Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?

reconciling with estranged adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I can’t count how many times parents have written to me saying that just when they’ve gotten past the wincing pain and began to regain their joy of living, their estranged adult child makes contact. Why does this happen? What is it that brings adult children who reject parents back?

Energetically connected, or something more tangible?

Maybe we’re connected energetically to the people who are important to us, and that’s why adult children who reject parents suddenly make contact when Mom or Dad’s attitude has changed. Or, maybe there’s a more tangible explanation.

In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children , I advise parents not to follow their estranged adult children over the Internet or through social media accounts—and I take my own advice. My estranged son’s life, the people he chooses to be with, and the things he chooses to do are not my business. But even if you keep your eyes on your own life, that doesn’t mean your estranged adult children won’t follow you.

Parents whose estranged adult children suddenly make contact sometimes relate that it started with a photo or a bit of news that their son or daughter saw about them online. In our modern world with its virtual connections, it’s difficult to keep your private life completely private. And seeing parents well and happy might indeed trigger an adult child’s contact—whether in anger, for other motives, or out of a genuine desire to reconcile.

They’re ba-ack

adult children who reject parents“They’re ba-ack.” Most of us recognize the now famous line from the scary 1980s sequel movie, Poltergeist II. Now, the phrase is sometimes used in fun to indicate an undesirable’s return. Although it may seem harsh to say, some parents can start to feel that way. They may wonder if their estranged adult children just want money. Have they come back to inflict more pain? Or do they really want to reconcile? Parents who have been repeatedly hurt wonder if they’re wise to trust, or fear the contact will only open up old wounds.

I frequently hear from parents whose estranged adult children have popped up and then disappeared again so many times that they no longer let themselves even go there emotionally. They no longer hope. You may feel as James does, a father whose adult children have been estranged for more than a decade. He says that he knows, “They’re only back to twist the knife.”

Some parents of estranged adult children have simply had enough. Because of emotional or financial abuse, they change their phone numbers, move away, and keep their personal information private. Because they’ve been bullied or repeatedly hurt, they can’t see opening themselves up to the possibility again. For these parents, no contact becomes a relief.

It’s even possible that some adult children who reject parents are miffed that they’ve lost emotional control. For manipulative people, or those with certain personality disorders, control may be everything—so a sense of losing their power could spur them to make contact.

It’s true, though, that most parents would want to reconcile. And sometimes adult children who reject parents later make contact with good intentions. In the last few months, a handful of parents have told me they have reconciled. Those who shared some of the details are hopeful to one day feel secure in those connections. For now, they admit to a variety of issues—and there’s more about that later in this article. It’s at least safe to say that where there is honest effort and communication, there is a chance. If you have reconciled, I hope that you will consider sharing your circumstances by taking the short survey I’ve created to learn more about the subject. Your experience may help others.

Getting your hopes up?

reconciling with estranged adult childrenWith any contact, most parents become hopeful—and sometimes reconciliation happens. But  be careful. Don’t assume contact will solve past problems. While some adult children may truly want to reconcile, others might make contact for other reasons.

Evaluating the contact made by adult children who reject parents

Consider the tone. If your son or daughter reaches out in a threatening, angry, or accusatory tone, your caution is wise. A brief reply can verify you’ve received the message or convey that your son or daughter is still loved. Not replying at all is also acceptable and maybe even wise. A parent needn’t feel obligated to respond. Refusing to allow yourself to get drawn into an argument or other pointless discourse could protect you from further hurt. Sometimes, protecting yourself is the only sound choice.

Consider the circumstances. Is a holiday or birthday triggering a text or card? While a special occasion greeting may be nice, try not to read too much into it.

A short reply, or depending on your situation a more direct or personal response could convey that you remain open to a healthy relationship. But don’t assume a holiday or birthday greeting is an open invitation or indicates a complete change of heart.

Many parents of estranged adults have told of receiving sudden wedding invites. Upon deliberation, they sometimes conclude the request for their presence at nuptials after months (or even years) of silence has selfish motives, such as a son or daughter’s desire to save face or put on a front. These parents often don’t attend—and perhaps they made a wise choice. I have heard many stories from parents who did attend and were humiliated by being seated in a far corner and ignored. That’s not to say there are no happy endings. One divorced mother’s estranged daughter remains close to her ex-husband (her daughter’s father). This mother always believed that his family took her daughter’s side. At the wedding, some of them approached her to correct that assumption. While her daughter didn’t speak much to her, and has made no overtures since the wedding, she did include her in photographs. So she feels somewhat hopeful, and no longer believes her ex-husband’s relatives are aiding her daughter’s estrangement.

It’s also possible that material factors are at the root of contact. I’ve heard many stories where adult children who reject parents reconnect when, as James says, “They get a whiff of money.”

Others tell me they’re contacted when facing illness. Often, they wonder if guilt might be the motivator. These parents are often torn though. They know they need their energy to care for themselves, yet wonder if it’s fair not to make an effort if their child has reached out. My advice is to trust your gut. Go back and read the section above, Consider the tone. The manner in which your son or daughter speaks to you can help you decide what’s best for you. Also read on, because your feelings are important. Again, trust your gut. You have the right to protect yourself.

