Mending Family Relationships


by Nicole Bueno

Bare Branches and Red Maple Leaves Growing Alongside the Highway by Raymond Gehman

Bare Branches and Red Maple Leaves Growing Alongside the Highway by Raymond Gehman; Image courtesy of

With the holidays approaching, it can be a good time to mend a relationship with a family member and enjoy reconnecting during the holidays.  If you have ever had an argument with a family member, you know how difficult it can be to mend the relationship.  Whether it is your pride or not knowing what to say that keeps you from taking the first step, it is never too late to reconnect with your loved one.

  • Take responsibility.  A rift in a relationship takes two people.  You are responsible for how you responded.  Take responsibility for your part in the disagreement.
  • Apologize.  Saying “I’m sorry” may be difficult but it can be very powerful when trying to reconcile a relationship.  It is important that you convey it sincerely and genuinely.
  • Listen to the other person’s point of view.  In an argument, there is always two sides to a story.  Be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view.  However, if you feel that revisiting the issue that led to the argument in the first place will jeopardize your attempt to mend the relationship, then consider agreeing to disagree. 
  • Refrain from involving other family members in the disagreement.
  • Don’t play the blame game.  If you’re going to work out your differences, you have to move beyond blame.  Blaming the other person only makes them more upset and can jeopardize the relationship further.  On the other hand, if you are the one who wants to mend a relationship with a family member who instigated the estrangement, you may have to brace yourself for a diatribe of blame against you.  Do not retaliate with charges of your own.  Instead, say something neutralizing and inviting such as “I’d really like us to make a fresh start”, or “You’re my family and I miss being with you.” 
  • Keep the door open.  Send birthday cards, notes, e-mails and make occasional phone calls just so that your loved one knows that you’re always receptive to him or her, giving the message that whenever he or she is ready to reconnect, you’ll be there.  If the letter is ignored or you get a cold response, give it some time and then write or call again.
  • Be patient.  Mending a relationship can take some time.  Resolving differences often means taking risks and possibly facing rejection.  However, if you value your relationship with your loved one, it is worth that risk.

Nicole Bueno is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is a Mental Health Therapist and Peak Performance Sport Consultant. Nicole received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from San Jose State University and her Master’s Degree in Social Welfare from U.C. Berkeley. She is currently a Master’s Degree candidate of the Sport Psychology program at John F. Kennedy University. She has her own private practice in San Jose, California.  Nicole can be reached at or (408) 724-1009.