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The Detachment Wall: How to Let Go of Your Adult Children

By Christine Field October 05, 2022 Family

Some of us moms have a problem with our attachment to our children, to the point where the bond can become unhealthy.

Can we love our children but not let their choices or behavior make us crazy? Is some detachment actually a good idea?

Is Detachment a Wall?

The idea of detaching from a person can seem terrifying. But is there a way to practice healthy detachment?

Another way of thinking about it is this – when we live detached, we are not placing a wall between us and others. Instead, we are examining our own expectations and dependencies.

With those in perspective, we are freer to love another person because the focus is shifted to them and is not solely on us.

With our adult children, though we love them unconditionally, we try to satisfy unmet needs in us:

  • Our need to be needed.
  • Our desire to nurture someone.
  • Our desire to see that our work and love produces an effect – a child who loves us back.

What we often do is keep a picture in our minds of our child and how they will fulfill these needs and desires for us. What happens when that child rejects us? In my case, and for many other moms, we completely freak out!

What Went Wrong

When we are ‘good mothers,’ we begin to define ourselves by our mothering. While this can be positive and can encourage us to fulfill our role responsibly, by totally adopting that definition we can forget all the other aspects of ‘me.’

When we are our role, when that role is challenging, or when that role is over, what is left of ‘us’?

In dealing with estranged children, we still tend to look within ourselves. We ask ourselves what we did wrong. We obsess over every interaction and question whether we could have responded differently.


This Monday-morning quarterbacking neglects some basic facts about humans:

You Can’t Control Other People

We surely have influence over our children, but we do not mold them like clay. When they don’t turn out the way we planned, we neglect this fundamental truth.

You Can’t Rely on Your Children for Your Happiness

We may have looked ahead to our golden years and seen ourselves surrounded by loving grandchildren. This neglects another fundamental truth: People change. If we rely on other people for our happiness, we may be disappointed.

My source of joy and happiness is an inside job, not dependent on the actions of others.

Your Emptiness Is Yours to Fill Up

Your adult children don’t exist solely to fill the void of your unmet needs. Do you need the love and admiration of children and grandchildren to be happy? Perhaps meeting your own needs by loving yourself sufficiently will bring more peace and satisfaction.

Complete People Can Love Completely

I remember well the first time my young daughter gushed about a new boyfriend, saying, “He completes me!” We had many long talks deep into the night discussing how love can be real and true only when two people who are complete within themselves come together.

True love rejects the notion that the other exists solely to please you. True love is therefore not threatened when the other displeases you, because the love is not dependent on the other fulfilling your needs.

Having the other person conform to our desires so we will love them is manipulation, not love. Focusing on “what’s in it for me” is a death knell for true love.

Yet, as mothers, we sometimes forget that in our relating to our adult children. When we can view them with some detachment, when our reactions to them are no longer based on expectations or being dependent on them, we are then able to love them fully and freely.

Do not look at your adult child as completing you, giving you a fulfilled life, or meeting your needs. When you set those aside, you begin to understand love.

What to Do Now?

If you are a hurting mama, laid low in the dust by the estrangement of an adult child, what should you do now?

  • Examine your feelings and thoughts. What does it feel like when attachment hurts? What thoughts are you thinking at the time? Can you begin to think differently?
  • Be with others and love them, but don’t look to them as your source of happiness.
  • Learn to be alone, not lonely. Loving ourselves enough that we can be our best companions is healthy.
  • Quit blaming yourself for the state of the relationship. You didn’t and couldn’t control the outcome. Why beat yourself up?

Here are a few more ideas to help you heal and let go.

  • Journal – Writing or sketching your feelings and thoughts puts you in the moment and helps to get you out of your thoughts. Buy yourself a pretty journal and write in it whenever you feel overwhelmed, sad, or lonely.
  • Find other mothers in the same boat – Join Facebook groups and share your stories with other women who are going through the same thing. Lift each other up and remember not to fall into the trap of wallowing and continuous negativity. 
  • Seek counseling or therapy – Look into talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. 
  • Read empowering books such as:

Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are by Megan Logan on Amazon.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödron on Amazon

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith on Amazon

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz on Amazon

Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky on Amazon.

When we are not attached to any outcome in our relationships, then we can be free and happy. When the state of our internal life is more important than our external circumstances – there lies peace.



Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you still find it hard to let go of your adult children? Or, do you still worry about them and take care of them more than you think you should? Please join the conversation below.

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My younger adult daughter has completely turned against me. She weaponises the grandchildren and forbids me to into her house. Its unbearable and makes me deeply depressed.I have three other adult children. I bought them up as a single parent working full time and was exhausted.Now my younger daughter has formed a strong relationship with my ex and he regularly gives her money and helped her buy a house. I dont have money to spare as I spent most of the time in debt bringing them up. I try to live a full life and know that they have their lives to lead but I was particularly hurt when she sat me down and told me she had no intention of looking after me when I get old. I had never asked her to or even mentioned the subject, she just bought it up out of the blue. I have scraped together a pension so I would be self financing. I dont get on badly with the other three but its like having an enemy in the family constantly undermining me. I am going to go for counselling and am trying not to get so upset, but its so very hurtful. Her father spoils her and she is set to inherit. I am just superfluous.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pam

Thank you for this. I’m struggling with my 18 year old son who won’t keep a job, take his meds, or make healthy choices. The struggle is I hope for so much more for him, but instead I’m watching him make his life difficult with every bad choice he makes. He is flailing and refuses help. His mental health is so bad that he becomes obsessed with his girlfriend, stops going to work or doing anything but being with his gf, stifling their lives. Then, when they can’t take it saved try to break up with him, he threatens to kill himself. The last time the police came and we all thought we were looking for his body in the woods. I’m heartbroken that he turned out like this. I’m afraid I’m going to lose my son and there is absolutely nothing I can do.


Today…this morning, my 27 year old daughter and I fought. She got physical…it’s not the first…but it’s in a long time, thought we overcame this behavior…..
My granddaughter wanted to go to school
…my daughter just got off a 12 hr shift, her husband didn’t come home from his overnight work yet, and I started work at 8. It was 730am and my granddaughter is upset that she won’t make it to school. I offered to help. …I woke my daughter and politely said that I will take her to school. She said that she will. Then I logged into my work. Later my granddaughter sees me and says mom says if she takes her to school, she won’t pick her up. So she says to stay home. I again offered to pick her up…after that everything happened.
The entire city heard her yelling . She slammed doors , saying things like she’s the mother and she makes the choices, that I have no say. My partner has been living and supporting as a family member for 8 years just got home from an overnight shift as well, saw and heard everything that happened and got involved because I was affected. …later after they both screamed at eachother, my partner yells to pack your shit and get out , you’re disrespectful. Through it all my granddaughter is crying….
I can’t stop crying….
…still my day of responsibilities goes on….I caregive my mother of 86 with Parkinsons…I try to hide my pain…my tears…my bruised, bumped , wounded forehead. Scratch on my chest. All that not from her hands this time, it was from her pushing me far into my office constantly and my fall caused the shelve items to fall on me.
I feel mixed…..
I feel heartbroken….
I feel pain and exhaustion….
Just to step out the front door….I feel exposed…that staying indoors is a better place to be.
Oh Father God, help us.


I missed my granddaughters text the same evening.. I replied the next morning….that I miss her and love her. But at the short responses, I kept questions and curiosity at zero.
Today, the 27th. I still cry. My heart is still shattered and lots of thoughts are taking over me. 💔


My husband talking to our adult children but not me. He won’t let them be free



Tiwonia young

Yes my son is 27 yr old and everytime he comes in my life takes away my peace and he do not respect me.it took me all this time to realize that he have been manipulating me from the start. I even got off of social media and changed my phone number so he could not contact me because everytime he did it was always something going on r he need something and because the love I have for him it’s hard to say no and he uses that against me so now he came and just moved in with me and my man and we stay in a efficiency it’s my man’s house not mine he asked could he stay for 3 days not it been 3 months when I tell him to leave he call me out of my name and then some am so miserable because of him he will not leave me alone and let me get myself together it’s to the point to wish I was dead to get away from him


It’s so hard. It hurts. I understand your pain. 😢😭

The Author

Christine Field is an author, attorney, speaker, listener and life coach. She has four grown kids, mostly adopted, mostly homeschooled. She provides MomSolved© resources and reassurances to moms facing common and uncommon family life challenges. Christine helps moms rediscover their mojo for wholehearted living after parenting. Visit her website here http://www.realmomlife.com

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