Parenting is a complex and rewarding journey that comes with its own set of challenges. As parents age, they may wonder what kind of parents are not at risk for estrangement from their adult children. While every family and every relationship is unique, certain traits of healthy parent-child relationships can help prevent estrangement from happening.
These include open communication, mutual respect, healthy boundaries, and self-reflection. It’s important to acknowledge that no parent is perfect, and we all make mistakes. What’s important is how we respond to those mistakes and work to improve our relationships with our adult children. This article identifies what kinds of parents are typically at a lower risk for parent-adult-child estrangement.
Effective communication is one of the essential traits of healthy parent-child relationships. When parents engage in open and respectful communication with their adult children, they can better understand their child’s perspective and communicate their thoughts and feelings.
It’s important for parents to actively listen to their children, speak kindly and empathetically, and avoid belittling remarks or criticism.
Parents who support their children’s choices and provide emotional and practical support will likely have positive relationships with them. Support means being there for them during tough times, celebrating their achievements, and respecting their decisions, even if you don’t always agree with them.
Healthy boundaries are essential in maintaining solid parent-child relationships. Parents who respect their child’s independence, avoid over-involvement or control, and allow them to make their own decisions will likely have good relationships. At the same time, parents must set boundaries for themselves and communicate them clearly to their children.
Parents willing to self-reflect on their behaviors and seek help when needed are more likely to have successful relationships with their adult children. Self-reflecting means taking responsibility for mistakes, apologizing when necessary, and being open to feedback and criticism.
It’s important to note that even parents who have exhibited these traits may still experience estrangement from their adult children. However, these characteristics can help reduce the likelihood of it occurring. There is no such thing as “perfect parenting,” and just because mistakes were made does not mean that your parenting warranted estrangement.
While certain behaviors and situations may increase the likelihood of estrangement, ultimately, what warrants estrangement is a personal decision that depends on each family’s circumstances. For some, it may be a significant breach of trust or an ongoing pattern of abusive behavior. For others, it may be a disagreement about a particular issue that is deeply important to them.
Each person’s experience and perspective are valid, and what one person may find unacceptable, another may be able to work through.
Many of my writings address parents’ need to address the concerns of their estranged adult children. Research reports that adult children hope for their parents to take responsibility for their harmful behaviors. Many adult children desire a relationship, but only if their parents have changed.
The is a multitude of reasons and great complexity of variables that participate in the ambiguity and painfulness of the estrangement condition. The breakdown of familial ties is deeply heartbreaking since the support of relatives has the potential to be so nourishing.
But what about parents who were imperfect but did the best they could? Parents who provided emotional and practical support and were still cut off? In fact, some parents qualify as being highly stressful for their adult children and yet their kids still come see them and hold their hands in times of need.
Sadly, some parents have been unjustly accused of behaviors that did not occur. Sometimes, adult children receive therapy, air their hardships and grievances, and blame their parents of offenses. Hearing only one side, the therapist might encourage cutting off so that the adult child experiences less distress.
In some instances, adult children with histories of mental illness, which can include addictions, blame their imperfect parents and decide to cut ties. While it is unwise to generalize, it is reasonable to recognize that not every parent has warranted being harshly treated.
Just as some parents invalidate and refuse to accept their adult child’s version of their pain, some adult children have treated their parents brutally.
As parents, maintaining positive and loving connections with your adult child is what we all hope for. Maintaining these relationships even while they are creating their own families can seem challenging. With open communication, mutual respect, healthy boundaries, and self-reflection, you can help prevent estrangement and maintain a strong relationship with your child for years.
Suppose you are struggling with estrangement or communication issues with your adult child. In that case, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of a therapist or counselor specializing in family relationships. Building healthy relationships takes time and effort, but there is always time to start.
If you are estranged from your adult child, was it your decision or theirs? Have therapists encouraged you or your adult child to cut ties with each other? Have you considered yourself a good parent?
My daughter is bipolar and has problems with substance abuse.
I did absolutely everything I could, you name it!
it’s been 8 yrs out of HS and the pattern continues even after being in many programs. We have been used, lied to and disrespected all too much. She just stiffed us on her car payment and rent. Time for me to back off and let go, sadly.
Same. Your post resonated with me. My daughter is 38 but has been a problem since leaving home. Pre bipolar, PTSD and BPD diagnosis she racked up a whole load of debt but was unable to tell us about it because she felt shame. She also suffered a sexual assault age 9 by three boys at school which were unaware of until she told us after having therapy. We supported her as best as we could mentally and financially as she doesn’t work, but we live on opposite sides of the world, so communicating is very difficult and she only tells us what we want to hear. My husband passed away two years ago and she is my only child, but I can only do so much.
I can empathise with anyone who has an adult ‘child’ who has mental health issues and is still living like a teenager and who always takes and never gives. It’s really hard.
