Adult children won’t talk to you: What does it mean to cope?

adult children no longer talk to youWhen adult children won’t talk to you: What does it mean to cope?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Often, parents of estranged adults tell me that they’re managing to “cope.”

Some associate the word, with a fight. They say it’s a constant struggle to get through the days, or refer to coping with emotional and social fallout as a daily battle.

Some sound resigned, or even defeated. “I’m enduring,” they might say. Or, “I’m carrying on but just barely.”

Synonyms for cope

After hearing so many variations in how parents of estranged adult children define the word “cope,” I decided to do a little research. In a thesaurus, there are words that represent all of the uses I’ve heard from parents.

In an effort to help you see where your definition falls, I’ve grouped some of the synonyms (words and phrases) for cope into three categories by type. The categories I created are as follows:

Active participation: struggle, battle, tussle, wrestle, tangleadult children won't talk to you

Passive participation: endure, suffer, live with, get by

 Successful participation: confront, handle, dispatch

Which of these categories best fits how you think about yourself and the situation of estrangement? There’s no right or wrong answer—only gained insight into where you stand right now.

In coping with estrangement, if you see yourself in the “active participation” category, then you’re actively engaging with the fact that your adult child won’t talk to you. You’re grappling with the estrangement’s effects in your life, on your relationships, and on your outlook. I see this as a positive.

While I’ve called the second category “passive,” that’s not necessarily a negative. Once parents consider how estrangement affects them and move past the initial shock, they might very well enter a stage of resignation or acceptance.

In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, one of the tools helps parents reflect in detail upon just how far-reaching the effects of estrangement has been for them. Taking a realistic look at ourselves after an emotional trauma (such as when an adult children won’t talk to us), can allow us to begin to make changes toward recovering our old self—or even a new and better self.

Unfortunately, people sometimes get stuck in that passive phase. I routinely hear from parents who have been estranged for many years, or who have reconciled, only to be estranged again, sometimes repeatedly. And some of these parents seem resigned to stay in that passive phase. They tell themselves they’ll never get past the hurt, that the pain will never go away, and that there are no answers to help them.

Are you a victim? Do you want to stay that way?

While it’s true that many parents of estranged adults have been victimized, that doesn’t mean a parent must remain a victim. This moves us to the third category of coping I’ve created here: Successful participation.

None of these conscious coping strategies is wrong, but consider which one appeals to you. How have you coped in the past? How do you want to cope?

It’s up to each of us to decide whether we will learn to cope in practical ways that help us get past the pain, foster our growth, and advance us forward in our own happy lives.

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11 thoughts on “Adult children won’t talk to you: What does it mean to cope?

  1. Lilian F

    I too am struggling with 40 yr old son who doesn’t reply to texts. All was fine until a year ago when we had our kitchen refitted so no longer did Sunday lunch. At the same time my younger son was suddenly left by his girlfriend and was deeply depressed and suicidal. He still came round on Sundays so we could see his daughter, and because he was losing weight rapidly, I would make him a meal. All I can think is that my elder son realised this, became jealous and started to ignore us. I have asked him to come round many times but am always ignored. We have seen him occasionally but it is breaking my heart that he seems to want to cut ties with us. His girlfriend has family who have been very unkind to her in the past but they seem to prefer their company to ours. We have helped them financially and emotionally for years. It is hard to take. And hard to know what to do for the best.

  2. Marilyn

    I have allowed myself to be walked on for many years by my daughter. She went through a messy divorce so I did everything I could to help her and her boys. She began treating me in ugly and hurtful ways but I kept walking on eggs and just kept doing for her and the boys. As the years have gone on and the boys have left home our relationship has come to the point where I get hurt whenever I am around her. I feel like a walking wound and she is the only one I have as I age. ….she knows my vulnerabilities. I have panic attacks often after I have been with her. It seems she enjoys the power she has in hurting me and makes sure to push those buttons. I panic when I think of what might happen to my relationship with my grandsons and any great grandchildren that come along. Part of me wants to run and hide but I want and need my family. I have so much sadness.

