Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

Sarah's yardHolidays for parents rejected by adult children, 2015 series: The questions people ask

by 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 abandoned parentsthousands 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.

Related Articles:

2015 Series post 1: Be kind to yourself this holiday season

2015 Series post 2: Spirit

Do your questions keep you stuck?

Holidays: How to manage them

 

Join the newsletter

Pine 300x225

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

42 thoughts on “Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

  1. Deb

    Thank you. Your articles always help me. Especially now when it seems everyone has a normal family to share the holidays with.

    Reply
    1. Lynne

      The other day I was telling a friend about this wonderful site and how much it has helped me in dealing with my estranged son. She then asked me “what suggestions are offered in helping you resolve the problem”? Just like Sheri discussed, people think it is my fault or I can fix what happened when I don’t even know. I just said back to my friend ” she really just offers suggestions for how I can move on”.
      Anyway, thank you Sheri for helping me to stay strong during the holidays.
      Happy Holidays to everyone who posts on this site. Peace to all!
      Lynne

    2. rparentsrparents Post author

      Hi Lynne,

      Yes, it’s all about getting on with our own lives, and being happy in them! I’m really glad you have found help here.
      Sheri McGregor

    3. rparentsrparents Post author

      Hi Deb,
      Thank you for your kind words. I hope you did have a good holiday season. Now we’re on to a brand new year! Let’s make it a good one!
      🙂
      Sheri

  2. Shelley

    I just found your site by Googling “adult children who reject their parents”. Thank you for being here. Yes, the holidays are really challenging. I’m just doing everything I can right now to live one day at a time. Again, many thanks. I’m sure I’ll share more after getting into your site. Shelley

    Reply
    1. linda

      I also googled to find this site,when your heart is broken you will do anything,I don’t even know how to talk to my children.May God bless all of us broken moms

  3. Marilyn

    It’s absolutely amazing to discover that the situation I have is actually validated. You’re so right – there was no big argument, no one issue. I believe my daughter has a borderline personality issue and I don’t know how common that is. I have had to work very hard for 25 years (she’s 45 now) not to turn it in toward myself. I wish I could offer some comfort to others but we just have to nourish our spirits and be there for anyone going through this. Happier new year to all.

    Reply
  4. Gail

    I feel so alone sometimes. I thought I was doing things ok, although I knew I had made some mistakes. None of my friends has this situation. I actually thought I was a pretty good mom.

    Reply
    1. Josephine S

      I know just how you feel. I came to the conclusion that my daughter must have a mental illness to do this …I just cannot understand why. I thought we were really close and she always asked me for help and advice etc. We just have to get on with our lives but it is easier said than done. One day our children may have a change of heart.

  5. Losing Hope

    I agree that most non estranged parents or otherwise just do not understand ……I lost, who I thought was a friend after I told her about ED. I know she automatically thought “what did you do to her?” I haven’t heard from her since, she actually avoids me like ES is contagious!
    My H and I are in our 70’s, ( so you know our ED is no child) we don’t know if we’ll ever see our grandchildren. Meanwhile they are bonding with their father’s parents and we are totally excluded. No greetings on BDs, Mother’s Day, Father’s day etc. ….you’d think that living 3000 mi. away would be bad enough.
    I’ve reached out until my arm is falling off, gifts for the GKs, cards, magazines(children & adult) subscriptions etc. I guess when my ED or SIL gets the mail, they say those things came from the other GPs or from them (parents). We have lost so much and it doesn’t look like things will change.
    My H says they think they will get everything when we die (ED is only) and it’s wonderful to keep getting gifts without having to acknowledge them or reply.
    BTW, ED daughter said “if you don’t want the gift or didn’t ask for the gift and have no relationship with the gift giver then you don’t even have to say Thank you but you can keep the gift! This is the new etiquette according to ED.
    This is just an example of what we’re dealing with. ( this all started in 2009) and probably before but we just didn’t have a clue.

    Reply
    1. felix

      Stop sending gifts they just feel entitled. I know it is easier said than done. I have been suffering for 3 years with the same. Being ignored by 2 sons and adult grandchildren due gossip, misunderstanding, etc. I have been insulted by both daughters in law and my sons allowed it and THEY are mad at me. Thinking I should apologize.

    2. Gail

      I have made so many excuses for her not being in our lives. All my friends know that she must hate us. We have tried everything, texts emails calls but nothing. Once in a while she will send a text telling us how much she loves us, but she really seems to have cut us out of her life. I think it’s even harder when they pretend but then show they really don’t care.