Consider how the contact makes you feel. Estranged adult children who have a history of manipulative behavior may fall back on old patterns of laying blame, or playing the victim. An adult child, their spouse or significant other (called “influential adversaries” in my book), might make threats of some sort, accuse you of being a bad parent, say that a good mother wouldn’t give up on her own daughter, or accuse a father of leaving his son behind.

If contact from your estranged adult child triggers guilt, only you can decide whether that guilt is warranted (see my article on “innocent guilt“). It’s possible your reaction stems from past relationship patterns—ones you’ve broken away from but that are triggered by contact because they were so entrenched.

More about intentions

Does a two-sentence message represent a desire to reconnect? Or is it more that you’re hanging on each word, weighing the comments at different angles to find that meaning? I recently wrote about not feeling obligated to inform estranged adult children about a family member’s death (see Do they have a right to know?). I feel similarly about any obligation to respond to an adult who has stepped out of your life. Of course, most parents would like to reconcile. Sending a thank you reply to a birthday or other greeting might be a way to keep the door open.

Parents whose children express a desire to reconnect may be fearful of potential pain and uncertain about trusting their adult child. Considering the circumstances, those feelings are normal. Only you can decide whether you’re open to connect, and as discussed in my book, what boundaries this connection might involve. Its included questions and reflection points can help you define what successful reconciliation might actually look like and entail, as well as whether you and your son or daughter can agree on how reconciliation is defined. There might be work to do on both sides, and it’s important that everyone’s intentions match (or can be negotiated).

Is a good relationship possible?

Some will see this article as a dreary view of the potential to reconcile. But it does happen. Maybe with time and life experience, adult children who reject parents later realize how quickly the years slip by, and want a good relationship before it’s too late.

Some of those who have shared their recent successes didn’t share the details. Those who did admitted to feeling vulnerable. Despite treading gingerly forward, as one parent put it, “in a relationship with thorns,” they’re also hopeful and glad to have the chance. It is absolutely true that some adult children who reject parents do want to reconcile. They may be sorry and truly want to make amends.

Recently, an estranged adult child commented about reconciling at my blog. “R” said:

Allow me to apologize on behalf of all us adult children who rejected our parents. I was broken in ways I did not know and walked into an unhealthy relationship, where my partner introduced me to drugs, abused and isolated me. My parents are spiritual people who could never condone bad lifestyle choices. I was the apple of my father’s eye, but I rejected him for someone who would eventually ruin me. When my life came crashing down, I found my way home, even though I had chosen to share very little of my life with them in the previous two years. It was difficult at first. I’ve been home for three months, and the last few weeks have truly been amazing. God restored my family and we are happier than we’ve ever been. I’m still finding my feet, but I would not be able to if it weren’t for their forgiveness and patience. I pray your children may find their way back home to you. God bless.

Obviously, the words here are only a slice of this individual’s life, but some parents may recognize parts of their own estranged son or daughter in what is said—about an influential adversary, personal brokenness, or substance abuse. Or maybe they recognize elements of themselves, their relationship with their adult children, or the patience and forgiveness this adult child expresses thanks for.

Only you can decide what’s best for you in your situation. I hope this article, as well as this adult child’s comment will help you recognize the intent behind any contact your estranged adult son or daughter might make.

Help with my research—and help others

If you do reconcile, I hope that you will share the experience—its difficulties, as well as joy. If you have reconciled, please fill in  the short survey. Please note, THIS survey is for those who have reconciled with previously estranged adult children (see below for one on estrangement). I hope to use any information gained from survey respondents’ answers to provide more information about the possibility of reconciling with estranged adult children.

If you’re NOT reconciled, consider taking my survey for parents of estranged adult children. More than 9,000 responses to the survey, plus personal interviews with many of the parents, were utilized in connection with my book. Since the book’s release, thousands more have responded.

Copyright Notice: All content of any post or page found on any page at this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. To share with others, provide a link to the page on this website where the content is found. Reposting of any content is not permitted without express permission. Please see Copyright Notice/Restrictions in the right-hand sidebar for complete copyright notice. You can always contact me with any questions.

 

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41 thoughts on “Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?

  1. Corinne

    I have four estranged children. The two oldest estranged for over a decade; the younger two not quite that long. However, my eldest son recontacted me; but as this article stated by one man, “Just to twist the knife.” With the holidays again approaching pain bubbles up once again…………..

    Reply
    1. Effie

      I am still trying to figure out how to post in the community. I have estranged kids too… they took a side and I was the loser, and its the worst pain ever… Totally a twisted confused mess…..how many times do you reach out… is there a time to turn and walk on…My counselor says send cards… I am kinda thinking I have reached out enough…7-8 emails and no responses..