Thank you for joining the conversation. I am so sorry that you have this experience with your only child. Mental illness is so very challenging to deal with as parents. When my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, it was like entering a recurring nightmare. While I am still concerned, I accept that I can do very little, much of which is prayer. I am grateful that you have discovered the same. Warmly, Marie
Thank you for sharing here. I hear you. When an adult child has a mental illness, this complicates the estrangement condition. I am glad that you are created boundaries with her. Sadly, as much as we care for our children, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be so they can swim independently. Warmly, Marie
Yet again placing all the onus on parents to try to cater to adult children and “their needs” even when the adult child is a selfish manipulative toxic mess of a narcissist?!?!?! You still continue to emphasize blame is on parents assuming it is the adult child’s decision to dump the parent/s. So wrong to assume such bullshit. I have now walked away from one female adult child who is currently in her 40’s , three times and it was all MY choice …. and they say three times is a charm. I knew the last time we let her back in our life that it was simply she wanted something from us and it sure wasn’t parental love. I didn’t trust her motives or desires for a real relationship for one second and within about a year same as before, she proved me right yet again. She pushes me until I just can’t give any more financially or emotionally and I refuse to take it anymore, and I choose to walk away, then she goes straight to social media and her supposed friends ,who are never there to ACTUALLY help her when shit hits the fan for her yet again and again, so she comes begging us to take her back in our lives only because she wants us to fix her screwed up life because of her constant irresponsibilty and screwed up choices. Then she plays the victim oh how awful her parents are that never do anything for her or her kids. We did far too much for far too long is the actual problem… and she wants us to do for her kids what she won’t do for her own kids because her money is for HER clothes HER brand new high payment car that she lets yet another alcoholic live in boyfriend with no license drive it around all the time until he wrecks it, plus insurance for it (she went bankrupt even though she could have paid her own bills, steady good paying job for like about 20 years so how did they believe or trust her lol?) her overpriced duplex or apartment she can’t afford so she looks for another that costs more and tried to convince us if we JUST help her get it she’ll be fine?!?!?!??!?!?! But she barely keeps groceries in the house for her kids and she is so damn lazy that her place is always a pigsty and she works from home? Ummm no not acceptable. So those that believe her are toxic crap are welcome to have her and they can keep her. She will never make a responsible choice for herself or her children who are virtually strangers to us. It is always and can only be all about her. I will be on my deathbed and not welcome that selfish cold narcisstic toxic mess into my life again because from her it would only be for her to try and gouge yet more from us hoping for some kind of inheritance. I’ve been very clear with my husband and other family and lawyers that she deserves nothing further from us she took all we had to give in my lifetime she will personally benefit zero from my death. Life is joyous and peaceful now and life is just too short for anything more than living with joy and peace. <3
I’m so sorry you are in such an intolerable position. If your daughter is truly a narcissist, she has a unique mental disorder characterized by a complete unwillingness to accept any blame or responsibility. There is no reconciliation with a narc. I hear your pain and frustration.
Wow you need to vent to a pro, not on a public site.
I am so sorry you are going through this with your daughter. It sounds like you have created some boundaries and found them helpful. This article was intended to inform and not point fingers at parents. Many parents, who did the best they could, ask why they have been estranged and treated horribly by their adult children. The article intends to shed light according to research. All the best, Marie
I thank you for your encouraging post…only someone that is walking in similar shoes sees your words as “ manna from heaven”. 98% similar except my grandchild and I communicate. And that kept me in the game longer than I should have. I’m ready to cut those ties too if necessary because she is drinking her mother’s Kool Aid. My thoughts were I would create a legal environment so they won’t receive my residuals until they are close to my age (62 ). Then my hard earned money won’t go to far down the drain:).
i have been losing sleep for a few weeks covering all the topics you discussed. I’ve made up my mind to divorce for my child for my own health.
My child throws her high education ( which we paid for) the same way aka Narcissism but cowards when she needs something.
Thank you for bringing me peace I just typed “how to divorce your children”and found this website. Preach!
What an awful article! Trying to pit parents against one another. Instead support is what’s necessary. Incourage adult children to take responsibility for THEIR actions. I saw it was written by a therapist. They are the worst.
Thank you for sharing your opinion here. I agree with you; adult children would be wise to take responsibility for their actions. Warmly, Marie
I find these articles on this subject often offensive. The basis is mostly that it is the parent’s “fault” that their children are estranged. As a therapist I find this so judgmental and unfair. There is a movement of young adults thinking if they don’t like the way their parents have been or are , it is ok to fire them. I also see how painful this can be to the next generation….taking grandparents away from children is so confusing and painful for the children. Let’s be more compassionate in these articles to parents.
Through this article, I found caveats that it’s not the fault of the parent. this article gives advice to those who still have a chance at avoiding estrangement. It also recognizes that some children are just cruel and beyond hope of salvaging a relationship.
I agree with Roxanne. Why place an article in a 60+ environment like this? What can we do about it in our age?
I would appreciate someone wrote an article about the adult children. We parents have enough. We get it.
