Holidays When Adult Children Reject Parents

angry adult sonThe Holidays When Adult Children Reject Parents: 2015 Series
Be Kind to Yourself This Holiday Season

by Sheri McGregor

Holidays when adult children reject parents can be a time of sadness. Parents of estranged adult children can feel pressured to be cheery when they’re not feeling up to the task.

Are you expecting too much of yourself because of the holidays? When adult children reject parents, this time of year can be challenging. If you are feeling especially low, be kind to and patient with yourself. Perhaps change things up this year. Can you give yourself permission to:

  • do less?
  • change routines?
  • have a “small” Christmas?
  • buy gift cards instead of shopping for unique gifts?
  • let someone else host the party?
  • skip the big Christmas newsletter this time?
  • or whatever else feels right … ?

It’s okay, really.

If you are afraid of disappointing others, remember, there is disappointment in life—-and you are only a human. You cannot protect everyone. And it’s not up to you to make everyone else’s holiday bright at our own expense.

Related articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Twas the night before Mothers’ Day

New Year Now

2015 series Post 2: Spirit

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18 thoughts on “Holidays When Adult Children Reject Parents

  1. Lynne

    Holidays are no longer difficult as I have spent so many alone. Becoming part of this group has helped me see that I’m not alone and many of you express my sentiments. For so very long I thought I was the only one who had children that didn’t speak to me. I have years trying to trace my steps as to what I did wrong. I would analyze conversations, events trying to find the answers. There were no answers. I have found relief and comfort here.
    This is the best present I could have for Christmas!

  2. Annie

    Thank you for your encouragement; that it does get better. It is so surreal at times with no understanding. Sometimes I think their cases are so weak it keeps them from being able to explain anything. This is my first Christmas without them. It’s heartbreaking but I know I must move forward with hope that within time it will heal. I have tried everything in my power to communicate how this has made me feel but I don’t seem to get a response. My daughter does say she loves me and misses me but I think without the apology of all that she’s thrown at me; I don’t think I can sweep it all under the carpet. These adult children do have issues, especially when their life doesn’t turn out perfectly as they would like. It’s just too easy to blame a scapegoat! And that’s what we’ve become unfortunately. Have a wonderful Christmas Lynne. I pray for peace and love for you!

  3. Di

    Hello Lynne & Annie,

    I found this website two weeks ago, and I am more than relieved to be able to come here and just read, and think. We have a sweet young man of a son, 27 years old, who is estranged from family and now, us his parents. He does still speak to us, which is a blessing; however, I would be very upset if I lost that very last contact with him. It could still happen, and he doesn’t call nor communicate like he did before 3 weeks ago. It has been more than riveting for me as his mom, and my husband internalizes his feelings. We are on the “same page” though, left to wonder what we have done. Our son says we have caused issues with his wife, by letting him know our feelings about how we really do not like being ignored and played mind games with. Our daughter-in-law has been doing these things slowly for 8 years now; they have been married for three years. They seem happy, and I have acknowledged to our son that he is indeed probably feeling in the middle of two women. I told him two nights ago, “I only want to be your Mom, not the “other woman”. He seemed to understand. But his wife has been distressingly nasty to me via email; has not spoken for 3 years, barely. Not even at their wedding. We are now at the point of myself, our daughter-in-law, having successfully pushed me out of our son’s life.

    I hate admitting that our son does not do these things, and he would never have done so on his own before. It was not part of his makeup nor personality. He is brilliant, compassionate, too willing to help, a software developer for internet security, has a great satisfying job; yet naturally for most young people, or anyone, relationships are or can be different. He does have a part in this, by allowing the treatment by his wife. She is a what I have researched to conclude, and am not a judgmental person, a narcissistic & sociopath individual. Her family jumps, and always has.

    Our son said to me, “I don’t know if I want to see you at Christmas, and visiting is a privilege. I have to make you see that.” So as hard as it is, I have tried so hard to get through each day not conversing. I will admit, because this has been 3 weeks in doing this, that I send him an email every 3 days or so, speaking of general things and questions. Remembrances associated that are comical. But I have drawn the line to be respectful as always, but not to give him nor his (nosy) wife, the chance of throwing more pies in my face. I am starting to sound bitter, and am. I hope that is a grieving process.

    My son is not a mama’s boy, and thankfully, has agreed to that. His wife doesn’t want any part of me, period. I am the most compassionate, loving, funny, and understanding mom that she could ask for, as a mother-in-law. I have finally concluded and accepted, I have tried and tried to be a part of her, and she is and has been, rejecting me for a long long time.

    It all hurts deeply. I could go on and on, but have said enough for now. I am broken inside, and feel panicked & desperate. I have joined, been approved, to attend a Mental Health organization’s group once per week, for Anxiety & Depression. Being able to attend during the holidays is a blessing.

