Reasons for parent-child estrangement

Why Adult Children Cut Ties with their Parents

It can be hard to understand why adult children cut ties with a parent. This is usually because we assume that parent-child relationships are not only important but functional.

Family is forever. Blood is thicker than water. These sayings reflect our assumptions that family relationships are close and long-lasting. Parent-child relationships, in particular, are expected to be unwavering and unconditional. But this isn’t always the case—some adults cut ties with or distance themselves from their parents or other family members.

Adults are increasingly recognizing that they can opt-out of dysfunctional family relationships. This article will explore the reasons for parent-child estrangement from the adult child’s perspective. The purpose is to help destigmatize parent-child estrangement and examine whether estrangement can be a psychologically healthy choice.

What is parent-child estrangement?

In this article, I will use the terms estrangement, cutting ties, and distancing interchangeably. They refer to the adult child’s active decision and actions to reduce contact, communication, and emotional connection with a parent. Estrangement is not necessarily a complete or continuous cutoff. Therefore, I include no contact, low contact, and grey rock approaches in my definition of estrangement. The defining feature of estrangement, in this context, is that the adult child intentionally limits, reduces, or eliminates physical or emotional contact with a parent (biological, step, adoptive, or surrogate).

Some adult children are estranged from just one parent. However, it’s not uncommon for estranged adults to cut ties with multiple family members. This may be due to other family members siding with the parent they are estranged from or engaging in hurtful gossip, lies, scapegoating, or shaming them. They may also cut ties with family members who incessantly pressure them or try to manipulate them into reconciling with the estranged parent (Scharp, 2016).

Why do adult children cut ties with their parents?

Reasons adult children cut ties with a parent

Research indicates that adult children most often cite abuse, betrayal, indifference, or lack of acceptance from their parents as the reasons for their estrangement (Agllias, 2016; Carr et al., 2015; Conti 2015; Scharp et al., 2015). For example, in a study conducted by Carr et al. (2015), adult children attributed estrangement to parent “toxicity” (defined as cruel, hurtful, or disrespectful treatment from a parent), feeling unsupported and unaccepted, or abuse perpetrated by the parent or a lack of support when the child was abused by someone else.

Similarly, Agllias (2016) found that adult children cut ties with their parents due to abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, or failure to protect), poor parenting (an authoritarian parenting style, parentification, or a lack of support), and betrayal (lying, embarrassing the adult child, or sabotaging or undermining their other relationships).

In contrast, parents don’t typically see their behavior as contributing to the estrangement. They often believe another person (such as the adult child’s partner or other parent) turned their child against them (Carr et al., 2015; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2021). In one recent study, mothers also frequently said their adult child’s mental health problems or substance use contributed to their estrangement (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2021).

Estrangement may also be related to parents and adult children having differing values (Agllias, 2015; Gilligan et al., 2015). This makes sense as we are experiencing greater ideological extremes and political divides. For some, family relationships become untenable when their values and beliefs are attacked, or family members are unwilling to respect their boundaries (such as a request not to discuss certain topics or not to disparage the other person for having differing beliefs).

Cutting ties is not an easy decision

People and relationships are complex. There is rarely a single reason or event that causes parent-child estrangement. For most adult children, estrangement is the “final straw”. It is a painful decision that comes after years of mistreatment and attempts to repair the relationship (Agllias, 2016, 2018; Scharp, 2016; Scharp et al., 2015).

It's okay to cut ties with a toxic family member. It's very hard to heal from an abusive relationship when you're still in an abusive relationship.

Estrangement can be a form of self-protection

For adult children who have experienced abuse, maltreatment, or rejection by a parent, cutting ties or going no contact is often viewed as self-protection and the only way for them to heal and move forward (Agllias, 2018). Adult children don’t want to cut ties, but they believe it is the only way to protect themselves from further harm.

Most people assume that parents love their children unconditionally and treat them with respect and dignity. When this happens, parent-child relationships are typically close and enduring and the parent and child both benefit. However, this isn’t always the case. Some parents fail to see their adult child as a separate, capable, and worthwhile person. They belittle them, make unreasonable demands, criticize their choices, reject their identity, or disregard their boundaries. When this happens continuously and the parent fails to accept responsibility for their behavior and is unwilling or unable to change, estrangement can result.

