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

  1. Cantgetanyworse

    Sometimes I am crippled by the sadness of this estrangement but mostly I am pissed. I’m angry because I see Mothers who have done far less for their kids than we have and receive much more in return. I refuse to “go with the flow”….I am going to direct the flow of my life into something more powerful than surrender. I have created a new life. Of course I get sad but I refuse to let other people’s bad behaviour dictate my joy. Of course I miss my grandkids so much I could crawl into a corner sometime but damn it there are children out there that need the smile and support of a Gramma like me and I make that moment happen. Maybe in church or volunteering at a school or by being a CASA for foster children…My life will mean something to someone with or without my adult kids blessing!

  2. Teresa ( Effie)

    I get angry so angry… too. I became a foster mom.. Thats right! Take away some of their power. I am so fed up with their behavior. I was a super good mom… I know that. Not perfect but pretty darn good. So I am right there with you. Broken some days… Angry others. The corner yes… If i ruminated too much I could sit in a corner and sob for days.. this is torture. I believe though that they will have regrets some day or at least experinece the same thing…

    1. candleinthewind

      I agree with your counsellor’s advice, which strikes me as being akin to the current advice ‘stay safe’ – reaching out (if it’s not reciprocated) feels horrible, it’s especially important at the moment to be comfortable in an atmosphere of global anxiety – even if that goes against natural impulses and takes some practise, it’s kinder to self.

  3. Pamela B.

    Hi, I just joined the site today. Yesterday I began the process of removing my daughter from my WIll. I had to use the language that it was intentional and that we are estranged. It’s a difficult move to make. If feels like a finalization and permanent. I know I can always change my Will in the future if she does decide to reconnect. I doubt I ever will thought because my trust in her sincerity will always be questioned. He promised me she would never give me grandchildren. She knows how much I longed for that stage of life. I have hoped that she does not get pregnant with her husband because I see him a a narcissist just like her father. I fear her marriage will end in divorce and I don’t want to see a grandchild raised in the toxic situation my daughter was.

  4. Temporarily Heartbroken

    I never thought this day could come. My daughter tells me that she doesn’t love me and didn’t think she ever did. The last 20 years was dedicated to giving her the love, attention, material possessions, trips that she desired. We were close. I was present. Never abusive. Put her first. I was her cheerleader, advocate and support system. She has sisters – she’s the oldest of three. It breaks my heart and I am mourning and I keep trying but she tells me she doesn’t feel comfortable around me anymore. I caught her using weed in the house, lying, and acting out. Dropping out of college, no motivation to do anything or contribute to the world. She claimed deep depression – I provided therapy. I went also to know how to best handle what she could be going through. Then she leaves to live with family member. I’m embarrassed and humiliated. I think it’s time to back away – I’ve told her I love her and want what’s best for her but I’m devastated. She won’t even call or speak to me. This is the worst punishment I could have but I don’t know what I did and she said she can’t tell me why. Her sisters say she’s being spoiled and manipulative, but still I can’t get to accepting and letting go yet. Glad to read I’m not the only one and there is hope for me to heal.

    1. Leticia P.

      I honestly feel they are so ungrateful and I have depression her words pierce my heart, I cry so much that is affecting my vision. I hurt the people who really love me and are with me. I am thinking just to remove all pictures and forget everything infront of society and God I did all what a caring and loving mother will do, I don’t wish bad but she will lose more than me in her life, she will need my blessings and my advice in life and if I am a good mother for her and she doesn’t apreciate me, I wonder how in the future her own children will be with her life is a life lesson and Karma does exist , I never ever treat my grand mother and mother like that I feel this is for me a test from God I just will live everything on his hands my job is done, she doesn’t love me or miss me, I am sure more people love me and God will send me people who don’t abandon me.sadly your own blood is the one who hurt you the most. I hope God bless her and give her the life she wants and make her happy I keep in my mind One day I had a ……
      God give us peace in our hearts this is extremely painful know that what you deliver and give everything for them now don’t even want to be part of your life.

  5. Lost and estranged

    Wow, I just found this site. I truly thought i was one of the very few going thru this. I am recently estranged and I am so full of emotion. I’m hurt, pissed off, i know there is a 3rd party, I’m confused, all of it. Mostly, i miss my granddaughter. Oh God this hurts. I have been holding family secrets and i feel like if I could only somehow let these secrets out, i would be loved again. I know these secrets would completely crush my children. Any thoughts? I’m so sick of being hated when the one causing it should be the one hated. HELP ME PLEASE!!!!

    1. candleinthewind

      Yes, in some respects I agree. There’s a third party in my situation, who, by not being honest, has helped place the blame on me, as ‘an easy target’. I have often thought that things would be very different if x had spoken up. I have spoken up, but it has not helped. The children have used it against me in the argument ‘it’s all about you’. Many people here have stated that the estranged children side with the abuser, not with the victim. It’s like kicking a dog. Secrets, I suppose, remain secret for a reason. I’m just saying that there is no guarantee that your children will love you if you expose ‘the truth’, in fact it could backfire and be seen in terms of self-pity. Even if people (including adult children) know the truth, they don’t have to, or are unable to, face it. I don’t know what the answer is because the pain is unbearable, and some relief is needed. Start with some self-respect, I suppose, for your pain, in this instance. There is no one truth and people can interpret ‘the truth’ in whatever way they choose.

    2. Jeanne

      I am in the same boat – if I tell my daughter, I am the bad guy. If I don’t, I am still the bad guy. And my sisters, who have driven the wedge between us, could care less about her. They are all fake. But she has rejected me and thrown me out of her life in favor of them. And my daughter refuses to talk about it. I read the book and initially it helped- tremendously. I guess I need to revisit it.
      She sent me a very nice rose for Mothers Day. I was very touched and surprised. Then she asked me if I wanted to go on a trip with her in January. I agreed- but was cautious. Then I find out that she has been lying to me all along about some other things and they all knew…. I found out about what’s going on in her life by accident. I will not be taking that trip. I would just be miserable – waiting to see if she treated me,kindly or like something that needs to be scraped off her shoe. I suspect she asked me because she needed someone to pay for the hotel.
      I had so looked forward to the time when she was grown and living her life and I could share in it. I never imagined that I would be kicked to the curb by the person I loved and valued the most.
      Thanks for listening. I am,going back to the book and hope to get to a place of peace again…

  6. Patty

    My son who is married and a professional ignores me. I divorced his father when my son was an adult and a few years latter his father died. He blames me for his death and abuses me with foul language and a total disregard for my life or my friends and family. I thought I had a good relationship with his wife but She on occasion acts the same way. I am sick. Can’t sleep, am depressed, angry, resentful. I leave messages and call but no response. I don’t get it. Want to confront this but he just shuts down.

  7. grace p.

    Wish for the fact that they honestly do not care about us. They do not care what is going on in our lives as if they did they would have some kindof contact with us. My son and his wife are about as uncaring as they can be. They have been married for over 20 years but because I did not attend their wedding it has been rejection from then on. They are teaching my grandson how to do them when they get older. That is one thing that I feel is terrible in so many ways. They exchange gifts on mothers day but never to me. For I am their mother but I don’t deserve the reward for any of the many years we put in when they where children. I thought like myself I took care of my mother up until she died. I know for sure they will not even consider me so I have been working on getting my life together to get rid of all the things that they do not want. Why do we have to go through this stuff when we did our time and where good parents. I won’t leave one single thing to either of my kids. But then what do I do with all of it? Guess good will will take it. Just want my animals taken care of. Sometimes I wish the end would come sooner than later.


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