  2. Linda

    In reading this article (which is very good) and considering any possible reconciliation with our estranged children, my current attitude (which is not very forgiving) is that we did so much to rear our children to be kind productive adults, and we did so much for them as adults (visits, gifts, site-seeing trips, etc.) for 46, 43 and 34 years, that I would like them to be on their own and do without us for that many years before we even CONSIDER reconciliation. Since I am already 70 years old, that means I will be 100+ years old. That seems about right, to me, for the hateful, hurtful, insensitive, ungrateful way they have treated us. In other words, at this point, I have no desire for them to contact us again for ANY reason. They can’t be trusted!

    Reply
    1. Toyia

      It’s all about YOU being the ones who decide that you are capable of overlooking past bad behavior and building new relationships. Think of them as new people who have come into your life.

    2. Effie

      I cant believe there are people out there that are hurting like me…. I am so glad I found this sight… so very hard

    3. Liz W

      I can identify with this. If I do broach the subject to people I get asked – “have you tried to contact?” I explain – yes – in letters – all rejected. So no, I do not feel able to just lie down and imply “walk all over me then”…I feel the reproach for not contacting in person my estranged daughter. I’m a single divorced mum. Could I bear the pain of a door slammed in my face, a phone put down, another “thanks but no thanks”? Who supports me?!

      I’m still working through issues of resentment for this unwarranted rejection – all th e time, nurturing, care, compassion, guidance and money – count for nothing…

  3. Annie

    Linda,
    I understand how you feel. I long for my daughter to come to her senses and to genuinely come to me and say she’s sorry. On the other hand, I suppose if I were honest, I don’t trust that it will be for the right
    reasons and therefore I know I’m better off not having any contact. It was pure abuse what she put me through and I know I do not deserve it.
    Sometimes we just have to choose to move forward and enjoy what time we have left with those that are kind and realize what good people we are. I won’t give up hope because I really don’t want to leave this earth without resolve but I am prepared for that if it shouldn’t ever happen. I so understand your feelings but if under the right circumstance you might feel differently. I know for myself if she came to me and humbled herself and said she was really sorry and meant it then I would certainly accept her apology. For me it’s always been pretty simple. Just come and talk to me. But she’s never been able to do that. I cannot go on without it and that has made her even more distant. Take good care Linda. I’m sorry you too have been hurt by this pitiful betrayal.

    Reply
    1. Effie

      same here… my daughter …. just come and talk to me… the treatment I went through because of her desire to be independent before graduation…literally turned me into a vegetable for weeks… I expect humility as well… deep betrayal that spread through….people after people… at the words of her mouth… horrible pain

  4. todie

    Well Corinne, we have a lot in common and that can bring comfort. I have a son and daughter that have absolutely nothing to do with me. Another daughter pulls me in every now and then with a text “Hi Mom. How are you. She doesn’t seem interested but gives me hints of her family life. If I ask a question she has to stop texting. I’m left lonely AGAIN. With the Holliday’s coming I’m thankful for you all and this site. Keep sharing everyone. It helps so much.

    Reply
  5. kay

    I am new to this website and feel thankful and nervous about being a part of it. This is a “club” I never wanted to belong to, but sadly I am a part of it. Reading from others like myself does offer the smallest amount of comfort knowing I am not alone. I am estranged from 2 daughters. One for over 5 years and one more recently, half a year. I do have a son that does keep in touch. I am devastated and want to believe things will get better some day. I my daughters so much. So hard to accept.

    Reply
  6. Retteaof2

    After 8 years of no contact, my daughter sent me pictures of her 2 yr old son. I wrote back, thanking her. This started an email correspondence for 1 1/2 yrs. cordial, but not deep. I went to visit the area and saw her. Again, distant, but I did get to see my grandson. She introduced me to him as “her friend”. While there, she emailed me, saying how hard for her it was to have me there. She started asking personal questions about the divorce from her father, falsely accusing me of cheating on him. I denied it without getting angry. No contact for 2 years.
    I ended up in the hospital, she found out and started emailing again. Superficial. I went back to visit again. No contact. When I got home, she started emailing again accusing me of more things — abusing her as a child, being unloving and unlovable, pure evil. I blocked her from my email and Facebook. I don’t need those kinds of emails. I am the one being abused.

    Reply
    1. Effie

      wow…. that breaks my heart… these kids are so into self…. my daughter had it all… but refused any rules… and then came her accusations to take it all off herself… …I am crawling out of the hole of despair but not without couseling,..

