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166 - Dr. Joshua Coleman and How Parents Can Heal or Prevent Estrangement


In this episode, Sasha and Stella delve into the intricate world of family estrangement with Dr. Joshua Coleman, a psychologist, author and expert in family dynamics and alienating relationships, whose own personal experience with his estranged daughter has profoundly shaped his work. Coleman's insights highlight the complexity and emotional strain of estrangement, emphasizing empathy, responsibility, and strategic communication as essential tools for parents navigating these challenging dynamics.

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best practice findings about American families.

He writes the Dear Doctor column for Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper and has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, NBC Think, The Behavioral Scientist, Clinical Psychiatry News, CNN, MarketWatch, the San Francisco Chronicle, Greater Good Magazine, AEON, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and more. He has given talks to the faculties at Harvard, the Weill Cornell Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State, and other academic institutions. 

A frequent guest on the Today Show and NPR he has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, America Online Coaches, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television.

He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters and has written four books, most recently, The Rules of Estrangement. He is also the co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of seven online volumes of Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.

In this warm and thoughtful conversation, Stella, Sasha and Dr. Coleman consider how younger generations have redefined abuse and trauma, often leading to estrangement, and highlight the disparity in support between estranged parents and their children. The latter finding extensive social and therapeutic validation, while the parents are often vilified and isolated. Coleman points out that cultural trends in parenting strategies and parents' increasing attempts to shield their children from risks have left the kids ill-prepared (once matured into adulthood) to handle life's challenges and more prone to blame their parents for their struggles.

Understanding and addressing broader cultural and psychological factors is crucial in helping families navigate and heal from estrangement. The discussion explores so much, including the following topics:

  • How Individualism is Eroding Traditional Family Obligations

  • Estrangement and Gender Issues

  • Common Missteps in Addressing Estrangement

  • Modern Trends in Estrangement

  • Parental Strategies for Reconciliation

  • Challenges for Parents

  • Coping with Estrangement and the Common Differences in Experiences for Mothers vs. Fathers

  • Handling Estranged Adult Children vs. Rebellious Minors

This episode offers valuable insights and practical strategies for families coping with the heartache of alienation, and we’re hopeful it helps in providing useful guidance for navigating these challenging relationships.

Resources & Links

Learn more about Joshua Coleman, Ph.D.

Find @drjcoleman on X

A Shift in American Family Values Is Fueling Estrangement Both parents and adult children often fail to recognize how profoundly the rules of family life have changed over the past half century, by Joshua Coleman

The Rules of Estrangement (Random House)

When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins)

The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press)

The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press)

Concept Creep and Psychiatrization

Exploring Ho'oponopono: The Hawaiian Art of Forgiveness and Healing

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathan Haidt - speaking to the concept of “safetyism”

Check out Dr. Coleman’s recommendations:

“Thank you, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story”, now streaming on Hulu

“Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren't Growing Up”, by Abigail Shrier

“The Anxious Generation”, by Jonathan Haidt

“The Holocaust: An Unfinished History” , by Dan Stone

“Yellowface”, by R.F. Kuang

The Sopranos, now streaming on Max

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Therapy First

Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
In this podcast, now in it's fourth year, therapists Stella O'Malley and Sasha Ayad take a deep dive into the psychological and cultural forces impacting the social changes around "gender." Through interviews with researchers, doctors, therapists, parents, detransitioners, and others, Sasha and Stella's podcast is a "must listen" for anyone trying to navigate the current gender landscape. With their sharp analytical minds and deep compassionate hearts, Stella and Sasha have also become known throughout many parent networks as lighthouses in the midst of some very stormy seas. Previous guests include Helen Joyce, Jesse Singal, Leor Sapir, Kathleen Stock, Jamie Reed, Peter Boghossian and more.