    3. Tina

      I understand about sending cards and gifts to my ES (my only child), my daughter in law and grandchild. Thinking it was my way of reaching out and expressing my love and forgiveness.
      It has only made things worse I now realize. After speaking with my therapist (she is a God send) I understand I am coming across as desperate.
      Last week sent a text to my daughter in law asking for an address to send birthday cards and gift certificates. They were not comfortable with sending an address and said they would pick them up if I left them in my mailbox. I was elated!!! A first step!!! I knew they wouldn’t come in, but that’s OK, it’s just a first step!!
      I texted back immediately, telling them I would leave them in the mailbox the next day and how I appreciated the opportunity for this step we were all taking. Well, it’s been over a week. And they haven’t texted back. It has broken my heart.
      I understand I have to surrender them to God and move on with life. It can no longer consume me.
      I wish you the best and hope you can find peace.

    4. greenglow

      I think it is okay to send gifts. You are being kind and loving unconditionally. The grandchildren need that. Gifts come from the heart with no expectations. I suggest reaching out to people you can talk to, perhaps church people. In addition, see what you can do to volunteer some time with children who are in need and do not have grandparents.

  6. Pat

    Wow…I hadn’t realized that there are so many parents out there dealing with this same issue. It’s fairly new to me. It’s only been a short while but feels like a lifetime. I am estranged from my eldest son. That includes his wife and my grandsons. The holidays were difficult but I made it through. Now, his birthday is coming up in a few days and it hurts to think I can’t even wish him a happy birthday. Is that selfish of me? Would it be wrong to send him a card? I don’t want to disregard his wishes. He said he wants no contact. Would it only make things worse?

    Reply
    1. Mary

      Dear Pat, I am new to this site, and Im in the same situation. What I do to cope, is on birthdays and holidays, I purchase a gift or gift card and a greeting card, and I drop it off to the needy or a children’s shelter. I have also made a written list of all five of my children’s names, their spouses, and all 14 of my grandchildren, and to “send” them love and good wishes, I do a good deed, one for each name on my list, once a week. It is my hope, that good karma and love and peace will be passed on to my family this way. I will pray for you Pat, and I ask you to pray for my loneliness. Mary

  7. Deborah B.

    It’s very early I’m the morning….another sleepless night. In a desperate attempt to find some comfort or possible understanding of my situation, I searched the web for “parents who have been abandoned by their adult children”….truthfully, I was really surprised to find this website. I hadn’t really expected to find anyone else in this situation. While comforting to know I’m not alone, I’m sad for the reality of this situation in our society today. What is the answer? I tried to be the best mother I could be…not suffocating but supportive….. dependable and loving. Now I find myself divorced after thirty three years of marriage and abandoned by my adult only child. I’m at a loss…. I hope to find some consolation here. Thank you

    Reply
    1. Kim

      Your situation seems just like mine. I have 3 children and the oldest one is estranged from me for almost a year. Many many sleepless nights. We have a lot of turmoil in our immediate family and he just doesn’t want to be associated with any of us. I have always been there for him and had a good relationship with him and not sure what he wants me to do. I can’t fix other people. He is very very successful and help his brother and sister out but he is causing so much stress on them bc they feel torn .My middle son is very depressed over this whole thing but will never stand up to his big brother.
      I reach out to him periodically and give him gifts on his birthday and Christmas bc I would feel bad if I didn’t . Usually he will thank me via text but that is it.Some days are worse that others. I take one day at a time but literally dread the holidays.

    2. Stacey

      Deborah B.