    2. Noreen

      Very new to this site. it’s helping me and I’m starting counseling after a 10+ years of abandonment without any reason. I’ve waited for any phone call, or text, or any kind of kind communication.. After the first 5 years of distancing the Wedding was announced. My husband and I were invited without anyone else that we knew. My choices were to sit at a table for just the two of us or sit at her father’s table with his 2 other children and his wife, ( who hates me and stabs at me with derogatory comments. We were treated terrible and left early the next day on a plane before anyone woke up. Everyone called her stepmother Mom. I had to tell people I was her mother. While on her Honeymoon she sent me a tee shirt with her Stepmom’s Name written across the chest. (no mistake)< as I'm 95Lbs. and she isn't. She didn't contact me for 3.5 years. No photo's, no calls, no birthday cards or Holiday gifts. Now it's been 4 years of duty calls,monthly, No questions can be asked, no information about her life or work or friends, Just hello and good bye. And, now a baby on the way and an invitation to the Shower for me; alone again, and a hotel & rented car ( her home is full of her other relatives. After over $2.5 thousand dollars worth of baby gifts, I'm done.I've lost 25lbs by punishing myself, depression and guilt. I'm so glad I'm finding out that I'm not alone. Step one: NO MORE phone calls or invitations. they're meant to inflict more pain. No reaching out or begging her not to leave me again. I read a little everyday and I'm gaining the strength I had while raising her for 15 yrs. alone, giving her all my attention and support. I didn't have any serious BF for 16 years- that was stupid of me. She was adopted from Korea at 12 weeks and I never wanted her to feel second for an instant. Here I am finding that nothing I did created a bond.

      I don't want to meet my grandson so that she can can have anything else to hurt me with. I think I went off topic. But, you're all giving me hope and I've felt alright since I found you. It reminds me of one of my favorite sayings. "No one can hurt you with out you're consent"!

      No cards or call when my back was broken from a car accident, or any other event or the several surgery's to fuse my broken back. A broken candle from a Pharmacy for one Christmas nothing else ever.

      No mother who raised her daughter to fulfill her dreams, ( PHD, Pharmicist) or a homemaker should ever be abandoned with out cause, it's death that never ends. We r left alone to pick up the pieces of our lives that don't included them, from the lowest place and rebuild our lives alone. BTW. what do you do with the inheritance you were leaving them?

    3. rparentsrparents Post author

      Hi Noreen,
      There is an in-depth session on end-of-life and inheritance decisions in my book that is helpful. I’m glad you are finding help here, and I hope you and your counselor will form a good bond of understanding that helps you find a place of peace.

      Sheri McGregor

    4. Movingongranny

      I am flabbergasted at how our children can be so mean. My ED said so many hateful things and said she has been mad at me ever since I divorced her dad.(30 years ago). She blamed me and her dad for stuff that happened then. Then said she hated her stepdad from day 1. She has faked her relationship with me and my husband. I haven’t had contact with her since mid May and to be quite honest it is finally getting to where I can see where she was so demanding and used her kids to get what she wanted out of me.
      Please take care of yourself and do things to pamper YOU! Don’t feel guilty and just keep realizing YOU are important. I am really starting to enjoy my retirement and my husband and I are stronger in OUR relationship because of all this! Sad hu? I hope that someday she will see what pain she has caused and will forgive herself and whoever else she has estranged. Good luck to you and God Bless!

  7. Nicholas M.

    Do you have fathers commented or interested in this program. All I see is female mothers having issues with their estranged children.

    Reply
    1. kay

      my husband is struggling just like me. He just isn’t able to share his feelings. If you are inclined, please express yourself here. It may help.

  8. todie

    To all parents: I would like to encourage all of us to be there for each other. My 4 children act like I have died. I’m 71 and in good health but I will eat my meal tomorrow alone as I have For about 15 years. With that said I know I am not alone. The Lord will be there with me. I also take comfort from all of you sharing so please take time to text to give as well as receive hope. Tomorrow I will go to a store or two to be out and about for a while. Then I will enjoy a serloin tip roast with mashed potatoes and squash. I will give my dog “Shadow” a taste here and there. I’m so thankful for my little home, my health, my pets of course my 5 children. God is so good. To all of you, I’m thinking of you and I am so thankful for your support and honesty. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Reply
    1. Movingongranny

      Todie:… You are not alone. Our wonderful God is with us. I read “Our Daily Bread” every day with my husband of 29 years and we sometimes talk about how my ED has treated us, then we do something we read about… “bookmark it” and forget about it. It has helped us. Thanksgiving and Christmas would be hard as this is year 1 of my estrangement from ED, but… we are planning to go somewhere warm and spend turkey day at the beach with some friends. We also planned to go to Hawaii week before Christmas and again spend with the same friends. (they are also going thru a ED situation with one of their daughters. So we all help each other.
      Do me a favor will you? cross your arms over your chest…. That’s a hug from me and I am sure from many of us out here struggling with this ugliness of estrangement…
      God Bless you and Shadow… prayers to you!!

    2. rparentsrparents Post author

      Dear Movingongranny,
      You are a breath of fresh air! I love that you “Bookmark it!” (thank you). Sometimes, it’s the only sensible thing to do. Thank you for your presence here. You will have good holidays…KUDOS to you making decisions early.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

  9. Sonia

    Hi Everyone, I’ve never posted on here before but I’ve been reading these articles and comments for months and am very grateful for it. My eldest daughter, 21, moved out more than two years ago and has refused any contact from me for almost a year-and-a-half (returns gifts / I am not allowed to contact her). If I happen to run into her and say hello she completely ignores me. Humiliating and hurtful, as you all know. The complete shutting off happened right around the time she was going to see a therapist, so I think she must have been advised to do this, but, of course, I really don’t know. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I, too, get lots of support from this site and to Todie — that sounds like a nice day tomorrow. 🙂 It is similar to mine, as I, too, am alone here with my pets, and I also know that God is here with me, and that He is so good!

