A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children.

Labeled a silent epidemic by a growing number of therapists and researchers, estrangement is one of the most disorienting and painful experiences of a parent's life. Popular opinion typically tells a one-sided story of parents who got what they deserved or overly entitled adult children who wrongly blame their parents. However, the reasons for estrangement are far more complex and varied. As a result of rising rates of individualism, an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness, growing economic insecurity, and a historically recent perception that parents are obstacles to personal growth, many parents find themselves forever shut out of the lives of their adult children and grandchildren.

As a trusted psychologist whose own daughter cut off contact for several years and eventually reconciled, Dr. Joshua Coleman is uniquely qualified to guide parents in navigating these fraught interactions. He helps to alleviate the ongoing feelings of shame, hurt, guilt, and sorrow that commonly attend these dynamics. By placing estrangement into a cultural context, Dr. Coleman helps parents better understand the mindset of their adult children and teaches them how to implement the strategies for reconciliation and healing that he has seen work in his forty years of practice. Rules of Estrangement gives parents the language and the emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child, the framework to cultivate a healthy relationship moving forward, and the ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible.

While estrangement is a complex and tender topic, Dr. Coleman's insightful approach is based on empathy and understanding for both the parent and the adult child.
“Finally, here’s a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their adult children alike. Rules of Estrangement candidly addresses parental estrangement from every conceivable angle, steering readers away from shame and blame to a place of newfound understanding and empowerment. I’ve seen many parents and adult children grappling with these issues, and this is exactly the book they have all been waiting for. I will be recommending it widely.”—Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

“A very thoughtful book filled with great wisdom and care. Over Dr. Coleman’s years of practice, as well as his own personal journey, he has developed a deep appreciation for how to help parents see their relationship with their children through the child’s eyes. It is through that process of compassionate perspective taking [WJ1] that a healing conversation can begin.”—Amy J. L. Baker, PhD, author of Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome

“Coleman addresses what historians see as a strange paradox: Even as more adult children view their parents as friends rather than mere obligations, psychologists report seeing a wave of parents who have been rejected by their adult children. Coleman explores the socioeconomic and cultural changes that inflate both our expectations and our disappointments in family life, offering calming advice on ways that estranged families can recover or move on.”—Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

“With the authority and wisdom that comes from both a firm grounding in history, sociology, and, especially, clinical practice, Joshua Coleman provides compassionate and useful advice to parents and their adult children as they try to navigate the minefield of past family experience.  His work with families is engaging, informative, exceedingly helpful.”—Frank Furstenberg, Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology, emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

Rules of Estrangement is a must-read guide for any parent in a troubled relationship with their adult child.  But it is also so much more—a sharp social and philosophical analysis of what it means to be part of a family in our strange cultural moment and a road map for parents everywhere to strengthen and future-proof their relationships with their children.”—Ruth Whippman, author of America the Anxious

“Joshua Coleman has provided a beautifully written book that describes painful disruptions in relationships between parents and their adult children. His wise and authoritative strategies and specific tips will prove to be essential for both younger and older generations and for clinicians who attempt to foster hope and relationship repair.”—Carolyn and Philip Cowan, emeritus psychology professors at UC Berkeley

“I have, for many years, recommended people to go see Dr. Coleman, but until I read this book, I don't think I ever knew the extraordinary range of his gifts. Yes, there are many sad stories in this book—but there are also fantastic stories of reconciliation and personal renewal. It's inspirational.”—Pepper Schwartz, PhD, sociologist and psychology expert on Married at First Sight