Estranged: Should you reconnect with an estranged family member?

Find out 5 things you need to consider before trying to make contact.

How to reunite with a family member: Tips 1-2
Family estrangement is a common predicament. And while cutting ties can be surprisingly easy, reconnecting can be surprisingly difficult. Have you become estranged from one of your relatives? Are you thinking about trying to get back in touch? Here are 5 tips for brokering a peace treaty.

1. Decide if reconciliation is best
"If you did the cutting of ties, remind yourself why and ask yourself if you made a good decision or if it was a mistake, and let that be your guide in reconnecting," says Esther Kane, a Courtenay, B.C.-based therapist.

"If you were cut off, ask yourself whether the other person had a good reason for doing so. If not, you might want to rethink reconnecting with him/her. Sometimes people who cut us off aren't the best people to continue to have in our lives. In other words, they may have done you a favour," she adds.

Some estrangements happen after a series of rather minor, but escalating, misunderstandings and overreactions. Others occur in order to preserve one or both partners' psychological or physical well-being. Which does yours fall into?

Kane recommends working out these issues in a journal before you act. Ask yourself why you want to reconnect, and what you're hoping from the future relationship, should you reconnect.

"Consider the costs versus benefits of re-establishing this relationship. Do the benefits outweigh the costs or vice versa?" asks Kane.

2. Be realistic about the outcome
If you've decided to get in touch, it's best not to predict a certain type of outcome. "Let go of expectations of what the other person will say or do. Try not to hope for too much or else you may end up disappointed or hurt," advises Kane.

If you two had the blowout to end all blowouts, don't expect your sparring partner to be all hugs and kisses. Think baby steps: If an estranged sibling agrees to meet you for a coffee, consider it a step in the right direction. You may end up chatting about nothing more significant than the weather – but at least you've started a dialogue, right?

Page 1 of 2 – Ready to make a move? Find out what the best way to reconnect with an estranged family member is on page 2.

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