    Reply
    1. Movingongranny

      Sonia: you to sound special. I am sending hugs and prayers to you too! I agree with the support on this site. I am still trying to figure out how to see who responds to me but it takes time to learn these new blog sites.
      Thanks to all!! Have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  10. walking_dreamwalking_dream

    I myself never herd of this? I’ve been searching help without bugging others. I didn’t think to search estrange adult child?! I recall what I put this time and saw estrange adult child! Hmmmm? I read, I must say I’ve been just reading searching. For me this is been going inside for years, not strong, to me it was normal mom and daughter thing. Later, she is showing anger towards me? Of course it’s natural to defend! I’ll just here… it’s way too long. I do see my faults, of course I see hers too, however she removed me which “I get it” it was just too much, remove the toxin, she was cleaning her life!” If this makes sense what I’m saying? I’m severely sadden, broken, crusch! For not being aware! And I miss her! She is my God given gift! Happy thanksgiving to you all!

    Reply
  11. Sharon

    My daughter accuses me of being selfish, a narcissist, toxic, rude, etc. Nasty emails started several months ago where it seemed I simply couldn’t do anything right. My daughter was pregnant with her first child when this started. Each email became progressively worse, the last I received 2 days before the birth of her son. I have to admit I was completely bewildered by these emails, and at the advice of my sister ignored them, believing she may be experiencing a hormonal balance, and any response from me would likely make the situation worse.

    The last email claimed she suffered physical and emotional abuse, and having taken 5 years to make herself well. She also referred to counselling which I do not believe. The truth is most likely material she reads on the internet, and will come across one sentence that she finds to her liking. The abuse claims stem from my common-law relationship with an individual that she despised.

    During all of this abuse, I paid her cell phone bills, car insurance, $33,000 towards tuitions, purchased a jeep for her, 2 couch/sofa sets, solid oak dining room set, etc. I’m clearly a terrible mother, but not so terrible that she ever said no to my money or anything being given to her.

    There is the possibility I raised an individual that is extremely self-centered, manipulative, and narcissistic. Her behaviour seems to more accurately reflect everything she accuses me of being.

    She did not notify me when my grandson was born. He is now 5 months old and I have never seen him. Her husband, despite spending 80% of his time in my home for 4 years, is now convinced she is right. True to her form, she has found someone that is easy to manipulate, someone she is superior to intellectually, someone that complies with her every wish/demand.

    There is no doubt in my mind that she enjoys this situation – the control, power, cruelty, etc. I may not have been the perfect mother, but I never intentionally went out of my way to hurt someone.

    Reply
    1. Lois

      I am in the same situation with my daughter. Except i don’t have any grandchildren yet. She puts terrible things on her Pinterest about me and then yesterday sends me text photos of her with her husband but no correspondence directly. I’m assuming I’m suppose to overlook the public humiliation. Or perhaps it was a geture to “show” me how well she’s doing without me in her life? I’m confused by it at best. And the few things I’ve learned over the last few months is I am to blame for every poor decision she’s made.
      The only solace I find at this point is if I’m responsible for the “bad” parts of her, I’m also responsible for the good parts of her. She doesn’t get to pick and choose. I really want the best for her and I sincerely hope she’s as happy as the photos seem to imply. However. Since I’m such a terrible person, not sure why she bothered to send anything at all.

  12. Annie

    Sharon,
    Join the club;). Just leaves all of us scratching our heads doesn’t it? It’s like a new phenomenon coming out of this entitlement mentality they somehow acquired. I don’t know what to attribute it to. I don’t think for a heartbeat I did everything right but I certainly don’t deserve all that’s been thrown at me and I’m sure you don’t either. How pitiful they don’t allow you to know your grandchild. What a loss not just for you, but for them as well. I pray everyday, God, forgive them for they know not what they do. I know now after 3 years of this that I must leave it to God. I refuse to let it ruin my health and shorten my life. Clearly we can all become physically ill over the betrayal and heartache we feel. They leave us with our hands tied. And I think we can all agree we are changed forever and left with such frustration and anguish not knowing how to react. I work real hard at finding joy in everyday. It’s not easy to move forward when your hearts been ripped out but we owe it to ourselves and to those that love and value us. You will find great support here. No one understands like those on this site because they’ve lived your loss. I’m sorry you too have suffered. Many blessings to you on your journey. Annie

    Reply
  13. Patricia T.

