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

  1. Maureen B.

    I recently read that parenting was about doing one thing wrong or perceived wrong. It was in a novel and it explained that no one goes to counseling because their mother helped get them into college financially and otherwise; or had to work 3 jobs when the kids were with their father to keep a roof over their heads or stayed with their adult daughter when she had children of her own for 6 weeks and did everything, washing, ironing, cooking, taking care of the baby. ( These are all examples from my life with my daughters) But do one thing, like take their picture at the bus stop 1st day of school, or bring her favorite roses (purple) for 8th grade honor society and be told that I embarrassed her, and these are the things adult children seek counseling for.

    That opened my eyes to how perception is not under my control.

  2. Ruthie Lee

    Good morning, Sheri: A Happy Valentines to you. I’m so thankful to be on your blog. I am having a happy day because I choose NOT TO BE A VICTIM OF THEIR POOR, SELFISH CHOICES. Yesterday one of our daughters turned 39 I texted her very kindly and she texted back all about her. She didn’t even ask how her dad (with stage 4) cancer was. Nor did she ask about me. She has been off and on our radar for years. A huge mystery. She’s not married, out of a job but getting unemployment and seems quite happy living in a townhouse with two roommates. My other daughter who will be 48 end of this month not in contact 30 yrs. She has married and has children. I took Valentines to my son, age 51, yesterday and he’s never married just had a couple dating relationships but turning into a complete selfish hermit. I know he hurts from abuse of his father who is out of contact with him for years now but he just won’t be open to counseling or seeking help. His buddies have all moved on to having a life with girlfriend or married and children, but he just sits in his dark living room with t.v. if not at work. He even started working night shift to not be in contact much with public. Just breaks my heart but these kids were raised with spiritual values. And yes, I did fail them in some instances, such as not knowing about unconditional love and having way too high expectations of them (like I was raised), but I certainly tried! Especially when their dad divorced me after 17 years. I am now happily married33 yrs. but it’s hard to believe these once kind, caring people are so self-centered. I honored my parents and helped them so much. Now we are vulnerable because in our 70’s we have no “kids” having our backs. Just hurt for them that they are so narcissistic. . All about them. I know it’ll be way worse when my husband dies, because at our age we are losing a lot of friends too to death or moving out of state to be with their kids, etc. So I take one day at a time, pray for them, and thank GOD for our church family! I have one sister and so does husband, but they are no help either. Just so short a life for kids to act so selfish. I wonder the regrets they’ll have later in life?? THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP!!! SO APPRECIATED!!!


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