My daughter is complaining about the upbringing

Mother: “My 36-year-old daughter has recently made it clear to me that my ex-husband and I have done very poorly with the upbringing. Both her father and I seem to have done everything to give her an unhappy childhood.

“While he and I believe that we have raised our children with support, care and love, our daughter is convinced that she has suffered so much ‘cold, pain, sorrow and lack of money’ that she will not soon forget. She has already alienated her father and brother with similar reproaches. Her memories, mine, my ex’s and her younger brother’s don’t match.

“I have offered to talk to her. She doesn’t want that. Instead, she poured out a torrent of mistakes on our part by email. I was only able to respond by saying that I feel very bad for her to have such rotten memories. And that I remember the many things she lists differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that her memories are the reality for her. What now? I worry.”

Name is known to the editor. This section is anonymous, because difficulties in upbringing are sensitive. Would you like to present a dilemma? Send your question to [email protected]

The influence of parents is overestimated

Bass Delivery: “Beware of untimely self-blame. The influence that parents have on how a child develops is systematically overestimated. Genes and friends are at least as decisive. It is not even given to parents to give their children a happy childhood, because whether it was happy children decide afterwards for themselves. Even children who are close to each other in age can differ on this. That childhood is different for an older sister than for a younger brother. Moreover, our memories are intersected and covered with later interpretations.

“What you encounter is what I call ‘the paradox of the happy childhood’. You cannot prevent children from having a negative judgment looking back, while you as a parent have done your best.

“But to maintain the relationship with your daughter, you will have to take her story seriously. Did something happen of which you never realized the impact? You could write her a letter saying that you would like to hear her story. And that your door is always open. Hopefully she’s not one of those people who always put the blame on others.”

Work with empathy and self-reflection

Marga Akkerman: “At several moments in their lives, children take stock of their upbringing. This is one such moment for your daughter. Among her reproaches is sadness. In order to come closer, it is important that you work with empathy and self-reflection. Try to empathize with your daughter. Could she have suffered more from the divorce than you thought at the time? Did she perhaps adapt at the time so as not to make it difficult for her parents? Was she alone with her grief and anger or was she able to talk about it with her brother? Do the experiences from then still influence her life now? Has it hindered her in her friendships, in her school career?

“You can also ask her in a letter if your daughter does not want contact, or if a conversation is too difficult. Tell her you are very sorry that she has been and may still be so unhappy. What matters is that she can come to you with her emotions. Although she is 36 years old, she is now a vulnerable child.”