Conflict is normal in relationships and even healthy family relationships are occasionally fraught and painful. However, your relationship with your parents should not constantly have a negative impact on your mental health. If you have an abusive or “toxic” parent, distancing yourself may be the only way to safeguard your wellbeing.

The purpose of this article is not to promote estrangement as the solution to all family discord. Rather, this article acknowledges that estrangement is not necessarily wrong or selfish. Recent research and my experience as a psychotherapist for 25 years indicate that estrangement can be a healthy response to an unhealthy relationship—and cutting ties (permanently or temporarily) may be instrumental in healing from a painful or difficult relationship with a parent (Agllias, 2018; Allen & Moore, 2017; Scharp & Dorrance Hall, 2017).

If you are estranged from a parent, please know that it is a valid choice. Even if others don’t understand, you can frame it as a healthy choice for yourself—and the beginning of your journey to health and healing.

If you’re estranged from a parent, sign up for free supportive resources.

©2022 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Canva.com.

Read more

References

Agllias, K. (2015). Difference, choice, and punishment: Parental beliefs and understandings about adult child estrangement. Australian Social Work68(1), 115-129.

Agllias, K. (2016). Disconnection and decision-making: Adult children explain their reasons for estranging from parents. Australian Social Work, 69(1), 92–104.

Agllias, K. (2018). Missing family: The adult child’s experience of parental estrangement. Journal of Social Work Practice32(1), 59-72.  

Allen, J., & Moore, J. (2017). Troubling the functional/dysfunctional family binary through the articulation of functional family estrangement. Western Journal of Communication81(3), 281-299.

Carr, K., Holman, A., Abetz, J., Kellas, J. K., & Vagnoni, E. (2015). Giving voice to the silence of family estrangement: Comparing reasons of estranged parents and adult children in a nonmatched sample. Journal of Family Communication, 15(2), 130–140.

Conti, R. P. (2015). Family estrangement: Establishing a prevalence rate. Journal of Psychology and Behavioural Science, 3(2), 28–35.

Gilligan, M., Suitor, J. J., & Pillemer, K. (2015). Estrangement between mothers and adult children: The role of norms and values. Journal of Marriage and Family77(4), 908-920.

Scharp, K. M. (2016). Parent-child estrangement: Conditions for disclosure and perceived social network member reactions. Family Relations, 65(5), 688–700.

Scharp, K. M., & Dorrance Hall, E. (2017). Family marginalization, alienation, and estrangement: Questioning the nonvoluntary status of family relationships. Annals of the International Communication Association, 41(1), 28-45.

Scharp, K. M., Thomas, L. J., & Paxman, C. G. (2015). “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back”: Exploring the distancing communicatively constructed in parent-child estrangement backstories. Journal of Family Communication, 15(4), 330–348.

Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., Coleman, J., Wang, J., & Yan, J. J. (2021). Mothers’ attributions for estrangement from their adult children. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.

This site is for informational purposes only. It provides general information and is not intended to nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any psychological, relationship, or medical issues or advise you on your particular issues, questions, or decisions. You are solely responsible for how you use the information provided on this website and the consequences of your actions. This page may contain affiliate links which means I receive a small commission on items purchased.

Sharon Martin, DSW, LCSW is a psychotherapist and author specializing in codependency recovery. For the past 25 years, she’s been helping people-pleasers, perfectionists, and adult children overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, and set boundaries. Dr. Martin writes the popular blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook.

36 thoughts on “Why Adult Children Cut Ties with their Parents”

  1. As a person that has been on both sides of this terrible decision, this article is extremely biased in one direction. As a reader you need to be conscious, these therapists are encouraging this horrible idea, that estrangement could set you free. No, estrangement is only needed in cases of extreme abuses. Estrangement is a weapon. It is a nuclear weapon to any family. Think of the kid that owns the football, doesn’t get there way, takes the football and ends the game.
    The only winner is this decision is the therapist. They want you to explode, seek help so they can reap the rewards. Their stake in this game is very high.
    I made this stupid decision many years ago. I went an entire decade of no contact with my entire birth family. My children also backed me, causing much more collateral damage. I ended up missing (16) nieces and nephews grow up and become great people. None of them know me, nor have anything to do with me. I abandoned them. Any forgiveness would be their decision, I gave that right away when I left.
    Thankfully my siblings waited and took me back without questions. I missed them without knowing I missed them. My children do not know their cousins all due to my stupidity. A terrible idea, that will haunt me until I die.
    Several years later, I received an email that paid me back. My family has not heard from my son for over 8 years. I doubt we will ever hear from him. I taught him well. Running and hiding from issues is much easier. Until it all catches up to you.
    If I do hear from my son, it may surprise you, I will reject him. I will not take him back for any reason. You may think this as cruel and hypocritical. However, as in the last paragraph, the decision is not my sons to make. It is mine and I have determined the way and reasons he estranged himself combined with the cruelty my family endured, too much to ever forgive.

