When adult kids show no interest: Parents, it’s time to take charge of your life

adult kids show no interestWhen adult children show no interest:
Parents, it’s time to take charge of your life

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

In the last 20 years, one simple question posed to clients becomes one of the most powerful:

  • What’s stopping you?

After fumbling a little for an answer, usually one of two responses occurs.

Often the person will smile and say, “Good question,” realizing immediately that they’re getting in their own way.

Others will start in with a list of reasons why they haven’t been able to change, or even can’t change. They may have ideas of how they’d like to shift focus to themselves and their future now but continually swing back to all that should be happening at this point in their lives. Often, that’s an old vision that no longer fits. Some lament the things they wished they’d had the chance to do … but won’t entertain the idea of alternatives. Others say they don’t have the energy, don’t know if they can, or don’t know how to start. Some say they’re content to give up on people entirely, yet they complain of loneliness. Frequently, they’re continuing to keep company with those who hurt them. Endless thought loops keep the past, and those relationships, alive.

I get it. In the early daze of estrangement, I worried about ending up alone, how I’d be judged by others, and whether mustering the strength to pick myself up and move forward was even worth the effort. How could I, a loving mother, just go on in life without my son? What would life even look like if a child I’d poured my heart and soul into could up and dump me? And sometimes, keeping the pain in front of us feels like a shield. If we don’t let anyone get close, they won’t disappoint or hurt us.

The reality is that all of us have grief, experience loss, and wish some things hadn’t happened or were different now. In my role here, I don’t talk much about the trauma I’ve suffered in addition to estrangement. I know what it’s like to suffer narcissistic abuse, have people I love be addicted, mentally ill, or make me their target. And I work with people every day who know these sorts of troubles as well as (or as a feature of) estrangement. Many are all alone now yet gathering the gumption to embrace each moment and carry on. People who are grieving the past, treasuring today, and still working on tomorrow.

Where do you fit?

When you think of that question—What’s stopping you?—how do you respond? If you’re like the ones in the first group, bravo. Close your eyes, imagine slipping a Team Your Name jersey over your head, and get ready to work. You realize that to move forward requires steps … and you’re willing to lace up your boots, fuel up your stores of energy and resilience, and get moving.

If you’re in the second group, use the exercise in the first chapter of Done With The Crying to get a better idea of where you stand. You may not be prepared yet to move forward for yourself. We all move at differing paces and need various levels of support. Get the assistance you need.

You could join the Done With The Crying peer community where members who have been there and understand will embrace you like a comforting shawl on a chilly day. They’ll witness your unique pain and offer their own experiences as a guide to getting unstuck. If you haven’t yet, at least sign up for my newsletter (free).

You may find therapy useful. And don’t forget your physical health. Taking care of the body also boosts mental and emotional wellness. And when we’ve been through the trauma of adult kids’ rejection, our health can suffer. Do what’s necessary. You count.

When adult kids show no interest: Go “all in” for yourself

Some of you won’t feel comfortable with that sub-heading. Going “all in” for you might sound like giving up on your kid, but it’s more like giving in to the facts. And it not selfish to stop sacrificing your own well-being when adult kids show no interest or are abusive to you. You can hold out hope that one day things will be different, but if holding out hope for them to change is all you do—then you really are giving up—on yourself.

Whether our adult kids show no interest or we’ve experienced other betrayal, trauma, or distress, it’s up to us to take charge in our lives. Otherwise, we can fritter our days away in wishful thinking, unhealthy hope, or even bitterness that does no one good.

Adult children who show no interest may never change. Even if they do, wouldn’t it be nice to have done or learned something interesting in the interim? Places you’ve seen, causes you’ve contributed to, or friends you’ve enjoyed?

There’s a great big world out there, with people and ideas at our fingertips. Even if you’re not ready or able to physically mingle, the internet becomes a lifeline. Interest groups and classes meet and converse in real time via computer (no driving needed)—and can be the start to more in-person activities (if you want and when you’re ready).

Your mission (if you choose to accept it)

Whether you’ve been estranged for one year or ten, I invite you to recognize the situation as it is. Your adult child has set you aside. For now, or, possibly, forever. Take up the torch for yourself: your care, your interests, your development and vision for your life without them. Don’t worry, you can always choose to chase after them in the future. For now, though, at least for a time, give a rest to focusing on the ones who have abandoned you.

Do what’s needed to become strong. Don’t hesitate. Go “all in” for your own well-being.

It’s your choice whether to remain torn and in turmoil, or to commit to your well-being. Imagine being in a boat alone when a leak springs at either end. You can’t reach both. You stick your finger in one hole, but water still pours in the other. Switch holes you plug and you’re still sinking. It’s like that when you plan to take care of yourself but remain in chase mode, checking social media or reaching out to crickets, and stirring up sadness, anger, and pain. Why keep hurting yourself? It’s a losing prospect.

Abandon the adult-kids-show-no-interest boat. Swim to shore instead. What’s stopping you?

Related reading

Estranged parents: Get out of the comfort zone

Is your adult child estranged? Be careful

Are you “stalking” your estranged adult child?


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4 thoughts on “When adult kids show no interest: Parents, it’s time to take charge of your life

  1. Liz P.

    Sheri, this is great wisdom:

    “ Whether you’ve been estranged for one year or ten, I invite you to recognize the situation as it is.”

    I don’t know who said it, but there’s a psychologist who said (something like this—not an exact quotation) that the definition of mental health is being in direct acceptance of reality.
    I am going to try hard to recognize the situation with my estranged daughter as it is, and accept it. And then go on and live my own life happily and well. Hope we can all do the same!

  2. Meowzurrr

    Beloved candleinthewind…

    I have been so wondering if You’re still in this Beautiful Healing Community…I’ve been watching out for you on this page…As well as in private member section…

    I remember Your words daily…About the opening the window…putting feet up…having tea…biscuits…& chocolate…I Love You For Sharing Your Heart…Wisdom… Guidance…Wit…I have wept tears reading Your “Mother’s-Heart” words…As well as Breathed in Your Discerning Brave Being words… Practical…Stoic…To the Point…

    Yesss…I Love Rod Stewart…Thank You for sharing the words to the song:
    “…since you’ve been gone, it’s hard to carry on”…

    As well as Your thoughts on it…
    “It’s because what’s out there doesn’t match up to what’s lost.”…

    Yesss…Going Within One’s Self…

    You also share:
    “I am enough, even if I haven’t got a clue how to go forward” and just see what feels right and go with that.”

    I Listen to “Candle In the Wind” by Elton John…It Truly seems to me that as Estranged Parents we do live as “Candles in the Wind”…

    May You Beloved candleinthewind…Beautiful Sheri…& Each Beloved One In This Healing Community…Continue Shining Your Light In This Precious Life…As the winds of Estrangement come and go…May the Light Within Each of Us Shine Upon This World In Kindness…Peace…Love…& Joy…

    In Divine Gratitude & Friendship…
    Meowzurrr (aka Carrie-Ann aka Serenity)…
    (For future reference Now going by just Meowzurr…)

    p.s. If Beautiful Sheri will allow for the song “Candle In the Wind to be posted:

  3. candleinthewind

    As Rod Stewart puts it “since you’ve been gone, it’s hard to carry on”. It’s because what’s out there doesn’t match up to what’s lost. And looking to others who you think have it licked, doesn’t work either, until you focus again on yourself and realise: “I am enough, even if I haven’t got a clue how to go forward” and just see what feels right and go with that.


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