Should I send this to my estranged adult child?

help for parents of estranged adult childrenDear readers,

In the last two weeks, three separate parents of estranged adult children have asked me a version of the same question:

  • Should I send your newsletter/book/website link/article to my estranged adult son/estranged adult daughter?

To save time, and for the benefit of anyone else who may be wondering, I’ll answer them all here: No.

Parents who want to forward my materials to an estranged adult child say they believe that reading my books or other writings will stir an epiphany. They believe that upon reading my work, their adult child will come to understand how much their actions have hurt them. Or they hope their estranged son or daughter will recognize themselves in one of the scenarios, come to their senses, and change.

Instead, what often happens is something like the following letter:

Dear Sheri McGregor:

I am writing to you about my mother, Mrs. SUZIE-Q XYZ, who subscribes to your newsletter. She forwarded me a copy of your latest issue and says she is also reading your books and website. I am writing to inform you that my mother is mentally ill.  

As a family, we had begun therapy sessions where she had finally started to see things from our perspective. However, my mother has recently refused further counseling and has stopped taking our calls or texts. The last time we talked, she called us narcissists for insisting she get help if she is ever to see our children. It is my mother who is the narcissist. You should be aware that she is unstable and potentially dangerous.


Estranged adult son XYZ

In the years since I began this work to help other parents, I have received cryptic, weird, mean, and even threatening emails from estranged adult children who are angered by what I write—and that their parent is reading it.

While I do, very occasionally, hear from an adult child with a sincere question or comment, the majority have used vicious language. They lump me in with the parents they say are crazy, toxic, narcissistic, mentally ill, abusive blankety-blank-blanks. Or, they are more quietly assertive like in the letter above, yet, at least to me, equally transparent in their unkindness.

As discussed in Beyond Done, it’s my belief that no estranged adult child wants to hear from someone (counselor, coach, expert, author . . . ) that their parent has been seeking help about or talking about them. From my experience, if you forward my books or other writings, they’re likely to see the act as an invasion of privacy or you as a gossip, attempting to lecture or control them. And then they lash out at me or inform me you’re unwell.

My hope is that, instead of reading my material thinking that it can change your child, you will use it as intended. For you. For your healing, your growth, your forward momentum and happiness.

Hugs to all. Take kind care of yourselves.

Sheri McGregor

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15 thoughts on “Should I send this to my estranged adult child?

  1. Lisa R.

    Dear Cheryl, Sheri, and Other Parents,

    I can completely understand your response to these postings, Cheryl. Until I found Sheri’s book and this online community I felt alone in my pain over my ED. When I am feeling particularly down I read (and re-read) the posts here and in sections of Sheri’s first book, which I am working through now. (The 2nd book will be arriving soon.) While the pain remains severe I am finding that I am incrementally getting stronger and more in control of my feelings and of the circumstances.

    Sheri, please know that your guidance and information here have been a godsend to me. When I was having a particularly challenging day last week I listened to your radio interview which I found to be enlightening, compelling, and comforting. Thank you so much for all that you do.

    Cheryl and All, I wish you peace and some sense of knowing that you are not alone here. The world seems to have gone mad in this regard and we are left to find a way to move past the shock and heartbreak of estrangement. (This seems to go against nature, in my opinion.) My most sincere hope is that we can all move toward peace in our own lives as we learn from those who have learned how to live joyfully again. The inspiration, support, and love from all of you here are invaluable to me. Thank you.

    I was a music teacher for my entire life and I hope that you all can still find a song in your heart.

    Lisa R.

  2. rattlesnake

    I absolutely do understand that there is nothing we can do to change the mind of our EC and that forwarding readings, etc. will likely add fuel to the fire if anything.

    People sometimes ask me, do you want me to talk to ES for you? I do say, no as I’m sure it would make it worse and he’d be angry that I mentioned anything. I can’t get over the irony of his wife putting about everything about their personal lives on Facebook (but only more cryptic things about me personally, at least that I know of). If the topic comes up with friends, counselors, websites like this, I will talk about it because I find it therapeutic. I still know he would judge me for having any outlets at all.

