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


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16 thoughts on “Holidays for parents rejected by adult children

  1. JHS

    My son and his wife and children will not see me.
    I have apologized many times for something I said when they refused to allow me to see their children It has been 5 years since I have seen them. I am alone, sand I shave considered suicide on holidays. Now my divorced daughter and her 9 year old daughter refuse to see me. I have done nothing negative to cause this, so I have 2 adult children and 3 grandchildren . I will be totally alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope I can make it through these days. I Pray.

    1. Tammy

      I will be Praying for you. I will not see my 2 adult children for either holiday also. I’ve already been crying for the most part of today. My eldest daughter and I met a week ago, yesterday at my brothers home. for me to meet my grandchildren. Ages 5 and 1. I tried to hold back my tears, but at times it couldn’t be controlled. My daughter and I had a better than expected visit. But it went quite well. I didn’t want to see my grandchildren leave. They live about an hour away, and we’re planning on another visit in January sometime. We discussed her younger siblings, and she thinks my youngest daughter may come around, she is 24. But she doesn’t know if my son ever will. He’s 25, and lives a mile from me, and I have not seen him for over 3 1/2 years. My daughter its been over 2. I too apologized to my children thousands of times, but their heads were filled by my ex and his family, about things that just weren’t true. And I feel he needs to own up to his mistakes from 20 years ago, but I have continued to take the blame. I’m 60 years old, and I have basically distanced myself from friends and what little family I have left. I have been in a relationship for over 17 years, and probably would have had success in suicide attempts, if not for him. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree for over 17 years. I’m glad I found this group and can reach out. I’ve written my children 100’s of letters over the years, and no reply. My eldest daughter who I saw a week ago cannot call me Mom, or talk to me on the phone. Its only by texting. But I’m happy about our visit, and shouldn’t complain. I’ve read several books about estrangement, and also about adult children gaslighting or ghosting a parent or parents. I never heard of that before. Please reach out. I’d love to hear back from you. T. XO

    2. Lee D.

      I hope you’re doing okay. I too was alone on thanksgiving this year. My adult sons used to be so kind and supportive, but since they’ve settled into steady relationships they no longer visit or call. While I understand they now have other obligations, I’m still surprised at how they totally cut me out of their lives. It came out of the blue. I did not do that to my parents and we made the rounds on holidays.
      Just know that you’re not alone, many other parents are experiencing this.

    3. Denise S.

      I would never have believed my 3 adored adult children could cut me off once they had partners. No visits. No calls unless I call them. No replies to texts..they’re too busy. My son’s wife made it her business to break the bond between us..mission accomplished. He is so manipulated by her he would rather cut me out than risk upsetting her. None of them can be bothered to invite me for holidays. It’s so lonely. I feel bereft..I’ll be glad when I’m gone. I did not being them up so callous..I will.never understand it.

    4. Maryann L.

      You are not alone. I have 1 adult daughter, single. This will be the second Christmas she does not want to spend with me. No excuses. We live about 40 minutes from each other. Due to a newly diagnosed disorder that she told me about, communication is difficult. Anything I say is wrong. Feel free to write if you would like. I can always welcome new friendships!

      Maryann L.

  2. Cindy

    I want to cry reading this post. My heart is aching. Our son refused to see and talk to us after marrying a woman who didn’t care for us. We haven’t ever seen or met two of his children. He tells them we are dead. I pray someday he will reach out to us and maybe want to have a relationship. He’s moved out of state and keeps his whereabouts secret. We love our son and haven’t seen him for 10 years. I know one thing for sure at this age of 66. Life is short and families are gifts from God to be cherished and loved and no hurt or pain is above forgiveness. Before we die we pray to see our son and his family. God is merciful. I pray this from our son. He’s beautiful and we miss him.

  3. Celeste

    The holidays used to be such a joy. Now they are something I dread. My daughter’s rejection and manipulation has changed everything. She literally took over Christmas. We had agreed to it being one year her house and the other year mine. Then one year her husband injured his shoulder and she said they couldn’t come. So we went to her house two years in a row. The next year she found another reason. And so no Christmas was stolen. One year i hosted anyway, but I don’t have the will or the energy for the fight. I gave up doing it to ease any tension. Our family is small but everyone always got along, including my son, grandson, and even my ex-husband and his wife. The torture is that she likes it to appear to them that she is sweetness and love with me while treating me like I barely exist. It’s been 7 years since she came to my house although I have invited her many times. She doesn’t invite me to her house either except for Christmas, and extends the charade by including me in the secret Santa for adults. I participated every year, but I decided 3 years ago not to go anymore and spare myself the torture. This year I opted out of going and secret Santa.
    I get to see my granddaughter sporadically, but as she is now a tween, contact is less and less. It’s all very twisted and tense. Counseling lasted one and a half sessions about 5 years ago. She stormed out. Unfortunately, the therapist wasn’t that good, but daughter probably would have opted out anyway. I asked her to participate in choosing the therapist but she did it half-heartedly.
    The holidays make me sad now. This game of rejecting me in private while she tries to appear to family and close friends like every thing is peachy is painful. I have been letting them know the situation over the years. It’s difficult to talk about. They don’t want to choose. I’m not a whiny person.
    She’s in her mid 40’s. It’s actually been a 20+ year decline in what used to be a close relationship. I still don’t know the cause. I don’t have a husband to lean on. I still get depressed about it and haven’t figured out how to make it stop. I am constantly trying to figure out how to save myself but on a day like today it’s tough.