Thank you for sharing your opinion. I understand your perspective. Thank you for your suggestion. Warmly, Marie
My daughter was given everything. I was willing to do anything to maintain the relationship with my granddaughters that I cared for for 2 years. I followed their rules and was treated like trash and then she told everyone I reported her to CPS. She tried to file a restraining order and had no basis for that. I have finally acceptei d my new life and have moved on. In the process her behavior killed my husband who died so heavy outdoor work at their hy. And it was the hospital who called me although her husband had called everybody they knew. I am sad sometimes but definitely better off than I was trying to make this better.
Thank you!! My husband and I did everything for our children but apparently according to my son who is estranged we were not enough. He moved out and stopped talking to us. He began a tentative SMS relationship with me but became increasingly unpleasant and bullying. I was constantly belittled. I found out he got engaged via SMS after it was posted on Facebook. Again I reached out to congratulate them…. A reply, then nothing. My heart is broken
We gave both our kids every opportunity with great educations, a loving supportive home life and great family network
We’re lucky if our daughter rings once a month. She told me I’d had family life for 25 years. Now it’s normal for her to do her own thing. Heartbreaking again.
I wasn’t a bad mum and I’m sick of being portrayed as entirely at fault. I’m more than willing to listen and discuss things. But it appears we raised 2 highly intelligent selfish individuals. Estrangement was definitely not what I ever imagined
I am so sorry this is happening to you, your son, and your daughter.
I don’t think any parent considers that their kids will estrange or create distance.
The article intends to inform the research to bring insight into adult children and parent relationships. Thank you for sharing here. Warmly, Marie
I feel your pain! I was very closexto my son, and we had a great relationship. My son turned away as soon as he moved out, and in with his fiance, now wife. No calls, radio silence. It was so abrupt!
I tried to make a day to get together once a month, or call every week or two, abd it worked for awhile. But they are ‘focusing on themselves’. Wife gets offended at something I do or say, and won’t speak to me (last time for over a year). Things were finally ok in August, but apparently I offended again. Silence again, and this time, nothing from my son either. He even cut off his sister this time for imagined ‘drama’
I am grieving, and started reading and researching to see how I can help myself through this.
Apparently, this is a trend. For many youngvadults, its become ok to disrespect, dismiss or disregard a parent. Trying to wrap my head around it and figure a way forward. There are books out there, and I am considering therapy.
I think I need to protect myself. I’m definitely not cut out for the on/off. This is foreign to me. Trying to navigate my pain and still leave the door open? Is that even possible?
Thank you for sharing your opinion. This article is written to share insight into current research concerning adult children estranging from their parents. I agree that it is painful for the next generation. I appreciate your concern that the article needs more compassion. for parents. As an estranged parent myself, having not seen my grandson for two years, I
believe we need more compassion for ourselves. However, being informed about adult children’s feelings and beliefs can help estranged parents. Estrangement is extremely complicated and ambiguous, and most therapists are not informed. I agree; we all need more compassion. Warmly, Marie
Excellent article! I am going through this now with my daughter. This isn’t the 1st time. 5 years ago I asked her for a mother/child divorce. I couldn’t do it anymore. She said,’No’ . We have been working on maintaining a loving relationship. It seems that in the last few months things are fraying again. We had an argument a month ago. I was wrong she was right and I apologized for not being more sensitive. She wouldn’t let it go so I calmly said that when she felt she could talk to me I would be here and we hung up. 5 days later I ended up in emergency with kidney stones and other kidney related issues. I called to let her know in case something went sideways. She text later to say she hoped I would be OK. I was sent home to wait out the stone. I never heard from her for 11 days! In that time I went to emergency 2 more times!
I got the message. We were supposed to have lunch with my brother last week and I saId I was sorry but i wouldn’t be there. My daughter thought that was a good idea. It’s hard for her too.
Through the years it has always been me apologizing for basically being me. I am sick of it. My daughter sent me a text 2 days ago suggesting counseling for the 2 of us. I agreed and thought it was a great idea. I told her she could set it up and to let me know. I won’t hold my breath but I will be happy if and when I get the call.
Being a parent is not all its cracked up to be. I thought we were so close when she was growing up and she has let me know that we werent that close. 💔 I am 73, my daughter is 31. She better hurry up!
I’m so sorry for your pain and loss. I too am going through a very similar experience with my 38yr old daughter. I have not seen my grandchildren for 2yrs and they live less than a mile from me. My daughter has stonewalled every attempt I have made to try to reconcile. Meanwhile my granddaughter is now 6 and half her life she hasn’t known her only Grandma. I’m a complete stranger to my little 3yr old grandson. Those precious years will never come back and it breaks my heart. My therapist tells me I must turn my attention to myself as we have no control over others decisions. I’m sending you lots of hugs and prayers for a happy outcome with your daughter. 💔😘
Thank you for sharing here. I am so sorry for your loss. Please do take the counsel of your therapist. Be compassionate with yourself, and stay close to those who love and value you and care for yourself as you would a dear friend. All the best, Marie
Thank you for sharing here. I am deeply sorry for what is happening with your daughter.
I hope that your relationship improves. Sometimes it is hard for people to let things go and try again. I hope your daughter sets up that counseling. Be compassionate with yourself, Sharon. Life is too precious. Warmly, Marie