When your adult child wants nothing to do with you: Is it time to go with the flow? 

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

when your adult child wants nothing to do with you

Photo by Gëzim Fazliu from Pexels

Have you read about that man in Munich, Germany, who floats to work every day? He got tired of the stops and starts of traffic, the long waits that got him nowhere fast, and the road rage. This man, Benjamin David, did something different. He looked to what was in his environment to help him, decided on a plan, prepared himself, and plunged into the river. Now, he floats along with the current each day—and it delivers him effortlessly to his workplace. He goes with the flow. 

Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this man to parents rejected by adult children—or maybe not. Especially as estrangement drags on, it can feel like we’re stuck in a sort of traffic limbo. We may be the recipient of anger we don’t deserve, or get angry ourselves. The tiniest breakthrough can get our hopes up and then drop us into a pit. Like when the cars go from a standstill to a crawl and we breathe a sigh of relief… only to get snagged in another snarl of traffic up ahead. 


Like this man who made a change for the better, parents rejected by adult children can assess their situations, realize they’re getting nowhere, and try something different. A realistic analysis is the first step to a solution, and new direction that drives progress.  

Parents around the globe continue to send holiday cards or gifts yet remain estranged.  As the holiday music jingles and the messages of family and restoration abound, they feel a mix of obligation, hope, and confusion. They start to ponder whether to reach out again this year.  

They may worry that not reaching out may be used as proof they don’t care. Or that a heartfelt message of love will be viewed as a manipulation tactic to “guilt” the son or daughter into responding. Grandparents who want to make sure their grandchildren know they’re loved face a dilemma: How can they choose gifts for the special family members they no longer know? Or worse, will their gifts given to innocent grandchildren be subverted to the trash bin?    


As this year comes to an end and a new one begins, I implore you to consider what one of my adult children who is not estranged recently said about estrangement from the sibling who is:  

“We’re about to start a new era.”  

We really are beginning a new era, moving into the third decade of the millennium, and far beyond the time when our estrangement from one adult son began. It’s a new era for our family as a whole, with fresh starts, changes in direction, and a time of renewed joy. Being stressed over something we couldn’t change has no place in our family’s future.  

How about you? As 2019 comes to a close, can you ring the holiday bell to end an era of heartache, and think of the season as a time of rebirth and joy? 


Make decisions that move you forward rather than keep you stuck. If you’re pondering whether or not to reach out this holiday, reflect on a few critical questions. Consider using a pen and paper to fully explore your thoughts. Ask yourself: 

  • Whether or not my estranged offspring has ever replied, has my reaching ever made a difference? 
  • If I’m worried about how my behavior will be construed or misconstrued, what are my fears specifically? Do they make sense? Or are they keeping me stuck? 

Don’t Stress 

There’s an old story about a woman whose daughter asks her why she cuts two inches off each end of the roast and throws them away. “That’s the way my mother did it,” she says. Curious, the daughter asks her grandmother the same question—and gets the same answer. Dying to know why it’s so important to cut two inches off either side, the girl calls her great grandmother to inquire. She’s surprised when her great grandmother laughs, saying, “Because the roast wouldn’t fit the pan!” 

At one point, reaching out may have kept the hope that you would reunite alive. Even when your adult child wants nothing to do with you, it has been a way to demonstrate (at least from your point of view) that you still love your child and were ready to forgive. But what’s the purpose now? Is it helping, or keeping you stuck in a cycle of hope and disillusionment? Is the expended energy doing you good, or are you only throwing it away? 

Times change. Feelings do, too. At what point do you listen to the message your child’s silence (anger, gossip, abuse. . .) sends? Is it time to decide to put your energy toward your own life, your emotional wellness, and the people who love you?  

Like the man in Munich did, is it time to take the plunge … and go with the flow?  

To prepare and plan for your new era, get a copy of Done With The Crying. Its advice and information based on current research and the input of thousands of parents rejected by adult children will help you take the plunge into a happy life beyond the pain of familial estrangement. Or, if you’ve read it once, now might be a good time to do some of the exercises again (the new Done With The Crying WORKBOOK: for Parents of Estranged Adult Childrenwill help). 