      I can totally relate, I was a 24/7 mom to five children ( now 21, 22, 24, 26 and 28 ) when my marriage started going really south my oldest was 15/16, he and I had always been very close. We had an incident happen on my bday 2005 and since that day I have seen him maybe 15 times , he did text me Halloween after I sent throw back cute pictures to all of them. Hateful Hurtful texts the other four I rarely hear from. They stayed living with their dad at that time because I thought I was making the right choice for my children. His gf..now wife bought out home 5 weeks after I moved out. When my divorce was final in 2007 ( fired my lawyer and cow tailed to everything from my ex out of severe bullying) due to my job at a high school I could not physically take all five kids back and forth to 3 different schools and work full time ( got nothing from the ex and lived off the sale of the house in 2005-2006 trying to retaine 50/50 custody– unfortunately wasn’t an unlimited supply of funds…I agreed they stay with dad — keep them in their home, neighborhood, schools……never ever in my life imagined what that would do to my life. I went from 24/7 everything mom to almost never — because of course on my weekends the kids made other plans or had something and holidays he would keep because his family was in town ( the are ALWAYS FKN in town) so my time with them dwindled more and more. My oldest didn’t talk to me at all for 8 years then went 6 months with trying then told me he decided I wasn’t worthy that I hadn’t suffered enough so now its been 3 years again except for some very hurtful hateful texts on Halloween after I sent each of them cute Halloween throw backs. I wasn’t prepared for the hate or the anger– though hes done it before this time was exceptional. Dec 26 last year my middle son just stopped talking to me– over what I may never know– then 6 weeks ago he got seriously hurt playing rugby — I was overjoyed he let me cook and bring him food but then after a stupid conversation with my youngest and a small fb post that they shouldn’t have even been able to see– once again that all changed. All of a sudden they were at my door with police– for my “mental protection”– I was at work. I guess the deputy figured that if I was at work I was fine. So much for any of them truly being concerned– not a word from any of them since. In2012 I had a heart attack my youngest and daughter came for an hour after I had a cardiac cath– don’t even remember them being there. Ive been hospitalized 8 times since them and NOT ONCE has any of them ever called or came to see me– I was out of work 9 months last year unable to drive due to four mini TIAs– in 9 months not one asked if I needed anything or even came to just hang out. I have cried everyday since 11/25/2004 some days more than others. They all have been misled by their dad and his word is apparently God — daddy has money — I have none. Just so tired of being so sad and crying my poor pitt bull hes soaked up so many tears over the last 9 years– thanks for listening or reading I know its long thank you

  8. MelsyMelsy

    This Christmas my daughter 22 was to bring my grandbabies 2 4 year olds and 2 2 year olds to dinner and Christmas at my place. Well she got mad at me and she kept my babies away. I’m on social security and spent my money on the babies my daughter and her husband. So now I still have stockings filled and gifts that my grandkids didn’t get. It hurts and its mean. But I can’t have a relationship with my grandkids because I guess I’m not good enough.

    Reply
    1. todie

      Stacey: I want you to know that you are not alone. With that said I need to say our stories are so similar. I left 3 oldest teens in my home with their dad and I took the 2 youngest with me
      Their dad was severely abusive to me but not physically. Now all these years later they have nothing to do with me. I am concerned for you emotionally because of your extreme sadness. Actually years ago I did counseling but I still needed help when I realized I was pretty darn alone. You are worth so much more than you can see right now. You deserve to be happy and joyful in spite of your kids opinions of you. If you can, read Sheri’s notes on not taking calls or texts until you feel ready to respond. It our way of becoming stronger. Try saying positive statments such as ” I’m getting stronger every day”. You can do this Stacey. I’m thinking good thoughts for you.

  9. Debi

    Our son decided to break communication with us last November – it was heard that his common law wife said “she wouldn’t step inside our home again”.
    I know I never did anything but to make her feel comfortable in our home. The issue was that I had made contact with my son’s son when they did not want to have contact with him themselves. He is a troubled boy. They made that decision for themselves and I understood it and respected their right to make it, but it is not what I wanted.
    Now, I and my husband, have been rejected by our son. Christmas was very hard on us. We don’t feel that we can reach out to him – he is almost forty – it has to be his decision to contact us. We fear we may never hear from him again.
    How does someone do that?? I don’t understand how after so many years of a relationship, the caring, the helping…someone you hold dear can treat you like you do’t even exist.

    Reply
  10. Dad

    “how can you get over something you don’t understand and your estranged…daughter won’t explain”

    Bingo! That is exactly my dilemma. I’m stuck. All I can do is keep racking my brain to try and figure out what, why, where and when, of course to no avail.

    Reply
  11. Jocelyn

    I feel blessed to have found this site Thank you so much for sharing – so many issues are comparable to mine and I look forward to returning regularly for insight.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer

    I too feel blessed to have found this site. Our son, who will turn 33 years of age next month, disowned all of his family in September, 2014. We havn’t heard from him since. We have sent him Christmas and Birthday cards, but never receive a reply. It hurts so bad. But at the same time, I know we don’t deserve this, and have gone on to live our lives. I pray for him always. That’s all I can do.