    1. Sarah

      You could be talking about me. I feel like a piece of dirt whenever I am around my daughter. My daughter has a pop at me whenever she gets the chance and if I say something she turns it around to benefit her (she should have been a politician). I decided to have no contact with her again because of her toxic and unkind ways but I obviously miss my granddaughter very much indeed. My daughter is a cruel and controlling person and I feel as though I don’t love her anymore but that may just be because once again she has hurt me. But no more. Try to stay strong and remove these bad people from your lives until they are willing to change for the better. My daughter is not as she never thinks she does anything wrong.

  3. corey w.

    i dont know what to do. 10yrs ago my wife cheated. The kids knew it, and kept it hidden. New boyfriend had money and started buying their devotion. Which led to more distance between us. I have 3 grown kids with her. My son will call maybe 3 times in the year. One daughter wont talk to me at all. And the youngest daughter has been given everything from this man. They created a monster who now is entitled. She wont talk to me and when she does, it sounds like words her mother would say, always putting me down, or acting like i have no smarts at all. So my question is: how long do i keep trying to put on the smile, when i hurt so bad from the estrangement. Yet if i try to talk to them, im told to just go on and quit bringing up the past. Are they hating me because they hate themselves for lying and throwing me away for moms new man? Their mother lied to the courts, lied to our friends and did everything to smear me. And not one kid wants to hear the truth. All the lies and disinformation their mother puked out. She told me when i became disable, i need a real man, not a cripple. I never felt like a cripple till that moment. Course thats when she was sleeping around trying to find a man that would let her live a better life. So everyone is happy, except me. So do i ignore them as they do me? Or what is the right thing to do? Keep being shut out when i reach out, or do as they asked and go on with my life? When i wasnt the one who cheated and lied to our family, yet im the punching bag. Or the one simply ignored. What do i do? I havent even met my grandkids, never visited during any holiday. Never asked to do anything, and if i am, then im forgotten and they go without me. Only to give an excuse why i couldnt go. Im 57, disabled and alone. And im so confused on whether to let go and see if they show up, knowing i might be dead before they ever care again. I remember a saying: You cant tell someone they love you. But living without their love is like taking the very breath from me. An emptiness that gnaws everyday, not being loved by anyone… ive been divorced now almost 9 yrs and thought it would get better with the kids. Her new man wont marry her, but supports her doing nothing. Im over her, but im not over the constant crap she keeps spewing to others about me. I hope for some advice as i have nowhere to turn, no one to listen, and worse, no one that even cares… plz help a lost man…

    1. Effie

      Corey, I hope you have heard from someone. I understand and so identify with a lot that you’re saying… I went through a smear campaign too. I also can attest that this is the worse pain in the world. My kids were my life and 2 out of 4 are entitled, arrogant and disrespectful. Much triangulation between one of them.. ( google that term 🙂 This has gone on 4 years for me.. I go back and forth …do I reach out? Do I stop reaching out? What is the Christian thing to do?? Love, mercy, grace or kick the dust from my feet.
      I hate to say this.. but I don’t really think this generation of kids gives real care about their parents.. I have hurt much at the disregard they have for my parents.. They were so loved by them while growing up. They have not given them the time of day and they are within 30 minutes… That makes me so angry… I battle every day with the hurt and wonder if its ok to just keep walking.. Why bother. They really don’t seem to care and why keep trying if they don’t? I am sorry for your pain. I do understand… Hugs to you

  4. Beverly

    I believe that everyone chooses how they treat another human being. Most of us have had or do have jobs and we couldn’t treat our co-workers like we do our parents or children. Some are actually mentally ill or have personality disorders and they don’t know it. Now days, you can go to counselors if you want to reconcile. It is sad what we do to each other in the name of pride , or just plain being mean.


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