    Call your family or take a short break, estrangement is a fantasy you do not understand until you have endured it.

    1. You clearly don’t understand what it is like to be an adult child of years of abuse. This article is not for you, your manipulative opinions are not required.

    2. Estrangement is not an easy decision. I do not know you or your story, or why you cut off certain members for an entire decade, but I highly recommend you do get counseling, even if it is just to talk about how you feel “stupid” for it. There is a lot to unpack, and it doesn’t sound like you really processed it yet. I am someone who is estranged from both of my parents but have been able to maintain strong relationships with some of my siblings. I’m not a therapist, I’m just real happy and really confident that estrangement was 100% the right decision for me. And anyone who has done this definitely needs and deserves to process it.

    3. When one parent pulls the children into the divorce, even pulling the youngest out of school to come to the courthouse will effect the relationship. My son could not understand why I was so mad. Still to this day he feels I was hiding something from him. I told him no, it was not your place to be there. You needed to be in school. Then when the judge took my side, I was the bad guy. It not always about abuse. We did get into verbal arguments because I refuse to let him speak to me in the manner he was. I love him and always will, but it is not always the parent fault. But I worry the regret he may have one day. But I write to him every other month how much I love him. That all I can do and pray. I been to counseling over this. I offered my son to go to counseling with me, he picks the counselor. He refuses.

    4. Thank you for your beautiful reply Mike. My 24 year old daughter has disowned her father, and I, for no reason. It happened after her second “therapy” appointment. Ironically paid for by her father and I. She was never abused. We were just a normal loving family. Paid for her university degree, in full. Nice used car, trip to Australia, when an amazing opportunity came up. I cried constantly for the first six months. I’m helpless, as she has made up her mind. I’m not sure now, that I can forgive her even if she came back. I can’t trust her. My 11 year old son still has contact with her, as we would never stand in the way of that. We are good people. Her contact with him is dwindling. I am scared for her, and what her life will be. Her therapist will continue to suck money out of her. she lives pay check to pay check. This is my nightmare.

      1. Accountability is Freeing

        Your comment illustrated exactly why your daughter is estranged: your conditional love. “I did these things for her so we are owed a relationship even though I am the only one allowed to define everyone’s needs.”

  2. I also agree with what Mike B says. Estrangement is complicated. It is so easy to use the No Contact idea today. I remember being parent with a chronically/terminal husband. The illness came suddenly and lasted a number of years. At that time, family dynamics were not as understood the are now. I failed more than a few times to be a good healthy parent for my kids because I also had a number of other things to attend to. My mental health was rocky at times but I tried to get the help to make it through. Still, they suffered as I can see today. I have little to do with one son and the other prefers no contact except to dodge in and out of my life for his convenience. I am not in control of these situations as they control any engagement with me. When I ask to be a part of their life, I am declined. I would rather be a thousand miles away than in the situation I am in because it feels like pseudo estrangement. I know I did my best with what I had when they were children, but this is the second article that I have read about this topic this week and I do not think it is getting in depth coverage. Yes, I hurt my kids when I was tired and exhausted from doing way too much that needed to really be done in our family. That is the part I just can’t seem to get my kids to understand. Parenting is not an exact science. Our situation was not the norm. Kids have to do their part, too. My kids knew how to manipulate to get what they wanted. That can be taken into adulthood, too and the parents are the ones who are at fault. Parenting is a two-way street. What I am hearing to day in what is being written about is that the parents didn’t give kids what they wanted/needed. All or nothing. Therefore the parents are to blame. It’s not that simple but I’d be wary if this attitude of estrangement takes hold people will be hurt because blaming someone seems to catching on real fast. I was a part of the dysfunction in my situation, but my kids were, too. I wasn’t superwoman. I had deficits in my upbringing so there were deficits for them too. My mother was toxic at times and it affected me. I had to have boundaries to manage. She had to have boundaries for me. I just fear people will jump to estrangement without consideration of the complete picture. Some parents are like demons but not everyone is.

