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How to Repair Broken Family Ties

by Melody Causewell
Father and son talking on couch.

Father and son talking on couch.

Families regularly struggle with disconnection; however, there is usually a road back from these kinds of issues. By reaching out, your concerns, setting boundaries and changing the power balance, you may be able to repair family ties.

Make The First Move

Reaching out to family members can be the most difficult part of reparing your relationship. This is particularly true if your family history is filled with trauma, or other stressors. If you want to repair family connections, you need to take the first step. Write a letter, make a phone call or pay a personal visit to a family member’s home. Let them know that, while the past has been difficult, you would like the opportunity to change things and move forward. If they are open to it, you are on your way to reconnection.

Be Direct

In order to repair relationships, past issues need to be discussed. These conversations can often be challenging, as family members may attempt to change the subject or steer clear of their own negative contributions, notes psychiatrist David Allen, author of “How to Talk to Relatives about Family Dysfunction,” in Psychology Today. During conversations, identify the issues as you see them, using I-statements to make your point. Instead of saying, “You're a jerk for what you did,” try, “When that happened, I felt disappointed and abandoned.” By clarifying the issues first, you run a better chance of resolving them as the discussing progresses.

Set Boundaries

Unclear boundaries in step-families can lead to poor family relationships note researchers Susan Brown and Wendy Manning in a 2009 Demography study entitled, “Family Boundary Ambiguity and the Measurement of Family Structure." Whether your family is blended or traditional, healthy boundaries are critical. To set boundaries, be clear about what things are acceptable and set consequences for those that are not. Try phrasing that focuses on your feelings, such as, "In the past, I felt badly when you criticized me, and I will not accept it this time around." Set whatever boundaries make sense in your situation to allow you to repair family ties.

Mutual Respect

To mend broken family ties, respect and openness are critical. If you are a parent in a broken family, adjust your behaviors and words to reflect that you are open to the opinions of other members. Adult children can remind others that, while they are adults, they still value the ideas of parents or siblings. Minor children can express that they don’t feel heard or respected, or may enlist the help of a trusted adult to get their points across. By offering respect, you are more likely to get respect in return and be able to mend family ties.