    Non-Inclusive to Walls to ___________
    So many people carry the same deeply rooted pain . . . I have two daughters, one who continues to invite herself into my life at her convenience and abruptly leave again. She takes with her four grandchildren. She is busy, busy, busy. My other daughter, who is now influenced by her thinking, has recently built a similar wall between the two of us. It seems these walls prevent a grandmother from actively being involved in her children’s and grandchildren’s life to pass down a legacy of experience, love, grace and faith.
    Ironically, I am a daughter of a mother who has been hurt by my decisions growing up in mid-life. It was in my early 40’s when I realized the value of returning to her and apologizing for the many ways I had hurt her. In my decisions, I did not build enough space for her to be an inclusive part of the family rather I set about my own plans for a career and raising a family. Family relationships were built on social gatherings. When I made that decision to apologize, I stopped seeing her in a negative way, honoring and appreciating her for who she was, in spite of any parenting mistakes. We are like girl friends now. My hope, one day, will be that my daughters will do the same . . .
    Generationally, I have seen the breakdown of time spent in doing life together as a family and the passing down of values and character by grandparents; I have seen cultural changes which service the needs of individuality over family loyally; I have seen geographic jobs and careers which tug at the tapestry of the home; and as well, I have seen face to face conversations altered to text messages and emails. My mother’s mother, my mother, me, my daughters, and my granddaughters are a prime example of how things have changed over time and how family and home have taken on new meaning.
    I never realized the hurt I caused my mother; maybe my daughters do not really realize the hurt they are causing me; and yet, maybe they will, when their children take the steps to decide their own lives. I have learned, in these difficult moments like my mother before me, and like Sheri McGregor; I too will be kind to me, enjoy small moments in my day, experience nature in its fullest, forgive myself and others, give myself permission to hurt, to heal, and to still to dream . . .
    Just my thoughts . . .

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      Patricia T.,
      Thank you for posting here. Your comment will be helpful to other people. Maybe even the occasional adult child who happens upon this site will get a new perspective from what you’ve said.

      Thank you again. Do, yes DO be kind to yourself. Enjoy your life! Even the tiniest moments of joy can grow into a beautiful bouquet of moments to savor.

      Virtual hugs and wishes for happy days!

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Jacqueline K.

      Thank you so much Patricia for your post. It’s great that you now have such a good relationship with your Mother……I hope the same in due course from your daughters , and mine.

  14. Eileen

    I’m so grateful for this article. Just when I learned how to sleep again and plan life without my daughter that threw me away she calls on my youngest son’s birthday. She’d thrown her brother away and my pregnant granddaughter away but by God’s grace the birth of my great granddaughter and my sons 30th birthday caused a phone call after two years. I was kind and expressed my love for her but actually had a really hard time after the call. Why now? I simply don’t trust her not to hurt me again by just cutting off our relationship if I might say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. I’m afraid of her now; she broke my heart into tiny pieces for no reason I can grasp. I spoke with a councilor and have decided to be cautious and love her from a safe place for now. I won’t go back to sleepless nights crying in my bed wondering how I failed her ever again

    Reply
    1. Brooke

      Eileen, I understand completely about how you felt after that phone call and not trusting her not to hurt you again. I too have been estranged from my daughter. She completely cut me off by changing her phone number and not sharing her new address. Over the years I have emailed her on birthdays and holidays. No replies. Now she has finally contacted me by email asking about money that was left to her by a relative. She is being polite and friendly but my gut tells me that she will cut me off again especially since we are only communicating by email. Initially, I was so happy I heard from her but now I am very wary. I don’t know how to handle this because I too am afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing!

  15. Lorraine

    I am wondering if estranged adult children always come from backgrounds where their parents “were not on the same page” with each other.

    Reply
  16. Shoshanah

    My husband is in the same situation I find myself in; his son and daughter from his first marriage have not talked to him for more than 15 years and he never gets to see his 3 grandsons. We don’t even know if his son ever had a child. I have never met them

    In my case, I’m not sure I want my two daughters, my only children, back. It has been a very painful year since they stopped talking to me. I have had a lot of time to cry, pray, and mourn. I realized that even though I tried to instill in my daughters moral values, they have rejected those along with me. I don’t like who they have become; I would not be friends with them. I am not ready to forgive. My husband and I changed our will and the children have been cut off completely. Our estate will go to two different charities. We pray everyday for our children but leave the outcome to God.

    Reply
  17. Ginger

    It’s been a while since I’ve read these posts. I am so glad to see that this page has continued. Sheri, your work is important to me and, I see, to many others. Thank you so very much.

    Only you all can know what this suffering is like. Your posts are so heartfelt and encouraging.

    Few of those in my life know about the ongoing grief I suffer because of my four estranged children and their alternate withholding and giving of a relationship with each of my eight grandchildren over the years. As many of you have said, this pain just seems to be overcome when one or another of the adult children makes contact and sparks hope again. I’ve never met two of my grandchildren and another one only once. One died at 15 by suicide. It will be ten years tomorrow and the images fade but the pain resurfaces at this time. I was very close to him as my daughter and circumstances permitted. But nothing I tried to do for his growing despair was allowed by his drug dealer/addict stepfather (of one year), the school counselors (they did not consider me to have “legal standing”… but the stepfather had this “right”), or my daughter. And now I have three great grandchildren whom I don’t know … one just born this year, another who is five, another who is nine. My story has many twists and turns. But reappearance of the sadness continues. I’ve learned the name for it … complicated grief.

