Father’s Day: When Adult Children Turn Away

Fathers: When Adult Children Turn Away
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Most men don’t talk much about estrangement. At least that’s the consensus among a lot of the fathers who do reach out to me (and among their wives, too).

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” says George, father of a 42-year-old daughter who hasn’t spoken to him in years. “I don’t want to talk about something that makes me feel like a failure.”

fathers when adult children turn away

George’s own father wasn’t around much, so being a family man was important to him. He did all the things he thought was right. Attended school functions, worked hard for the family, and spent time with his daughter. They had a good relationship. “Yet here we are,” he says. “I know this isn’t because of me. I don’t have guilt, but I also can’t fix it.”

George’s pain over the estrangement makes him angry, too. “Because of my daughter’s choice, I can’t make my wife happy anymore. It’s just us two now, and the loss of our daughter and the three grandchildren we don’t know is always between us.” George tries to be supportive, but it’s difficult to see his wife so sad. “She used to be so cheerful,” he says. “Always humming. Always making plans.”

George distracts himself with work and hobbies. He tries to cheer up his wife, too. Sometimes, the trying backfires. “She thinks I don’t care about it all,” he says. “And I do.”

This Father’s Day, I hoped that providing George’s thoughts might provide a little insight. Maybe some fathers can relate. Maybe some father’s wives might better understand.

I hope to be sharing more about the experiences and feelings of fathers when adult children turn away. While it’s still mostly women who answer the surveys, lately, more fathers have been contacting me to share commentary, news, and feelings.

Meanwhile, here are a few more Father’s Day and other articles.

Fathers of estranged adult children, you’re not alone

Fortitude doesn’t mean “going it alone”

What about Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

Cut off by adult children? You may feel lonely but you’re not alone

Why do they make contact now?


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8 thoughts on “Father’s Day: When Adult Children Turn Away

  1. John B.

    I just read the books at feel a huge sense of relief that I am not alone in this situation. I have two sons, ages 27 and 34 who went silent 5 years ago. I have tried all of the recommended “communicate to them anyway” but no replies on text, email or written letters. I have experienced the spectrum of emotions over these 5 years from anger, bitterness, prayer, forgiveness, etc, etc but this material and the comments are extremely helpful to LET GO!!! Thank you again all….

  2. Ben

    These stories are so heart-breaking, mostly because I can relate. Our daughter has rejected us for 20+ years, doesn’t respond to calls, emails, or texts, completely ignores us. Consequently, we don’t know our wo grandsons. We recently tried fervently to reconnect but we were rejected in every case. She simply doesn’t want anything to do with us. For a while, my wife and I blamed each other for the situation. It almost ended us. We are both so very sad, but there is nothing we can do to change it. So we have to talk ourselves into the realization that she is gone and we still have lives to live. Honestly, as terrible as this sounds, we believe it would be easier if she died. This is unbearable pain.

  3. Peter

    I’ve been going through this a while now with my 24 year old daughter. She’s our only child. But she doesn’t come near us
    Even when I send her a txt i don’t get a reply if I call her on the phone she just cuts me off. And doesn’t return the call Father’s Day has just been and gone and she didn’t come to visit me. But on Mother’s Day she can’t do enough to please her mother. After months and months of tying to please her I’ve given up blocked her number and email address and no longer accept I have a daughter she has the problem not me. I’ve always been a good father supportive and caring. Always been there for her. But not anymore.

  4. Dorothy M.

    What would you do if your adult son will not respond to mine or my husbands texts, emails, phone calls? We have not seen him for 4 years years. We had been staying in touch somewhat through birthday cards, mother’s and Father’s Day cards, Christmas cards and gifts. Now, since January there has been no response to any attempt to communicate. We do know that his wife wants nothing to do with his family, but why can’t he maintain a relationship with us too? We do not know what to do. Thank you.

    1. Maggie

      Hi Dorothy
      Your situation sounds very similar to ours our youngest son has nothing to do with either of us! We had a very close relationship with him!
      His wife does not want our son to have anything to do with us she is manipulative and controlling she didn’t have a very good upbringing and was not surrounded by loving family that’s sad but she doesn’t want our son to have his family and he will listen because over the years she has groomed and brainwashed him!

      There is nothing you can do and if you try to point out your son’s wife’s issues/or expect more contact she will bully him even more!
      Unfortunately it’s a waiting game he has to wake up to the type of relationship he has.

      We tried so hard to remain in our son’s life but how much disrespect (from our DIL) and being used when we’re retired can a person take!

      We have read Sheri’s first book and are on her second we have also had counseling that may help you! My only suggestion should you choose to do this is to find a mature in age person with experience.

    2. Gene

      Dorothy…there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s been 7 years since we’ve heard anything at all from our son and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We assume he’s alive. We currently don’t know where he is. His emotionally unstable yet high-functioning wife has seen to that. She is extremely manipulative and completely controls him. In our case it’s likely that our son blames us …his entire extended family…for his wife’s aberrant, unbalanced behavior. I suspect it’s a similar situation for you. Our sons are not children. They are grown men who can make their own decisions and our situations are not going to change until they do. Although I still pray for his safety and wonder if he’s healthy and happy, strangely enough I don’t “miss” him anymore. Accept it for what it is and try to move on. As with anyone on this forum, I wish you peace.

  5. sharon o.

    Thank you so much for your book! I just finished and it truly helped me so much!!
    I would be interested in hearing more about estrangements impacted by mental illness. Our son’s estrangement has much to do with his mental state. We believe he has Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a devastating illness that is hard to make sense of or understand. It has everything to do with why he has rejected us and we can not lead him to appropriate treatment. Thank you!!

    1. rparents Post author

      You’re not alone, Sharon! My latest book (out soon) has some more information about mental illness and its impact on estrangement. It is truly devastating.

      I hope your son will get the help he needs. Meanwhile, you will need to stay strong for yourselves and kind to yourselves. Your own well-being may be where you can make the most difference.


      Sheri McGregor


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