  4. Kathy B.

    I feel the pain. I have 2 daughters. Both are in bad situations. One, 29, has had 7 pregnancies by 3 different men. She has 4 kids. We are raising an 11 year old granddaughter of hers. We’ve been stolen from, verbally and physically attacked and been to court to help my granddaughter whom she abandoned when a baby. It’s been a nightmare. Now with a newborn 300+ miles away we hear nothing except when she wants $$. We’ve set boundaries trying to allow the granddaughter to visit and have a relationship with her mom safely thru the jerk’s dad who is a decent guy. The grandfather doesn’t get along with his jerk son who has physically abused our daughter who has battered wife mentality. We miss the lack of communication because he’s cut her off from us. We are thankful for the family we have now. As we grow older THEY are the losers. My oldest daughter, 37 is angry and won’t talk to us because she got involved with a convicted felon who was in prison for selling meth and having guns. She moved away with him, however, our grandson asked me to get him away from them, that he was afraid of this guy. I talked with the other grandparents who agreed something needed to be done. We joined together and went to court to help my grandson to stay away from him. The other grandparents got custody. He is fine. She is angry with me. I feel I had no choice. The judge said it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen because she was leaving my grandson and going for weekends to be with this idiot. So now, we get silence They interviewed my grandson at court. The judge was impressed with his maturity and transparency and commended us for being thereto help him. To my shock, I was one who had to testify. Imagine the grief with doing this and your own daughter sitting there blank face, no emotion,no nothing. Silence is all I hear. I had 2 daughters but I have no daughters. The pain never stops. God is all that gets me thru it.

  5. Rob

    My wife and I sold our home 6 months ago, quit our jobs and relocated to be close to my son and his family. We’ve been staying with them while we try to get resettled and it has been a catastrophe.
    Sometimes your kid becomes an apathetic, 2 faced jerk and your wife decides to cohort with him so she can shower the grandchild with love and affection, while forgetting she had a husband that unlike the kids, has vowed to be with her, til death do us part. I don’t care to associate with them, let alone, live with them.
    Christmas is 2.5 weeks away and I don’t want to spend it with him, his wife, or my wife.
    I’m hoping I’ll be out before Christmas. It hurts to think I won’t be here with my grandchild but spending an awkward holiday with them just because we’re related and living together feels worse than anything.

  6. Natalie T.

    I have two adult daughters, one is 46 and the youngest is 41. The 41 year old is the estranged one. When she had an affair with a married man, I voiced my opinion, and that us when she cut us (my husband and I) off. She lives in San Diego and I live in New Mexico. Sometimes I think it’s best? She has a 6 year old daughter. My granddaughter’s father stays in touch with me by FaceTime. I started sending cards and gifts to his address , because I never knew if they were received. This all started in January of this year. It’s been really tough . We still try and reach out with cards. She has blocked me from her cell number and on Facebook. I finally bought the book, I need help with dealing with this

    1. John. B

      Children when grown can be like spoiled kids. I imagine upbringing to blame.My adult children 2. No contact 12 years. Evil ex wife. God go easy.

  7. Mia

    Hi Hilary–

    Yea… i get it. My story isnt fun either. And then one friends goes on and on… theyre “all coming”, even bringing dogs, prob wearing their christmas sweaters– yay! I try not to envy but it hurts..
    I have my wonderful husband so its just us. We see our granddaughter but her mom is a total narcissist and acts like we dont exist. Our other daughter lives far away but were close..
    I actually avoid people and church in dec so i dont hear all their norman rockwell stories.
    I love Dec 26!

  8. Hillary H.

    This book and website it bitter sweet. On one hand it helps me in the gut wrenching daily task of living without my son and new grandson; on the other hand it breaks my heart even more because it seems there really is no hope. That once this happens there is rarely reconciliation. I know I need to accept that but I’m not ready to.

    This coming holiday season will be even worse than last as it will by my grandsons first. They will spend all their time just down the road with her family and I fear that’s all I will think about.

    And my heart and soul will mourn

    1. Lisa

      Hillary heart goes out to you. My own drive right by my place to their fathers family. I feel your pain. I will keep you in my prayers



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