    I have friends but they seem unaware that their stories and pictures of happy family gatherings and thriving grandchildren bring the feeling of loss to full intensity…especially at this time of year.

    Almost 20 years ago I adopted a foster child…or, as we have come to say, we adopted each other. He is an adult now and still with me. Raising him and having a secure relationship with him has been a joy and consolation in my life. But he too has suffered due to the capricious off and on relationship with my children and grandchildren. The bonds he formed with several of them over the years have all been snapped without warning at various times.

    The one thing I have learned by raising this son from pre teens on is that my parenting was not the cause of the cruel behavior I have experienced from my birth children. This son is a beautiful person and, in spite of the many challenges we have faced, remains loving and loyal. It would never occur to him to hurt anyone the way my birth children have treated me. In spite of a disability he has earned a college degree and awards. He has friends and is well liked by everyone he meets. His employers love his gentle ways and reliablility. He is a good man. Together we are always learning how to live one day at a time.

    Reply
    1. Isa

      Ginger I would love if we can be pen pals… I am so very happy to even thou is painful, but to see that I’m not the only person going through this pain of rejection.

  18. Marie L

    I am married to a man who has two estranged adult sons. Technically I’m a step mom but one was a senior in high school, the other age 20, a high school drop out when we married. Therefore I was not involved with their up bringing. They both wanted their parents to get back together but they were divorced 12 years before my husband and I met and they were not on friendly terms at all. We’ve been married 20 years now. Four years ago after the older son got married and had children he rejected us. Through the years he constantly asked for considerable sums of money to which we said no. The 4 year estrangement began after we turned down his final request to buy him an expensive assault rifle. He withheld access to our grandchildren as a form of punishment, revenge and blackmail. We feel his wife encouraged the estrangement. We thought we always had a good relationship with the younger son. However, after he got married and had children, he rejected his father almost two years ago. A few years before the estrangement when he first became engaged we noticed he would say or do things to instigate an argument between my husband and me. He would ask for my help and involve me in a task or project and then complain to me criticize me behind my back to my husband. When my husband defended me son became enraged and thus began the estrangement. My husband wants to reconcile and has reached out through letters emails and gifts with no responses. In both cases we feel my husband’s exwife and the sons wives are influential adversaries. I have mixed feelings about reconciliation as I feel they resent our marriage and consider me an obstical between them and their father’s “money”. I also feel bad for my husband as I know he is hurting, but I don’t want to have to go through that turmoil again either.

    Reply
  19. Elaine

    I am writing for the first time. I am the mother of two adult sons and grandmother to seven living grandchildren. I have been married to their father and grandfather for almost 46 years.
    My older son (“OS”) has always resented any authority and exhibited bullying behavior toward my younger son (“YS”). We did attempt family counseling and were advised to be firm with OS because he was extremely bright and had the ability to manipulate every situation so that he was the victim thereby providing reinforcement for his demands or deeds. OS had 4 children with his first wife. During that time, he was repeatedly unfaithful and cruel toward her. No, of course she was not perfect but OS never engaged in honest conversation, perhaps because he didn’t want to be subjected to conflict or accountability. Who knows? Honestly, since they were two adults and it was their marriage, we stayed out of it. Also, their first child drowned at age 2 while in the care of OS. Both OS’s wife and I always believed and supported (still do) this was nothing more than a tragic and unfortunate accident. We didn’t blame OS. My husband and YS didn’t feel the same. They felt OS could have been more attentive. At any rate, we all moved on. Then OS left his wife for wife 2. By this time, YS was married to a girl that OS made known he did not like! We just kept moving forward and reached a point where there was domestic violence in front of OS’s three small children between OS and wife 2. OS was charged but he and wife 2 reconciled. YS and his wife were furious and joined with us wholeheartedly to support the mother of these children in her attempt to restrict OS visitation to be exclusive of wife 2. We were successful with the court but as OS refuses to accept authority, he ignored the Order and wife 1 said she didn’t have strength or money to take him back to court. After 2 years with wife 2, OS contacted wife of YS to give her sob story and tale of how, once more, he was victim of wife 2 so she was the only one who could put everything back together with family so he could move on and be better dad to his kids. We all agreed to help in any way if he would be better dad.
    I realize this is getting long and detailed so at this point, I will get to where we are today. OS married wife 3. He married her after her son, who she says belongs to OS – conceived on their first date while she was living on an army base, was 8 months old and she says 5 weeks early…. They didn’t tell us they were pregnant. Instead, they asked if I would do some laundry for them and it was full of maternity clothes. I got confirmation from YS wife. At the time, they were living together with her 2 girls from a previous marriage plus having my grandchildren there every 2 weeks plus he was still married to wife 2. Sorry, now to the present . OS is still married to wife 3, with 2 young children together. Both her daughters left to live with their dad but one has since returned. OS only sees the son from his first marriage. The two older girls want nothing to do with that environment so OS has turned his back on them since they refuse to submit to what he wants at the time no questions asked. YS and wife are now very friendly with OS and new family. Originally, we were told they just didn’t want to be in the middle but now, we only have contact with them if we intiate it and it feels they respond out of obligation.
    Very hurtful and unhealthy. Both my husband and I are Christian, not perfect, parents. We adore our grandchildren and certainly strive to shelter them from this drama. We have come to learn that while love is unconditional, relationships are not.
    Thank you for letting me vent. My heart is broken……
    Send prayers for our family please.