    1. The research is actually quite clear that most adult children don’t jump to estrangement without considering the consequences. Most report suffering for years and trying and trying and trying to create a functional relationship without success and estrangement was the last resort. Your situation may be different, but that’s what the research tells us is most common.

      1. Present the research. There is very little research available. Your article is heavily biased, using terms such as “most” to frame your assumptions, that is NOT science based thinking.

          1. I am aware, your interpretation however is not what the cited papers suggest. Most is a vague meaningless term, also not accurate. Your understanding of the pathways to estrangement are selective. You misrepresent the Wisconsin study results, making assumptions that parents failed to hear their kids complaints, that is NOT what the survey says.

          2. My article is about the adult child’s perspective–why adult children say they cut ties. Parents tend to have a different perspective on what causes estrangement and that is not the focus of this article. I don’t believe I cited or inferred that a Wisconsin study said that parents failed to hear their children’s complaints.
            I stand by what I’ve written. So, I think at this point we will have to agree to disagree. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.

            Sharon

        1. Not only is there a ton of research out there showing that most people who went NC with their parents had stated severe abuse as their primary reason, and persons with dysfunctional relationships with their parents are more likely to benefit at least from setting boundaries, but I have never met a person who went NC from their parents who did not do it for their own personal healing, protection, and wellbeing. Therapists are not trying to profit off of creating false narratives. We (survivors of toxic parents) almost always end up seeking therapy either at the point that we cannot handle the abuse we suffer from our parents anymore or well past the point we have already set boundaries or went NC and now need help dealing with all of the emotions our parents refused to help us through. I have seriously never in my life met someone who cut contact because they were being callous or thoughtless. I HAVE met a LOT of people who I wished would go NC with their parents because they literally continue to suffer because of it.

      2. I came off a abruptly and I am sorry. Your article referenced “research” and I was relating to my own experience.
        So often, people will jump to immediate conclusions that are considered in depth. Social media has allowed that to happen and people immediately decide, for example, to say someone is a narcissist. In depth investigation would eventually show the person was actually a narcissist abuse survivor. I believe it happened to me, and I was given “no contact or limited contact”. Poor communication from within the family and family of origin, led to this. I was judged but left out of the process. I then decided to go “no contact” to allow myself to focus on me and it has been beneficial. So do agree with you. I still don’t know if I want to return to my family of origin or to remove the grey rockI have with my family. Maybe they won’t want to return to what was either. A lot of consequences to consider.
        Sometimes new information of a topic, like narcissism, can cause a blame game. I know when I first learned about narcissism or codependency or any topic that enlightened a problem, it is easy to slap a label on it and empathy and compassion goes out the window. I was given a label once that quite popular at the time. I now believe I was experiencing accumulated grief, codependency and CPTSD something other family members didn’t/don’t know because there was limited contact. Our core values are also different. It wasn’t a good situation.
        Yes, I was relating from a personal perspective and you from a research perspective. I just want people to know it is also important not to jump to conclusions and put a person in a box where they don’t belong just to make sense of something. It is an easy thing to do especially when there are extremely painful issues that are being addressed.

        1. Peggy, you bring up a valid and important aspect of family estrangement which is that generational trauma is often at play. It’s certainly complex and very emotionally charged for all involved.

        2. Peggy, to give some perspective here…

          I have gone no contact with my mother. Not to be mean – to protect myself. I understand how and why she may have failed me as a parent and forgive that. I also understand her own trauma and the implications of generational trauma. Actually, removing myself from interacting with her has helped me see that. I still thought, have to go no contact because she continues to be a way that hurts me.

          I understand from what I’ve read you have so many valid reasons for your choices as a parent. What I’m not hearing though is a willingness to listen to your children. You seem in defence mode when I think you would get more from them in curiosity mode.

      3. Sophia Wiseman-Rose

        Dr Martin,
        I believe what you say about the research. With all due respect, you know that research is often extremely biased and that few people who cut off their parents would state “I cut them off because I’m a narcissist and I do that to anyone who calls me on my B.S.”