    This site has helped in knowing we are not alone. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common these days. I will pray for all of you as well, that God will give you strength, comfort, and rest.

    Reply
  13. kelly

    I am new to this site. My brother has grown increasingly distant and when we do see him, he is terribly high strung and agitated. He got married about 4 years ago. when he would come visit for holidays, he would be quiet for long periods before blasting out “would you stop all this talking!! we live in a quiet house!” or “my wife’s family is not so loud! you guys are embarrassing!!” worse still, my parents only got to see their new grandchild a few times per year, and would be met with “you buy too much stuff! knock it off!” my mother and father would cry and just a week ago, they decided to draw a line in the sand and they left the hospital on the birth of their grandson, because my brother and wife barely spoke to them, and wouldn’t let them see much of their granddaughter. because they went home, he feels “abandoned and that we all need therapy if we ever want to see the grandkids again.” my mother and father are crying, heartbroken. my mom says it feels worse than death because at least that would be some sort of strange closure. i am so angry at my brother for making my parents cry all the time, and i find myself constantly worrying if they will ever get over this, or will they just be a shell of who they once were…..fun and loving. i just want the pain to go away. if i could take on all their pain for them so they could be happy i would. how does it ever get better?

    Reply
  14. Annie

    Yes, nearly all of these comments reflect my experience.

    I have contributed to 46 yo daughter’s support and to rearing her children for many years. I have sacrificed a great deal to be able to do this. I have a strong leaning towards co-dependent behaviour and this complicates relationships for me. I do too much in relationships and have weak boundaries. I am working on this.

    Finally, last year, as daughter and her adult daughter complained about the Hawaii vacation I was treating them too, I stood up for myself and told them if they did not like the four star hotel we were staying at, there were two doors to leave by – take your pick.

    Well…they did! And I haven’t heard anything since.

    They would hang around as long as I was a door mat. The first time I really took a stand, they were gone. Good to know – finally!

    I feel better now that I do not have to spend so much of my time and effort on people who really did not appreciate those efforts or respect me.

    I am healing from this. I am focusing on learning how to paint, and this gives me an outlet for painting my pain as well as painting my new life.

    I am going to rent a very tiny studio spot on the square here in my town. I will paint there and show my paintings. I will have a coffee can with loose change for anyone in need to help themselves.

    I am going to find a big guy with a gentle heart – maybe he will have a harley and he will take me to the top of a mountain and we will hold hands and cry and laugh and hug.

    I wish you all JOY! We deserve it and we can create it for ourselves and through imagining a beautiful and joyous life as we put one foot in front of the other.

    Thank you for this site Sheri. Just writing this and putting it out there to the universe helps me. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Annie. Creating this site has been a labor of love. And you’re right — it does help to think of your future in a way that makes you happy. We can paint our lives any way we wish (pun intended!).

      Sheri McGregor

    2. TheSheepReport

      Thank you for sharing your story. I was particularly interested in your comments about all the financial help you have given over the years; the reason being, I don’t have a lot of money and somehow believed that if I had more money and could do more things for my kids, they would accept me.

      Your post was a real eye-opener for me, and I thank you for making me aware of this. Somehow, I think I would feel even worse if I had treated my kids to a Hawaiian vacation and they still treated me as if I had a contagious disease.

    3. rparentsrparents Post author

      TheSheepReport, you bring up something very important here, and that is that parents go over and over what they think might have been different if they had been different, had done something different, etc. If that was the case, then this would not have happened, my children would not have estranged. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and among the thousands who have shared their stories, I know that their circumstances are varied. Hugs to you.

      Sheri McGregor

    4. Mia

      Ha- my sisters kids have broken her heart like all of this and guess what- she DID get a harley and her and biker boyfriend take off and ENJOY their lives in spite of hurtful uncaring adult children…..
      She said shed never have kids again had shed known shed break her back for 20 yrs and then them not care about her.. so wrong. She thinks its the Millenials- all about them and we nurtured narcissism in then… big mistake but we meant well..

