Estranged From Your Adult Children?

Being estranged from your adult child is a heart breaking experience that can provoke feelings of shame, guilt, rejection, and hurt. You may feel you are being judged by friends and other family members.  It’s not how you imagined your relationship with your adult child would turn out. After all, you invested your life into mothering and now this child has turned away from you.

Being rejected is painful and you may feel like your emotions are on a roller coaster and you can’t get off. You are left with a fractured family and deep feelings of failure. To better heal from these situations, let’s take a deeper look at why adult children choose to be estranged and how to deal with it.


green tree

Why Adult Children Reject You

According to numerous studies, adult children choose to be estranged for many reasons. In some cases you may not even understand why the estrangement. Here are some reasons reported by the parents and the children:

  • Emotional abuse
    • Parental attempts to control children through humiliation, criticism, favoritism and a number of other damaging behaviours.
  • Conflicting expectations
    • Inability to navigate a relationship that is not in line with the other’s ideals, values or personalities.
  • Differences in values
    • If the parent values and practices religious beliefs and the child doesn’t, they may feel offended.
    • The parent may value truthfulness and if the adult child lies, they may cut them off.
    • The parent may value self-reliance and if a daughter relies too much on a man, that can cause a rift.
  • Mental health issues
    • Issues could include addiction, depression, sexual abuse and neglect.
  • Traumatic family events
    • These could include death of a family member such as a sibling.
    • Violence in the home.
    • Serious medical conditions.
  • In-law issues
    • Son or daughter-inlaw may tell spouse not to talk to parent because of misunderstandings or feelings of being hurt.
  • Hovering parenting
    • Parents who hover and take on helicopter parenting may push their children to make a choice to leave so they can find themselves. The adult children may feel too much responsibility for their parents’ happiness and may desire better boundaries as a condition of reconciliation.
  • Marriage issues such as divorce
    • Divorce can create a realignment of loyalty and obligation in a family. One parent may try to poison the child against the other. Children may choose to support one parent over the other. Step-parents or step-siblings may cause the child to feel like they need to compete for emotional or material resources. 

Ways To Reconcile

It is possible to reconcile with your estranged adult children by building trust and other means:

  • Initiate Change
    • Start with small interactions to establish lines of positive communication.
    • Write a letter asking for forgiveness and affirming the value of the relationship
    • Walk in humility. Don’t try to defend yourself and instead extend yourself.
    • Ask your children for their honest opinions about specific conflicts and differences.
    • Ask them if and when you may be overstepping their boundaries.
    • Find a commond ground. For example,going out to dinner gives you both a neutral place to talk. Other examples of common ground are wonderful memories that you both enjoyed together and that may be missing in your relationship. Other areas could be going out to movies, walking a dog or creating a home project you can both work on.
    • No matter how disconnected the relationship is adult children still long for acceptance and validation. Let them know they are loved very much and the relation can be restored no matter what has happened.
    • Let go of control. Stop and listen to your child when they are trying to express their thoughts.
    • Continue reaching out to let them know you love them and are always available to reconcile. Send birthday and holiday messages and the occasional email or note. Let them know you are thinking of them with warmth and compassion.

person sitting on brown wood log

What You Can Do

Even though you may not feel like it, there are things you can do to start putting the pieces of your life back together. Many people are in the same situation and on the same journey as you. Groups exist that you can join so you don’t feel so alone. One of them is the Parents of Estranged Adult Children Facebook group. It may be time to reach out and connect so you don’t feel so alone.

Cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break. It takes time to process these feelings that come from estrangement from an adult child. Take the time to get away for a rest and take it easy. It could be a good time to reflect and see what you can let go so you can heal. Acknowledge your sadness while you work on letting them go. Cry your tears out and start moving on.

Some parents find it helpful to have a ritual or ceremony where they can release these thoughts and feelings into the universe. Here are some ideas to release your emotions:

  • Fire:
    • Retreat to a well ventilated area and gather together a firesafe bowl, paper and pen and lighter.
    • Write notes to yourself about your estranged child including the name, your level of sadness, any conflict that may exist and anything else that comes to mind.
    • Hold the paper in your hands and meditate/reflect on your thoughts and ask for release.
    • Drop the paper into the firesafe bowl and light it up.
    • Once complete, dispose of the ashes in the toilet or bury the ashes somewhere.
  • Earth:
    • Gather together some pepples or small stones.
    • Find a place outside for example, near a body of water, backyard, some woods or anywhere you like to visit.
    • Hold the stones/pebbles in between your hands while meditating on your emotions and thoughts you wish to release.
    • Throw them into some water, down a mountain or bury them in your yard or another area.
  • Water:
    • Retreat to your bathtub, gather some epsom salts or essential oils like lavender, cedarwood, or your special preference.
    • Pour a warm bath and add the ingredients as it fills up.
    • As you soak, visualize your pain and other difficult emotions being pulled out of your body and drawn into the water.
    • As you drain your bath thank the elements of water, visualzing your emotions going down the drain and being soaked into the ground.

Be mindful and compassionate to yourself and don’t let the estrangement define or overwhelm you. Focus on what you can control, your own life.


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