    Reply
  20. Bud

    Thanks for the article(s)!! My three offspring (I refuse to call them “kids” or “children” any longer) decided to ditch me very “out of the blue” suddenly, and via a false accusation of sexual assault by the youngest (the day she turned 17, in fact…funny how that is the threshold for which Child/Family services no longer is involved in the state she lived in…yes, she did this even though she lived 700 miles away from me)…this was ultimately dismissed (yep…it was pursued in court). It’s been 3 years now, and I am still VERY perplexed by this…I have…mostly…stopped racking my brain for any legitimate reasons why. I do know that my evil ex spouse, their mother, and her “family”, was involved due to what the filed complaint and associated affidavits said. It takes effort…less so now, but effort nonetheless…to focus my efforts and emotions away from this tragedy and towards making the best life possible with my Lovely Bride…but the results are WELL WORTH that effort. At this point, trust is something I don’t reasonably ever see those three offspring putting forth any effort to earn…and it is, most definitely, something that CANNOT be given. If any contact were to be attempted, my first question would be “what’s the point?” If any relationship were to be pursued, all of the “work” would be totally up to them…and I have a list of things I would require to see consistency on prior to thinking any microscopic measure of trust had been earned. I would say the best advice I have for any Parent who is estranged by their offspring is to, very consciously, deliberately, and with all the vigor you can muster, focus…Focus…FOCUS…on the many good and pleasant people and things that remain in your life…I’ve found that the harder we look for them, the more of them we find. Bless ALL OF YOU!!

    Reply
  21. Sweetqueen

    I just found this site and it is wonderful to know that I am not alone! It is so hard to have an estranged child, and no one can truly understand what it feels like, unless she has experienced it herself. When I left my ex-husband 14 years ago, he did parental alienation, and turned 2 children away from me. My oldest son (OS, then 22 years old), and youngest son (YS, then 18) both broke off contact with me. I am so grateful that my middle son (MS) has always maintained loving contact with me. When OS got married, I was present at the wedding, period. I had no contact with his first 3 children. One day we met accidentally on the street; he wanted to walk away, but I told him it was Divine Intervention, we stood and talked for a while, and that day his 3 year old daughter called to thank me for the slippers I had sent her for her birthday 3 months earlier. Since then we have developed a warm relationship, they now have 6 children, and I have been available to help babysit once a week while my daughter-in-law works, teaches, did her M.A., etc. The kids are great, and being a grandmother is a highlight of my life. MS also has 3 children, and they are wonderful, too!
    YS broke off contact when I left his father, and I did not see him at all for several years. Then he came back into the picture for a while, and then he disappeared again. That repeated itself a few times. Four years ago I remarried, to a wonderful man. 3 years ago YS was married; at the time, things were okay, we were at their wedding, they really like my new husband. We were in touch with them, and helped them find a new apartment, near to us, when she was expecting. When their son was born, they even moved in for a few days! Then I babysat, to help them. After that everything fell apart, they were angry that I took a photo of the baby, his wife thinks I hate her, and there has been no contact from them for over a year. Despite that, I kept sending them weekly text messages to him saying hello, and I love you. They also are estranged from OS and his family, and from my mother! I believe that his wife has been an unhealthy influence on him, turning him against his whole family. He still has contact with his father, and OS told me that their father keeps giving him large sums of money to cover his debts. I also heard that there are problems in their marriage. Then last week he called me to ask if I can babysit for their son next month, when his wife gives birth! Her parents live abroad, and they have no one else to turn to. That was the first I have heard from him in all this time! Of course I agreed, and said that their son needs to get to know me first. When I sent YS a text message trying to make a date, he responded abusively. That shows me that nothing has changed since over a year ago. Yes, I want to be a loving mother and grandmother, but it’s so hard when he hurts me. When I didn’t hear from him at all, at least he didn’t attack me! I don’t know how I should respond, because I do love him, despite all this, and I want to help him; but I do not want to be a victim again, like I was when I suffered emotional abuse from my ex. I am afraid that he will start abusing me in person when I go to meet his son. And though it’s important for me to set healthy boundaries, it’s harder for me to just disengage and get out of the unhealthy atmosphere when I know he has no one else. Has anyone else been in a situation like this?
    Thank you for being there so that I could share this with you.

    Reply

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