  15. Suzanne

    My heart goes out to all of you. My younger son rejected my husband and I last year when his girl friend left him. We did not have a part in the break up.
    Nevertheless, He began to blame us for all the things that have gone wrong in his life. Are we to blame? I am sure we’ve made mistakes somewhere, but we have an older son who is happy and still loves us so we must have done somethings right. I still love my son, and I know I cannot let myself die before I recover from the hurt he has caused us. I don’t want him to feel guilty later. Christmas will be hard for us this year, but we will get through it. Thank you for sharing your stories, I will hold you in my heart during this giving season and hope that you will be given the gift of peace

    Reply
    1. TheSheepReport

      I identify so much with your comments. I do take issue with one thing, however. I pray that this does not come across in an unkind way. You said, “I cannot let myself die before I recover from the hurt….I don’t want him to feel guilty later.”

      Your feelings are commendable. However, none of us has any control over when we die. Also, what’s wrong with your son feeling guilty? You can’t shield him from his own shame. Shame is a normal human emotion that we experience when we have behaved badly.

  16. Suzanne

    My heart goes out to all of you. My younger son rejected my husband and I last year when his girl friend left him. We did not have a part in the break up.
    Nevertheless, He began to blame us for all the things that have gone wrong in his life. I don’t know if we are to blame. I thought he was reasonably happy as a child. I was not aware that I was making mistakes. I gave him love, was there for him when he needed me and tried to inspire confidence in him. IF he cannot find it in his heart to forgive and love us for the imperfect parents we were then I can’t see what we can do about it other than to accept his decision to cut us out of his life. I confess I have not been able to accept this loss yet. Perhaps this site will help me, I had no idea so many parents were suffering the same rejection.

    Reply
  17. Frances

    I have been berated by my eldest son since his college graduation , mostly angry outbursts regarding politics. Disagreements were allowed, but as they escalated, I told him disrespect was not.
    My surprise this holiday , was having this 33 year old announce he was coming for Christmas, remodel or not. (We had a stove and refrigerator-but no walls.) I scrambled to make cookies and plan for a prime rib dinner. Boy, was this a holiday from hell! From the moment he arrived, he angrily shouted that I was responsible for America’s ruin for voting for Trump. (Is Trump derangement theory real? He fact checked every response I had-eg: ” Hillary lost-get over it”, with his phone, as if I was lying.)
    When my husband and I did not respond further to his door slamming and screaming, he accused me of childhood beatings, physically and emotionally. I was in shock! My husband had been deployed for years in the service and said he couldn’t agree at all. Then my son said ,” you weren’t here, she beat me.”
    I expected my husband to suggest counseling to him, yet he gave him hope and crushed our relationship by responding ” I wasn’t aware.” My devastation was double.
    What? No history of violence in our family-our other son attending Christmas dinner responded that his brother was lying. Both brothers were given college educations , hefty starts for retirement funds, cars and Europe vacations.
    My response has been an ironclad resolve for no further gifts or conversation , and the very sad acknowledgement that one of my sons is mentally ill and my marriage is in deep trouble.
    No need for a pity party here! I will move on and be good to myself, for once.

    Reply
    1. Mia

      I seriously almost envy my childless friends- none of this garbage… theyre “alone” by choice… way less painful than investing 20 plus yrs of sacrifice and dedication and love and now were not that important… unreal. Childless people dont bother..

      Does anyone here live in sacramento ca area??

  18. Angela

    I have just ordered your book through my library. I am looking forward to reading it and hoping it will leave me with some hope.
    I have three grown estranged children (my two sons for several years) and now my daughter and her two small grandchildren (9 and 6). My sons have not told me what they are mad about or what the problem is and I gave up asking. Other than going through a nasty divorce after a 24 year marriage I can’t think of anything terrible that I have done to them. I have somewhat gotten behind this pain; however, for almost 2 years now I have been unable to see my grandchildren, send cards or gifts or even see a photo of them. They visited me often and didn’t want to go home. They would spend several days at a time with me. All of a sudden, the carpet was pulled from under me and for no apparent reason(s) my daughter said I would be be able to see them or have any contact with them. I even went to court and was told that in PA there are no grandparent rights. I am so brokenhearted and can only imagine the pain my grandchildren are going through. My daughter told the master at the hearing that I was trying to kidnap them. I never showed any signs of that and she knows I live in a 62 plus community and can’t have kids here for an extended period of time. I am sure this is what she told the children as well. She obviously hates me more than she loves her children and I did say that to her and the court.
    I have good and bad days like everyone but I feel I am going to die of a broken heart since I have literally lost my whole family, that I did so much for and loved so much.
    I don’t think we will ever be reunited since so much time has past. I just can’t believe how they can live with themselves.

    Reply

Please Login to Comment.

Website Protected by Spam Master