Holidays for parents rejected by adult children, 2015 series: The questions people askby Sheri McGregor, M.A.
The holidays are family-centric, so it’s no surprise that at this time of year, people ask questions. Family members and friends may be looking forward to their own plans, and talking about visits from their adult sons and daughters. When you don’t respond with your own, they suddenly remember your circumstances—and they want to help. So, they’ll ask parents rejected by adult children questions like these:
- Have you really tried?
- Have you guys gotten over the issue?
- Has your child come around?
Such questions often reveal how little the person asking understands.
The first one implies the estrangement is simple. That if you only tried, you could solve the issue. As if you’re stubborn, and unwilling to bend. I know from the thousands of parents of estranged adults that this is far from the truth. The vast majority of parents of estranged adults do try, and very hard. Others are exhausted. The estrangement was a shocking blow, and undeserved after months (or even years) of effort, patience, and support.
The second question implies there was an argument or disagreement. But from my research, that is not often the case. How can you get over something you don’t understand, and your estranged son or daughter won’t explain?
The third one implies a sort of temper tantrum—as if parents rejected by adult children are dealing with two-year-olds rather than sons or daughters in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. These are not children anymore.
Just the other day, a friend looking forward to the holidays with her family asked, “Have you reached out at all?”
I know she meant well. Most of the time, people who ask questions do mean well. Their questions reveal how incomprehensible the predicament of parents rejected by adult children is.
As you know from this website, I talk openly about the problem of parents rejected by adult children. It plagues our society. One day, this heartbreaking issue will be better understood by society at large.
For now though, as parents rejected by adult children enjoy (or perhaps endure) the family-centric holiday season, it helps to remember that friends and families probably mean well. Sure, they may unwittingly trivialize the problem by assuming estrangement occurs because of an argument, immaturity on the part of an adult that’s let off the hook as a “child,” and believing the problem can be solved if we will only try. But to think otherwise implies that it could happen to them. And as kind and supportive parents who did their best, even parents rejected by adult children once likely believed estrangement wasn’t possible for them.
Remembering this helps me to respond objectively, and let the matter go. The other day, I replied honestly to my friend, “No. Not for quite some time.” And then I added. “But it’s okay. It’s just how things are right now.” And then I thanked her for asking.
My friend simply doesn’t fully understand. Perhaps just now, in the warm glow of anticipation for holidays spent with her own adult children and grandchildren, she simply can’t. I do know that at that moment, on a pleasant drive out to do some Christmas shopping, it wasn’t important for me to try and make her.
As parents rejected by adult children, you understand. Take a little comfort in the reality that you are not alone. While some of our family or friends don’t (or can’t) understand, the thousands of people who shared their stories with me as I researched my book, and more who frequent this site each month do.
To those who comment here, and send me email, thank you for reaching out. Your kind words and sharing are wonderful gifts . . . for the holidays, and all through the year.
2015 Series post 1: Be kind to yourself this holiday season
Do your questions keep you stuck?