    I look forward to staying as a member here on ‘”.
    Thank you for your comments above, ladies. I must join the forum, and was just exploring the website first. Sheri McGregor, you are one gracious and very devoted lady to lead and guide this website. I cannot thank you enough for that. I looked no further when I found this site. Please accept my sincere thanks for your work and caring, and obviously, love toward others.

    Sincerely & with love,

    1. Phoenix Rises

      I too have just joined this supportive site and share your feelings regarding Sheri McGregor. Your comments mirror ours except that we have two sons involved and possibly a daughter as well. Our daughter in laws both resisted any attempt on our part to include them as valued family members over a number of years. The “crunch” happened when they united their efforts and turned both of their husbands against us. One son is completely estranged, the second is, like your son, still talking at times. Our daughter, who has always been a follower, decided, after the fact, to join forces. She is also still in some communication with us but has segregated us from her two daughters. This has all exploded over the past 6 months. We have been through 4 hrs. of counseling with the eldest son – with no common ground being found – and 3 hrs. with all four of them with complicated results with things overall getting worse. We have cut ties with this particular therapist, as all concerned have found her not up to the task of mediation. Our youngest son speaks to all involved.
      We have tried and tried to find common ground, but failing that, this holiday season has been sheer hell for us. The children went ahead and had our usual family Christmas without us. We so miss our 6 grandchildren who are mixed up in this mess. We are not even sure that two of our darlings even received their Christmas gifts as there has been no response. We are new to this nightmare, but it has had a calming effect to realize that not only are we not alone, but you are having a very similar experience.
      Our faith in our three children is gone. We do not recognize them as the children we so lovingly raised and provided with opportunity – as they no longer reflect any of the values they were brought up with. I know it has come down to a choice between us and the wives involved, but that does not make any of this any easier. Our youngest son is a true blessing and we appreciate him in ways that we would never have even considered before last July. What parent would ever dream of appreciating a child for being the only one of four to decide not to abandon their parents all at the same moment in time?
      I am so thankful that Christmas is finally over. This is all too fresh and painful to have had any success at celebrating anything positive over the past weekend. We are, however, determined to start our New Year today. We are slowly reading and doing the suggested reflections in “Done With Crying”. My husband and I react differently and suffer, in some ways, alone because of it. We are strong, however, and know we will find a place where we can find moments of happiness again – we just don’t know how or how long it will take. Like other parts of our lives, this is a journey – just one I would have preferred not to have to take.
      Phoenix Rising

    2. rparents Post author

      Phoenix Rises,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. It sounds as if you and your husband are sharing your responses. Although your reactions are different, it’s good to have insight each other’s reactions. Maybe coming through this together, you will grow even closer and get to know one another even better. ( know that must sound trite, and apologize for that. 🙂 It comes from my own experience, though. As you say, you are strong. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to it yet, but there’s a fun tool in my book about the “shape” of the family. Your post made me think of it, and I hope it will be uplifting for you.

      As your name implies, I imagine you strong and soaring.

      Sheri McGregor

    3. Barb

      i just want to say I feel your pain. The only difference is I have 2 daughter in laws. I was so close to both sons and the wives were tolerable until the ring went on their fingers, then I was discarded and neither son supported me. I am told because they were so close to me the wives have a need to break those bonds. I have been doing this for twelve years with daughter in law number one and four years with the second one.

      It is just so painful to lose people you love so much. They were great loving guys until they married. I too have been the best mom in law. My mom use to say I would need a daughter. I laughed and said I would make my daughter in laws my daughters. My mom is in Heaven laughing at me now.
      Both sons move 3000miles away so I won’t even know my grandchildren.

      To everyone on this website, I wish you peace and know that you did everything right. Sons grow up and support their wives. It its now time to step back and let go. I always said the most difficult part of parenting is letting go.

      Wish all peace and release from your heartache.

  4. Di

    Sheri, there is one sentence close to the beginning of my post, that should say “it” could still happen.

    Also, “I only want to be your Mom”.

    “We are now at the point of our daughter-in-law, having successfully pushed me out of our son’s life. He is going along with this. I can understand to a point, but not at the expense of treating parents very poorly and hurtful.”

    “She is a what I have researched to conclude, and I am not a judgmental person, that is a narcissistic & sociopath individual. Her family jumps, and always has. We have been kind to this young woman, and knew there was something not quite right in the beginning. We are at the end of our ‘good’ emotional capacity and are just now only interested, for the moment, in keeping our son. I am a fool for loving others, when I should see the light. However, I am always aware of dislike in the air, and just go with the flow concerning our daughter-in-law. That has proven to be, many many times, ineffectual with blank response from her.”

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Di,

      I fixed those typos you mentioned having made. Your story sounds like a great many that I have heard. Nearly 7,000 people have responded to my survey in less than two years. You are not alone in your pain. My book will be out early next year. I hope it will be helpful to all of the hurting parents–you are all such kind people.

