You raise them, teach them, and give them love, and then suddenly, they grow up into adults and become estranged children. What happened? The pain of watching your children, one by one, leave the nest is a hurt that I cannot describe. I have three boys, and one is already moved away.
I only see him a few times a year, and it’s still incredibly hard. Yes, I have two others still at home, but they are rapidly nearing the age of adulthood. I am terrified, to be honest. I may not have estranged children, per se, but when it comes to my oldest son, it sometimes feels like it.
How do we know if we’ve driven them away?
I question myself, and I think back to times when my son was small, and my parenting skills. No, I wasn’t always the best parent, and during his teens, we fought, but overall, I assume that I am not estranged from my child. But, what if I’m wrong? What if I’ve missed some indication that I have driven him away.
Did I love him enough, too much? Did I use toxic parenting skills to manipulate him in any way? After all, I was young. However, I think, overall, I did okay. In truth, only he knows the impact of my parenting. Maybe someday I will know for certain.
If you are estranged from your child or feel like I do, with uncertainty, there are ways to cope with this and fix things with your adult children.
How to cope with estranged children
1. Don’t blame yourself
Even if you had a part in any unhealthy upbringing, you should still not hold on to blame. Continuing to blame yourself is also a toxic trait that can damage your health. It also holds you back from healing.
Maybe you had an argument with your child and they left. Maybe they have problems and feel that distancing themselves from you will help fix those problems. Whatever the case, don’t put the blame on yourself. It will not make things better.
2. See them as adults
If you have estranged adult children, it could be that you are still seeing them as children. Remember, your child has grown up into an adult, and now they have adult issues and situations to deal with. Unfortunately, they no longer have the opportunity to spend all the time with you. They have college, a job, or maybe a relationship. These dynamics change your role in the child’s life.
I know you used to be your child’s hero, best friend, and complete love of their life, but things change. It’s supposed to do that, and there’s nothing you can do except keep loving them.
Seeing them as adults can help you feel better about losing them as babies. You can be proud of their accomplishments instead. If they’re not visiting, take a step back and allow them to be adults, and maybe they will come around more often. Maybe you should even go see them.
3. Don’t become angry
If your adult child has totally disappeared from your life, for the most part, you will want to stay angry. You will feel betrayed and unloved at times. Unfortunately, bad things happen between parents and children which drive children away for long periods of time, even years. This horrible feeling sets in and threatens to become a bitterness that can fester.
Instead of becoming angry, try to find a way of locating your adult child and making reconciliation. Yes, this means stepping forward and apologizing for whatever may have happened, even if you feel like your not in the wrong. Remember, you were the adult first, and you should understand being humble, and how love works.
4. Keep your focus
I think one of the hardest things in life is to remain focused on yourself. There are so many relationship types that take our focus away from the things we need to do for us, and the things we enjoy.
Yes, even your estranged adult child has no right to make you forget about taking care of yourself. You love them, this is true, but you must also keep loving yourself as well. Stay focused as you work toward making more frequent contact with your child.
5. Don’t be vengeful
Just because your adult child may be angry and not contacting you, doesn’t mean you have to stop reaching out in any way you can.
I’m not saying to force yourself upon them, but with every opening, you should take a shot at making amends. You can send loving messages, comments, or even send messages through mutual family members or friends. People have been known to soften after spending some time away, especially your own child.
6. Refuse to accept abuse
If you’ve done wrong toward your child, you should feel guilty, but you should never accept abusive behavior in return, especially if you have apologized for the wrong.
Forgiveness is important. Although it may not happen often, some estranged adult children will be abusive because they feel like they are owed something. Also, don’t try to buy your way into your child’s heart either. Materialistic things can never substitute for the love between parent and child.
Reach out and show love
I know it’s sometimes hard to accept that your children are growing up, and they will eventually move away. It’s even harder to accept estranged adult children because you sometimes don’t understand the reasons for these changes. What I do know is that if you keep loving your child, no matter what happens, you are doing your part to reunite your relationship.
I have no magic pills to give you for this, I have no amazing quotes to make them come back either. Even if you’ve raised them to the best of your abilities, it’s your place to keep the contact alive, and it’s their place to accept your place in their lives.
If you’ve been estranged from your adult child, never stop trying to reach out. One day, they may just walk back through that door and you can start all over again. I wish you the best.
