicator  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/370769
Inboxr   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/312692
Insta Keyword    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/351606/
Instant Website   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377557
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Klippyo Kreators  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/327447
KoinCart   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383555/
Leadvalet   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/385580/
Levidio Royal Podcasting   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384025/
Linkable DFY   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/385873/
Linkomatic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/380937/
LiteTrading   https://www.litefinance.com/?uid=929237543
Live Your Truth  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379020
Living An Intentional Life    https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/382455
Living an International Life    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/382455/
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MarketPresso   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/369837
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Mech Forex Robot   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/383447/
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Motion Kingdom Studio  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/383177/
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NichBox  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/370705/
Organic Life Guide  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/366872/
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Photokit  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/373207/
PicsAds   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385468/
PigMoneyMethod   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377665/
Pipstock    http://pipstockexchange.com/register?ref=204
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Pixal  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/378775/
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Push Button Traffic   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/301402
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RSI SEO   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384381/
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ShopABot   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/291955
ShopFunnels   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/384069/
SocialAgency360   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385357/
SociCake  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/321987
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SociJam  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/309649
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Stackable Picture   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385046/
Steven Alvey’s   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/351754
Stoodaio   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/372094
Storymate    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/320972
StreamPilot   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385431/
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Sunday Freebie  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/267113/
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Tonai Voice Content   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/383119/
Toon Video Maker    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/357201
TrafficForU   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381950/
Trendio  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381003/
TubePal   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379863/
Tubeserp   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/370472
TubeTargeter  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377211
TuneMingo    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386556/
TV Boss Fire  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379480/
Ultrafunnels A.I   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381129/
VIADZ Ad Template  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/379307/
Vidcentric   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/376095
Viddeyo    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/382326/
Videevolve   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381011/
Video Campaignor      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/387058/
Video Games   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/184902/
VideoEnginePro     https://jvz2.com/c/202927/372916
VideoGameSuite    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/366537/
VideoRobot Enterprise   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/291061
VidKreate   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/386029/
VidMingo   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378359/
VidRaffle   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386840/
VidSnatcher    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/342585
VidVoicer    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379983/
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Viral Quotes      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386984/
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Vocalic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383848/
VoiceBuddy    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/342854
WebCop  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/378683/
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WordPress Mastery   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/386249/
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WP GDPR    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/299907
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