      Sheri McGregor

  5. Karen

    First year alone without my daughter or granddaughter., it is truly hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Trying to do the normal decorating and am still buying them gifts. Prayers it turns around . Glad to hear others feel hurt too.

  6. Annie

    Di, you hang in there and hold your head up high. It isn’t easy I know but we can let it make us sick if we are not careful. This is a rough time of the year to have this happen. In-laws can be very influential. Your daughter in law is making a huge mistake and your son will end up resenting her. Family is so very important. I don’t know what I would do without my family and friends. They know me and the kind of loving Mother I have been. I so appreciate their support. It’s abusive and heartless behavior and if not in this life they will have to answer to God as to why they have forsaken us. Meanwhile, keep the faith and pray for them. I believe in the power of prayer.
    We all want answers that never come. Take good care of yourself through the holiday season. It helps me to reach out to others and be kind to all. Many blessings to you and to all on this site who have had to endure so much pain. Annie

  7. Grace

    Thank you for this site. My Daughter has chosen to end our relationship. Words can’t describe the hurt I am feeling right now. I have two adult children. They are my world I have been divorced for almost 15 years I have struggled with my relationship with my daughter. I know forgiveness is freedom and I pray every day that my Daughter Will forgive me for divorce and her father. Grace

    1. rparents Post author

      Hi Grace,

      I hope that one day you will get your wish, and heal the relationship with your daughter. You said there were no words to express the hurt you feel. I’ll try a few. Devastated. Like your heart will break. Wrung out. Useless. Like you’ve lost your identity. I could go on…. It seems like a fruitless activity, but to describe the pain can sometimes help.

      Please take care of yourself as best you can. I know there are many parents who can identify.

      Sheri McGregor

  8. Brenda

    I can certainly relate to all of this pain ! We have 3 sons and the oldest has chosen to cut us out of his life. He too remembers a VERY different childhood than our other two. Since he married 15 years ago, his wife has been very diligent in pulling him away from us and his two brothers. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have tried to get close to her with no avail. There is a wall there I just can’t get through. And now there was a big fight with my oldest brother, myself, my husband and my youngest son’s family back in the summer when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer and given 6 to 8 weeks to live. It was very ugly and our son took my brothers side against all of us, now things are more distant than they have ever been.
    When my Mom passed, my son and his family didn’t offer condolences to me then or to this day, they completely ignored me and I was extremely close to Mom. So now there is no relationship between him and his family, including my two grand children. I fought with sending them a gift, and decided not to. When I do I never here a word from any of them. And they hurt me very badly in Oct. when my other two sons and their family gave me a surprise 60th birthday party, but they didn’t even send me a happy birthday over facebook.
    I don’t know where to go from here, don’t know what else to do but leave them alone and pray for them.

  9. Barb

    Thank you ladies for the wonderful insights into living life as an estranged parent. It is ever so surreal to think how life has turned out for me. I continue to hope and pray that one day things will change, however, there are times when I lose hope even as I continue to reach out – and all attempts seem futile.
    Thank you Sheri for your website. Your book has helped me realize that I am not alone in my pain.

    1. Uptotheskyandbackagain

      We are at the 3 month mark of walking through the nightmare of not seeing our 38 year old daughter, her 6 year old twins and her husband. To some extent, this also includes our 32 year old daughter and her two boys, 7 and 4.

      When this whole thing started, I was unaware of any issues or what had happened. We still have no answers except that when my husband went by the twin’s school to pick up my leaf patterns I had left while subbing and needed at another school, our oldest daughter must have seen him sitting in our car. He was avoiding our daughter and grandkids despite wanting to view them from afar. No rules or anything had been stated to us. She just cut us off after my husband unloaded something to our youngest daughter. She must have seen my husband because she lowered her email blocks long enough to say although she was not mad, she needs time to process her 38 years. She was seeing a therapist, and although she gets we want to to see our grand children, she is their mother, and it wasn’t going to happen for now. She added that if we continue to “stalk” her, she would be left with no choice but to get a restraining order. My husband and I cried for hours. Our daughter has never been yelled at or spanked. She has always been the most loving, kind, and well behaved child and well liked adult.

      So where did the catalyst for this end of September drama begin? My husband got upset after I had asked if he could get a part time job so I could sub less and spend time with our other two grand kids we have provided day care for since birth. I retired from 40 years of teaching, and my husband and I live off of one retirement since his manic depression often kept him from working. In order to have extra money for travel, we need extra income. I have been the major bread winner throughout our marriage, sometimes working up to three jobs. I made sure our girls had quality time with us and experiences like traveling to Europe as an Ambassador for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation and our youngest went to acting camp. Our Christmas holidays were spectacular, and I worked extra hours to make sure of it. Both girls had dance lessons, were read to nightly and excelled in school. Never did I believe my request to help me more would be anything that would upset my husband, much less our daughters. I am 66 and getting tired!