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This Post Has 3 Comments
I have worked in the family estrangement community for years. I have seen the communication between adult children and their parents. There is a common thread that runs through many estrangements. Third parties are the biggest culprits in adult child estrangement. It’s usually a daughter-in-law (DIL) and sometimes a son-in-law (SIL) that will cause an adult son or daughter to shun their parents. Next is the ex-spouse or some other person. The evidence for this is that the parent and adult child had a good relationship up until the son or daughter became involved with their spouse to be. Other third parties are somehow threatened by the relationship between the parent and adult child. There are those parents that can be too smothering of an adult child, it does happen but to cut them off to the point of no contact is a childish reaction by the adult child. Believe it or not adult children have the capacity to talk to their parents about too much interference. Most parents will get the hint and a person is responsible for setting his own boundaries. Some of your advice I agree with, especially about blame. We all make mistakes, but if an adult child wants to cut off their parents, apologizing to them rarely works. That is not to say that if they truly did something terrible, they should not apologize. It means that when it comes to a third party causing the estrangement, they become the gatekeeper, and since their motive was to get rid of their spouse’s parents, no amount of apologies will be good enough. In most cases, if the parent attempts to make amends, they will only hear more rage from their adult child who has been indoctrinated by their spouse. This is the sign of a bad marriage that an adult son or daughter has gotten themselves into. Their spouse is either insecure, narcissistic, or is also has a bad relationship with their parents. In the case of other third parties, it’s jealousy, revenge, and fear of the love between an adult child and the target parent. I could go on but if anyone reading this reply to the article would like to know more about adult child estrangement, they can contact me at [email protected]. I run a peer support group for parents of estranged adult children and alienated grandparents. Right now, across the globe, there are millions of estranged parents. You are not alone. Those kind of numbers is a sign of a culturally influenced breakdown of the family. It is actually encouraged by western society as a way to solve family issues, but what it does is only cause more problems for both the adult child and their parents. Thank you for reading.
@Candace…I AM with you on what you’ve said and why. Often, there are no really big issues at play other than some “influence” on your adult child (like a spouse/partner, friends or whatever it may be) that is an influence and NOT the parent.
Leaving the door open for them or apologizing is like prostrating oneself for abuse by the adult child. They are now “adults” (even if they are not acting or behaving like it LOL) and no person is “perfect”. That also goes for the estranged adult “child” as well.
Unless we as parents want more of the same, apologizing is useless unless we did something horrible to that child and even then, apologizing over and over again is NOT the answer but instead, brings down parent’s self-worth. BRAVA to you!
It’s obvious to me anyway that the author has said that she’s NOT an “estranged parent” even though her eldest “child” has left for University/College. She cannot fathom what it’s like to have an “estranged adult”. I have my only child estranged from her entire past. I’ve also watched her take on the likes, dislikes etc. of boyfriends and I’ve tried “reaching out” as well as going for therapy, asking for therapists to find something “wrong” with me (with emails in hand…both hers and mine) and 5 therapists saying “there’s nothing wrong with you”.
Often, an estranged adult simply wants away from their pasts for other reasons and NOT because of the parents or even friends and families actions or lack of them. In other words, it’s not the parent’s faults. NO ONE is to blame and yet, there are a lot of broken hearts at play.
“Give me space” is what they say and by heavens, she has been given it for YEARS now. I do try but, it’s met with a stoney silence or in the past, having been accused of so much that never happened or is of her own making in her head or to be walked away from again.
Can I blame the significant other…oh one could of course but, unless someone is chained to something one heck of a ways away from a phone or other connection method, one can assume that the “significant other” is an “influencer” and that you can bet that they (the estranged adult) can walk away and doesn’t want to or believes the significant other or other persons for their own reasons which has more to do with “themselves” than with parents or others in their families. In that case, apologize for what and how often does one do it? How often does one keep in touch with the estranged adult? That’s like asking, how often should I be whipped? LOL.
Thank you! I truly appreciate what you’re saying in your response and why! :).
So many platitudes–especially the “don’t blame yourself.”
As the estranged adult child, I can say first-hand one of the reasons I am estranged from my mother is because she remains oblivious to her past wrongs and insists on believing that she was the “perfect” parent.
If my mother recognized her mistakes, we might still have a relationship today.