        Please consider the regrettable decisions this article could contribute to?
        Personally, it rings very hollow for me. I had a mother who most people would have a greed with an unpleasant human. Many people advised me to cut her off. I did not. I definitely controlled the amount of time we spent together, but she wasn’t endangering my life or the life of my children and that is the only thing that could make me cut off the family. Call me old-fashioned I believe in treating others as I want to be treated, I believe in actually deserving what you think you deserve.
        I was there for my mother when she grew old and got sick. I cared for her and I was there when she died. I do not miss the woman, but I was a dutiful daughter, and I thank God that I had the strength to be that, every day. If I’d abandoned her, the guilt would have been a lifelong punishment.
        I have four wonderful adult children. One of them just stopped speaking to me 11 months ago. I don’t know why. She would not say. She has not told her three siblings either. It has really made a mess for the whole family. Only thing she said to me was in a text six months ago and it was something like “I don’t feel like I can be myself around you. I am working on it” and then she got angry at me for sending me an old happy memory picture of her because she thought I was trying to tell her (passive aggressively) that she used to be prettier?!
        How in the world did she get that from one picture and a smiley face icon?
        This girl used to post and she’s here is when I said she was “my beautiful princess girl”, as a child. IDK why.
        Even she is not, pretending that I was some dangerous, abusive monster, and I am very close with my other three children. I thought we were all happy. I was wrong.

        What sickens me every single day is that I see posts on social media and articles, just like this, encouraging people to throw anyone away, even their parents, if they don’t “serve them“.
        You don’t judge family, like you would judge a potential lover. You might not want to marry someone who you don’t agree with politically, or you don’t like the same fashion or subscribe to the same religion… But you’re not dating your mom, she brought you into the world and would die for you in a second. That isn’t just something to throw away.
        My heart is so broken, and I hate that your article is encouraging her to keep me at arms distance in this confusion. I cry so often, nearly every night I dream that she and I are close again laughing and smiling and I wake-up disappointed. And I wonder what I did to make my daughter feel this way about me and why she’s willing to break up the family, we used to be so close.
        I am involved in a few online groups for people who are cut off by their children, or dealing with narcissistic children. The stonewalling, the hang-ups and the silent treatment. Do we all have to walk on eggshells with our children now for fear that they will suddenly dump us? I’m aware of hundreds of parents who have no idea what’s going on. Some know that they didn’t vote the same way as their children but they don’t understand why that means they can never see them again. That’s not even the case with my daughter and me.
        My daughter used to tell me that I should cut off my own mother. And my daughter used to cut off all of her friends. I don’t think she’s kept any of them. Also, after telling me, I shouldn’t speak to my own mother (her grandmother) she would behave in a very two-faced manner because my mother would give my daughter our jewelry and money. I always knew that my daughter was a bit machiavellian, but I didn’t talk about it and I hoped she would grow out of it, which was probably irresponsible of me. She was always so sensitive, I avoided bringing up negative traits of hers. But one thing I did not do was abuse that girl and I am a mother bear when it comes to protecting my kids.
        So reading your article, I want to scream.
        If I had taken that advice, given myself permission to wallow in self pity, and cut off my mother, then I would have given the reason to be “continuous emotional abuse“. I would have fit right into the research you are talking about. Tried for years. Last straw etc etc. But I would be living with lifelong guilt at this point and I think I would be a crummy self-serving person.
        I’m glad I didn’t read anything like this article when I was younger!
        Belief, honor and respect may not be trending, but I believe the effects are much more long lasting. The power of abandoning someone who loves you unconditionally, is selfish and ephemeral. “ I don’t need family. I’m looking out for number 1”.
        Being strong and good is, in a deeper and more real sense, truly self serving.

        1. Sophia, I couldn’t agree with you more! I replied as well. And we my have made mistakes in raising are children. But not to the extreme of damaging our child. . This is a good example of promoting estrangement and using the the biased statistics which in false.

    2. Both my parents were alcoholics. When I married I had a baby boy. I couldn’t sleep and developed anxiety
      So I drank wine. I became dependent on it. My husband left me. I continued to drink. My son saw me drunk but I worked and gave him everything. Well fast forward he is now 33 and his own trouble with anxiety and sleep, went into therapy and has never been very close to me. I’m 64 and have asked for his help as I have health issues. He responded he cannot help me and now we are estranged. I love him but can’t say I blame him.