      My request was not earth shattering, or so I thought, but whatever he said and how he said it provoked our youngest, 32, to call her sister, write me and say she never wanted to see, hear or talk to me again, and for her sister to text and say I was crazy. Again, never have our daughters alluded to any issues or asked to sit down and discuss anything.

      How close were we? Our eldest daughter lives in the same small gated community. We often see her and our twin grand kids. I coached her cheerleading squad for 8 years in middle and high school at her request, and we got along incredibly. She was so easy to raise. The twins spend the night at times and every special occasion and holiday were spent together.

      Our youngest daughter, 32, is funny and loving but was a challenge as a teenager. We weathered the storm. Both graduated from college. One works as a labor and delivery nurse and the other in a law office as a para legal for the state. We babysit her kids, and when I am not subbing, I am there with the kids. We celebrate everything together.

      Perhaps I am crazy for putting up with my husband’s mental illness, but after 46 years of marriage, I find that we are not only best friends but we truly love one another. He did not ask for his mental illness, and perhaps I have done too much for him, but I am as stable as they come. I had to be. I think our daughters thought they overheard more than they should at times, but they were protected from so much they will never know. They apparently are angry and hurt, but we can not grasp why.

      Both were raised with love, affection, daily affirmations, engaged parents, non critical and accepting parents and a home in which there was no abuse, alcoholism or drugs. We sat down daily for dinner together. The girls were raised in a loving home and taken to church and also taught to value themselves and us. They are the closest friends and have never argued or fought. Both graduated from college, have incredible jobs with high pay. Both married, although the youngest is now divorced, and both had 2 children ages 4 to 7. I thought our golden years would be filled with love and memorable events.

      Now after missing out on the twins birthday, Halloween and Thanksgiving, we face Christmas, our first alone. Although our youngest who is very close and co dependent on her sister has continued to “allow” us to babysit our boys, she will not commit totally to speaking about anything other than the boys and still will not discuss what has happened. We are merely her babysitters.

      I do not recognize the daughters we raised! Friends of our eldest firmly believe this whole idea of estrangement originated from our eldest’s husband. His family has this practice of cold hearted estrangement running throughout their family and thinks of it as an acceptable option when someone pisses you off. He is also shut downed when it comes to family gatherings in both his families and ours. I never personalized his aloofness since he treats his step mother and mother as he does me. It seems like our daughter has been happy in her marriage, but I could be wrong once again! He can be arrogant and non social. I have loved him as my own since our daughter loves him, but he does not make it easy.

      I believe, except for cases of abuse, parents and even grown children have the responsibility to communicate their concerns to one another, at least before they cut off all communication and leave anyone feeling totally without any hope or guidance as to why or what to do with the rest of our lives. Our girls and grand kids are the center of our lives.

      Our youngest’s boys can NOW accept gifts, and I have seen our youngest daughter when she returned home early and we were unable to exit her home as she entered through her garage as she had requested. She shows signs of cracking and perhaps letting us in, but she is very close to her sister, so it is hard to say. We had begged to keep watching her boys and this was her requirement that she not see or talk to us. We could not bare losing them so we agreed to her demands.

      This whole thing could not be totally about our parenting skills, but I feel it is more about a miscommunication and a lack of communication throughout their adult lives. We have racked our brains searching for what we did to deserve such treatment. As I could observe rolled eyes or sarcasm directed towards us, but mostly me, from both our EDs at times, I never pursued their reasons. I felt if they needed to talk about anything, they would. I wish I had asked more. I wish I had stood up for myself more.

      We have bought gifts for all 4 grand kids. Usually they are with us Christmas morning in their pajamas. Our Christmas morning include a family breakfast, presents and photographs. Although they do not spend the entire day, those moments are precious to the children and us. We know our oldest grand son, 7, will be devastated that the twins will not be with them or that we are not at our home. I sent a Christmas card to our oldest daughter requesting the twins be allowed to share Christmas with the boys and us and if not, can we at least send the gifts. We got no response. I was prepared either way, but so hoped she would see the light. Friends say send the presents anyway, but after reading here, I think she will see it as disrespecting her imaginary boundary which is now a full blown wall.

      It is hard to imagine going on without our daughters and grand children. I am unsure I even want to. Right now, I have not put up a tree, strung lights or wrapped one gift. My heart is not in it. No one will see it anyway. I am the Martha Stewart of Christmas decorating but for right now, it is all we can do to get through the day.

    1. Mollie

      Christmas is half gone and I don’t believe I will get a call. My ex passed away this year, and he smeared me and confessed my sins but not his own. I don’t think a call from me would be welcomed. I am very sad but hopeful that God will resolve it.

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