    I also think that he was set up to feel entitled (forever) to me keeping his secrets because he has had issues (such as extremely bad money management and disorganization) even before he married DILFH, but through all that time, I shielded, damage-controlled, defended, and enabled him a great deal.

    Not to get too far off topic, even though I admit to being an enabler, I do NOT take any blame for my son’s actions. I don’t think he would have been any more responsible, etc., whether or not I enabled him. I have learned my lesson though; whether or not it helped him, I know it hurt me so I’m never doing it again.

  3. Effie

    I am on my 6th year. I could not agree more. They do not want to hear anything at all. It seems to enrage them. I truly think it is the generation we live in. It talks even in the bible about this in Timothy- lovers of self, etc. Christmas was a bit hard but the pain does not consume me, although there are many triggers as I am in a small town and see the other grandparents around an about. Lots of triggers, I have learned to love others that want my love, but the pain will always be there just lighter on some days.

    Thanks for your work Sheri.


  4. Sherry r.

    I was dumped 11 years ago. Needless, to say i yet suffer

    if this soul is far, far happerier without having myself is all that truly matters!!

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Sherry,

      You don’t know what you did to deserve this.

      It’s possible you don’t deserve this. Just because this has happened, it doesn’t mean it is your fault.

      And, you say you never shall learn to forgive yourself.

      For what?

      Sometimes, when people have been wronged, and the conflict goes unresolved, they suffer what’s called “innocent guilt.”

      I hope you will read my books, Sherry. And work on moving toward peace.

      It’s kind of you to forgive and believe that if this “soul” (your word) is happy with a new family that’s all that matters. Very generous…but you count as well. You matter.

      Hugs to you,
      Sheri McGregor

  5. SnoopyW59

    Oh My! This is interesting. I actually thought of doing that as well. I caught myself though and realized that I’d just be trying to prove to them that I had moved on and had the tools to move forward. It’s for me and not them. However, heaven forbid their own kids do it to them one day, I guess I also thought they’d have the tools and resources as well.

    I didn’t share the books or this site with them. It’s for me and what a valuable resource it has been and that I want to be selfish with.

    I tried talking to a counselor once, but came to realize that people who haven’t experienced estrangement just can’t relate. I also don’t want my ex to know I have this resource for support. He did everything over the years to alienate them from me and he doesn’t need to know either.

    I recently also purchased Beyond Done With the Crying and am finding it a wonderful resource as well.

    Thank you Sheri!

  6. emily38

    Sheri, I am so sorry for this reminder and advice given to Estranged Parents. Sometimes, it’s too easy to be unaware of the abusive blowback your work opens you to, far more than it seems.

    Desperate people do desperate things. And desperation is experienced in the early stages of Estrangement when parents want what they want. A relationship with a now-adult child who does not want one. All of your counseling, hard-won experience, exposure to an army of estranged parents, lessons learned and support offered is invaluable to those ready to hear. You know, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…….and, sadly, we know some people never learn. Or show up.

    As Yellow Rose writes, the vortex of hoping we can change another person gets us no where. I called it being on an emotional treadmill. It’s dizzying and doesn’t move us an inch. It’s also disorienting and can lead to equally disorienting behaviors.

    Your reminders here are another wake-up call. Not only is forwarding the site’s material to an EC harmful to the parent, it is also harmful to you. None of it is healthy. Thank you for posting this and I am so sorry you had to do it.


    1. rparents Post author

      Thank you, Emily 38,

      I hope this didn’t come across as me complaining. It’s less about me than about the reality that sending something to an estranged one doing no good (typically), and advocating that parents take kind care of themselves. That requires a shift in our focus.

      Thank you again.