This holiday season, give yourself a supportive gift: permission to go with the flow. 

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87 thoughts on “When your adult child wants nothing to do with you: Is it time to go with the flow? 

  1. LifeGoesOn

    I have been estranged from my adult son for almost 5 years. He is 35 now.

    He had said so many hurtful things that made me cry for months into years. He said I was manipulative and always guilt tripping him, making me sound like a horrible mother to him, so I told him that if I am that bad of a mother, then he doesn’t need a mother like me. So, have a nice life was what I told him last.

    He got married and didn’t invite me, which made me sad but I was glad I wasn’t as I would have not gone anyway

    I took all of his photos down, written him off from my will.

    Interesting enough, he texted me the day before thanksgiving, He said hi and I was cordial and replied. He told me what he had been doing lately, etc, but no apologies. like nothing ever happened. I don’t feel anything for him, anymore now, feeling so numb.

    At this point, honestly, I do not want him in my life anymore.

    I am a happier person, have lots of friends and wonderful family (Siblings, nieces and nephews) that I see often. They love me and are always wanting to spend time with me.

    The hurt things he said to me was too painful. I do forgive but I can’t forget. Its unfortunate but life goes in and I will not allow myself to be treated that way again.

  2. Dora L.

    I’ve read all of these post and my heart aches for each story.
    Mine is a little different. This was my first Christmas without my son and daughter in love and 18 yr. old granddaughter.
    My hus. Died Jan, 2018 after 6 mos of lung cancer diagnosis. I was his caretaker. My heart surgery was delayed till March of 2019. Then I spent a year selling my lake home living alone, packing and showing my home to buyers.
    I then made the decision ,since I am 75 to buy a house with my younger son rather than wait until I was needing a caretaker.
    I had always told both sons everything would be equal at my death. So the older son felt I had done him wrong by buying the home with my younger son. I wanted to stay in my area , my friends, my doctors.
    My house sold and I had 30 days to vacate, my decision happened so fast . I thought I was doing what was best for me. He will never forgive me tho I’ve tried to explain, I’ve begged his forgiveness. I was not wanted at my gdaughters graduation .i drove 3 hrs and turned around and went back home. My gdaughter wrecked her car begged me to come. My son said no it was not something he wanted to deal with.
    My heart breaks, and I know his does as we’ve always been very close. I know we will never be close again.
    My new normal has to start or I cannot survive.

  3. Terri

    I never realized so many parents were going through this. Our youngest son dropped out of college with one semester to go. He’s bipolar and life with him has been a roller coaster. He’s been in and out of our lives ever since he was 20. When he doesn’t get his way he threatens suicide and disappears for months on end to punish us. I say a prayer every time the phone rings or someone knocks on the door fearing my worst nightmare has come true and that he is dead. He’s self medicated with drugs and ended up in jail. We’ve had the sheriff come to the house looking for him, collection agencies and people he’s scammed calling our home. We’ve had to change our phone number. He showed us a sonogram one Christmas and told us we were going to be grandparents. It was a lie. He manipulates us for money. We never know what will happen next. My husband and I are in our sixties and can’t live like this anymore. I’m so thankful I found this forum. We finally feel we have to move on and spend whatever time we have left together and away from the stress. There are good days and bad, but with much prayer I’m hopeful we can move forward regardless of our son’s had decisions. God bless all the parents who are going through this.

  4. AnotherViewPoint

    My estranged adult children have valid reasons to move on without me. I have tried to restore relationship but they don’t want it.
    I have to accept they have free will and either don’t like me or wish to remain distant. This year l will attempt to go with the flow because it is what they want rather than my wishes to get closer to them.
    They both treat me cruelly if l get too close. This hurts so l need to stop.
    I may still send gifts now and again as l feel l owe them something. A bit like compensation with no strings.

  5. Lyn

    Just so sad today. I texted my 24yo the other day (almost 5 years estranged) to say I hope she is well and healthy during this pandemic. I knew I wouldn’t get a response, but sent it anyway. Just so sad about everything I’ve missed the past 5 years.


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