  3. Thank you for this article. As a therapist, and woman , whom also, had to leave her father for feelings of hurt and abuse, I commend you for sharing this article. Also, to clarify , therapists should never encourage estrangement; however, we should lead our patients ( clients ) to make their own decisions by setting boundaries and doing what is best for them. Estrangement is a topic that is not discussed much outside of therapy because few understand. Thanks for helping others understand the reasons behind this hard decision.

  4. Cutting ties with my family of origin was the BEST DECISION I’ve ever made in my life! It did nothing but improve my life exponentially in every way possible.

    (Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but Mike B’s toxic comment above truly proves the point.)

    Estrangement is a poor term, IMO, because it indicates that stepping away is temporary. There should be a term that leaving permanently was the ONLY possible path forward to healing and thriving as a result.

    Thank you, Sharon, for all your great work – and it’s terribly ironic because my NPD “mother” is named that as well. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments, Kelly. I’m so glad your life has improved! Everything you wrote aligns with what the research says and what I’ve seen in my clinical practice. People can thrive after estrangement and no one deserves to be mistreated or feel obligated to stay in a harmful relationship.
      All my best,
      Sharon

  5. One more: It’s utterly grotesque to me that others are not accepting responsibility for the damage they did and would continue to do were they still allowed to do so, and that they are against cutting ties when it would benefit the one that truly needs it.

    Ending their relationship by choice is literally is a lifesaver for many people, and I have to ask: WHY should you have to stay in an abusive relationship simply because you share DNA with that person or people? Makes me question their motives.

    1. I could not agree with you more!
      Child sexual abuse survivor here. I’ve had people question my motives for limiting contact with my abuser and my enabler (both kin) and, later, for going no contact for a (terribly challenging and anguishing but also healing) 10-year period. Those who question such decisions often have no frame of reference: they’ve been fortunate to have grown up in healthy and intact families of origin and maintain healthy, meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with kin (including their parents) and simply cannot fathom how and why an adult child could get to a point where they choose to detach from family member(s), particularly parents. (These folks, though perhaps well meaning, often have their own agendas and are over stepping boundaries by critiquing someone’s handling of their own life.)
      I personally do not agree with Mike or with Peggy that adult children act callously, thoughtlessly, even 8b a petty or vengeful manner when they step away from family member(s). I know other child abuse survivors and I know of no one, myself included, who made the decision to go no or low contact or grey rock lightly – no one.
      My very personal decisions to, at one point in my adult life, limit contact with my abuser and my enabler and, at another point, to have no contact whatsoever with the both of them certainly weighed heavily on me. Those decisions were some of the most painful and difficult yet also most impactful of my life! Those decisions were not taken lightly. They came with costs – to everyone involved. But those decisions felt necessary, and right; they were self preserving decisions. And I had every right to step away from people who had hurt me deeply, who had betrayed my trust early and often and shown no remorse and taken no accountability. No one can dare tell me that as an adult I didn’t and don’t have the freedom, the right, to choose who to keep in my life, who to engage with and give my time and energy to!

      1. Thanks for sharing your story, Sara. It aligns completely with what I’ve heard from other estranged adult children and read in the research. I’ve never known anyone to chose estrangement lightly. It’s sad that society has so many misperceptions of estranged adult children. I hope that will change!

        Sharon

  6. Thank you SO MUCH for this article. After years of abuse and manipulation, I decided to cut off my narc mother. Although it is good for my mental health now to not be around her, the guilt takes a toll on me. She does nothing to deserve my love and kindness, but I hate that children are biologically wired to seek acceptance from their parents. This article was very validating to read, I almost cried.
    I am also seeing comments from parents who were incompetent in raising their children, and now are upset to read this article. Maybe if you guys knew how to parent then your children wouldn’t have cut you off. And if you didn’t, then there was no reason for you all to be parents. Children should not suffer because of the incompetence of parents.
    Any parent that has been cut off from their adult child deserves it.