      Sheri McGregor

    2. Yellow Rose

      Sheri, most of us will understand this is about the reality that sending something to the EC typically does no good or brings bad blowback to the parents. For me personally, this resonates totally. But at my support group that has lots of EP, the focus is always on keep trying, do anything, send this article, grovel, beg, write the amends letter. I’ve been upset at this focus but a friend reminded me that in the early stage most EP will do anything to get the EC back or in contact. This topic is on my mind after I leave every meeting of this support group. So thank you, Sheri, for having the courage to say this out loud. EP need to hear it and at least consider this viewpoint.

    3. rparents Post author

      Hi Yellow Rose,

      Thank you. Yes, I know how often some who are “authorities” in parent-and-adult-child-estrangement say the ‘don’t give up’ and ‘keep trying mantras.’ And, of course, parents want to make it right because it’s just so awful when someone you have loved and given so much of your life to, and who you want to see reach happiness in their own life (and maybe be a small part of it and see your own grandchildren and get to love them) decides you’re toxic, crazy, stupid, or just not worthy of their time. Once the estranged parents realize all the eggshell walking, cajoling, and apologizing doesn’t work (usually), they come here and face reality. And then, sometimes, they are angry that they have been strung along and even paid a lot of money to have an “expert” tell them to continue to walk on eggshells. By then, they’ve learned the hard way that walking on eggshells has a fitting acronym: WOE. I write about it all in the new book (Beyond Done) too.

      HUGS to you and Happy New Year!
      Sheri McGregor

    4. Kerry Atkins

      Hi sherry,
      I’m almost embarrassed to ask this,was that email about sharing your info website…I’ve admitted too thinking just that but have not followed that chain of thought!
      If I’ve offended you and this wonderful organization,I personally apologize for ever letting it entire my thoughts!
      With utmost respect,

    5. rparents Post author

      Hi Kerry,

      I’m not offended in any way. My intention in answering this question is to let readers know that they are unlikely to cause an adult child’s changed mind by sharing this material. And … that my work here has always been for parents and about them taking charge of their lives. We can either make our lives about estranged offspring, trying, cajoling, attempting to convince, apologizing, walking on eggshells, letting them fill our thoughts …. Or, we can decide we count too, and NOT waste our precious few years that we have left on something that is beyond our control. Look at this year ahead. What can you do for your own sanity, happiness, wellbeing. joy, health? If the estranged child decides to come around, then you’ll be a stronger, wiser, more well-rounded person at that time. Quit tracing the same ruts in thinking and behavior. Most of us have sacrificed long years, tears, every material good, etc. Yet, there the child goes or went, or comes and goes, maybe with trauma and discord. Shelve it and take kind care of yourselves for a change. They are adults and will do what they do.

      Doesn’t mean you have to be mean or “hard” or bitter. It just means that you count. You deserve better. And you don’t have to be a martyr. You don’t have to allow abuse. You don’t have to give until you are squeezed dry.

      Sheri McGregor

  7. Yellow Rose

    I want to encourage estranged parents to stop trying to change their estranged child’s (EC) mind. Instead focus on our own healing and emotional wellness. The focus on the EC only brings sorrow or anger that we can’t fix someone else. We will be happier and able to move forward to finding peace of mind, contentment, joy in our own lives if we focus on what we can control — our thinking. The whirlpool of hoping we can fix or change another human being is that vortex of spinning and getting no where. Don’t send this article to the EC, read if for yourself. Read Done with the Crying and Beyond Done with the Crying. These books have helped me move forward in focusing on what I can fix or change or control — myself and my thinking. I’ve read too many online forums were EC think the parents are being manipulative and controlling, narcissistic and “toxic” to send gifts, text, or bust the EC boundary of no contact. In other words, our actions to try to change the EC mind are used against us as so called evidence of our deficiencies.

    1. Cheryl

      Soooo needed to hear this today! Just having a bad day of missing my ED. I feel like I’m falling backwards but if I do, i know I can come here for compassion and understanding. Thank you all for sharing.

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