  7. Thank you for this article. The last paragraph had me emotionally. I had made space from my parents for possibly more than ten years now. I am 30 now. I always felt guilty for doing this to them, but when you said it is valid. I swear that’s all I needed to hear. I am undiagnosed autistic. It’s been a journey for me when I found out two to three years ago. There was a lot of miscommunication between my parents and I. Miscommunication- I was not understanding why… Now everything makes sense. My mother is also autistic that was not common knowledge to me as a child. I thought it was normal. I grew up thinking I was normal until I found out that it was not considered normal. That had me messed up. Oh, I definitely need therapy if you ask me. I will do it when I have the funds, but I don’t at the moment. Anyways, just spilled my guts on this comment section; thank you.

  8. As a therapist and a person also estranged from relatives, thank you for this article. It took me time to decide about commenting because certain people who commented made me want to respond in a not-so-nice way, to put it extremely nicely. But others, especially those who’ve suffered at the hands of their parents, have commented and made great points instead. Wishing those who suffered, continued healing & thriving.

  9. I need to add that I know this is only 1 persons experience, and this is a story more about abandment, not exactly real estrangement. That’s a hard for real folks to choose. My hope is that we can somehow all find peace and love in our lives.

  10. Thank you for the article and I would echo the findings. I tried and considered no contact for many years with my parents. My father has always been quite absent in my life however my mother was very involved. Making that decision was not easy or made quickly. Even though it’s hard to accept, I do know deep down it was the right choice.
    And surprisingly it’s helped me find immense understanding and forgiveness of my parents based on their circumstances. I just can’t take more hurt from them though, it’s that simple. I if my mother was willing to get therapy, that would make a world of difference (in case any parents reading this want to know why they can do to repair with their children, that’s a big one. If my kids come to me and say I hurt them as an adult – I’m putting everything down and LISTENING rather than justifying or defending myself. Remove your ego and listen. It’s goes a long way).

    Where I struggle is my children. I have been honest to an age appropriate level about why grandma is not around. I have kept the convo open so they can come back to it. Ask question, cry…my question is, how much will this damage them? She was a huge relationship in their life. However I had to protect them. They can’t understand why now so I let them know it’s an adult decision and not because of them. That she loves them. My son at first talked, cried and asked questions. Now that he’s a bit older however he says he tries not to think about it because it hurts him. Any advice how to help him?

    1. Hi Dallas,
      I think your advice to listen with sincerity and curiosity is spot on!
      It sounds like you’re handling things well with your kids. It’s complicated and hard to give generic advice as everyone’s situation is different and every child is different. That being said, the most important thing is that your recognize that your estrangement impacts your kids and it’s a loss for them, too. They need to grieve, to be able to talk about grandparents without upsetting you or having you shut them down. Often, doing your own grief work, therapy, or self-work to process and work through your feelings and experiences is the best thing you can do for your kids as it allow you to show up as the best version of yourself.
      best wishes,
      Sharon

  11. Frustrated Father

    My eye caught a similar article’s headline which I read and then I ended up on this one right after. Both articles I read make the parents out to be abusive in some way and frame this as the cause of child estrangement; however, it ignores other possibilities. We have one son who had troubles holding a job, numerous speeding tickets and motor accidents which were deemed his fault. Thankfully nobody was hurt. We supported him with room and board for a few years after high school, we tried to encourage him finding something he enjoyed doing and helped with numerous activities while he was finding his way. Unfortunately, his favorite activity was playing xbox all night and sleeping all day. Any suggestion to any counseling or even trying something new was met with attitude or excuses.

    At one point, he paid with his own money to get some career training in real estate, I was really thinking he was trying and thought he was starting to get going with his life. After getting his license he got a job with a real estate company but once he found out he had to actually work and compete in a competitive field, he had trouble finding traction and gave up. A family friend who worked in real estate really tried to mentor him and show him the ropes, but he refused to even talk to him. Mother and I were quite frustrated. When our last child graduated, we were planning a move out of town to live a different life than in the city and he didn’t care to go with us. Son had graduated years before, but had been unemployed most of that time, thus he could not afford nor qualify for a place of his own. One day, there was an argument with my wife while I was away from the house. It was a money argument which could have been discussed and resolved, but I think it came out of fear he knew that he was at the end of the line and he was going to be forced to be responsible for himself. While I was away, he came downstairs and confronted my wife in anger, flipped her off, grabbed both of her arms and called her the b-word right in her face. She kicked him out of the house which you can imagine is very hard for a mother to do. We were not perfect people and could get very frustrated with him, but we never abused physically or verbally. In fact, I thought we tried hard to help him despite years of problems with responsibility. He was liked by his peers too and was not outwardly angry or mean to others. However, any thought of being responsible or working to live and be self reliant was a major problem.

    After being kicked out by my wife, he did not speak to us for close to two years. He did manage after a lot of struggling to get into an apartment and managed to hold a job he says he likes. Eventually, we got an occasional communication after repeated appeals. At one point, after becoming financially in a bind, he needed help. I told him I would help him but he had to allow me to come and visit him. I drove down and we spent two nice hours small talking, but then he said he had to go home and we should separate. At the end, he expressed how much he hated government, healthcare and God. He holds a job he likes now, but refuses to pay his taxes and I worry about that immensely. Wife found a tax man to help him get a reset, we would pay the fee but not get any info he did not want to disclose, but he wont do it for reasons he will not explain. It breaks my heart to see him in such pain and heading to a disaster. Mother and I regularly reach out, and he responds occasionally and will accept cash when he is in a big pinch now and then, but will not allow much more. I feel like he blames us for his troubles, but to me that is the excuse he tells himself so he can avoid examining his own actions. I would love to have a counselor between us and have him unload all his anger on me if it would help him get going and be responsible to live a life of joy.

    The point I am trying to make here is sometimes you just cant put all the blame on the parent. People have a mind of their own and sometimes our children rebel in their own way we have no control. I read in another comment you acknowledge that parents have a different point of view and perhaps this article may have been helped by adding that estrangement may be part of a bigger issue with a child that has nothing to do with unaccepting or abusive parents.

    1. I agree, we need to remember that every family is different. Articles, books, podcasts, social media posts, etc. can only speak about issues in general terms, not anyone’s particular situation. Sometimes, readers seem to take them as a personal attack as if the article to saying something about them specifically.

  12. Accountability is Freeing

    All the estranged parents in the comments are wild! You likely found this article in the hopes of understanding the reasons why your estranged children are gone. Instead of truly listening and taking it to heart, YOU ARE ARGUING! I guarantee that is one of the factors in the estrangement. Imagine living with someone like that? Especially in an imbalanced power dynamic. Being a parent is the most one sided-relationship in nature, and you are all ” Wahhhh, what about meeeee???”

    1. Amazed & Baffled

      Read the article regarding dealing with toxic parents. Amazed that nothing was mentioned for the grown child to have some self reflection of their behavior.
      We adopted our son when he was 10 days old. 40 year old single mom did not take prenatal care and was thinking of abortion for 1st 3 months. She stated she was diagnosed border line bipolar. At the time of our son’s birth she had a 12 year old son who is diagnosed bipolar. She knew she could not manage parenting a second child in these circumstances. Our son is diagnosed ADHD at @ age 10. Age 12 our counselor has him take a Briggs Myer personality test. From the test, we are informed of tendencies of: rebelliousness, authoritative defiance, and spontaneous decision making. We go to bi weekly counseling for years, he is placed on a 501 program through his remaining education due to his ADHD. We and the counselor try to teach him about his feelings, to recognize them, coping & defusing skills. We also go through Children’s Hospital 8 week course of the same/similar information & implement them. There were numerous trials throughout the years. We attend National Mental Health Association’s 12 week program, learn & implementing techniques. We love & encourage him, show support in his positive decisions. Spend thousands of dollars for his counseling & his legal issues. He is now 26 going through county court assigned anger management classes (12) months. For years when he gets frustrated he has a lack of patience, calls his mother an idiot and other derogatory comments with cussing when she does not immediately understand what he is talking about and asks for further clarification. We continual set & reforce boundaries due to his toxicity directed at us. Now he is using almost word for word your argument of dealing with toxic parents. That we have to earn his respect. That he treats everybody the same and we are no different. It seems as All the years of love, support, sacrifice, and encouragement meaning nothing. It is like, what have you done for me today. Relationships take effort on everyone’s part involved. It is not one sided, with one party with the attitude of it’s all about me, take, take, take, while the other party, gives, gives, gives. This is a recipe for disaster . I think you article should state that everyone needs to realize their behavior, comments, and actions in the relationship.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart