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Estranged Parents: When Adult Children Stop Talking to Mom or Dad

by Christina Gregoire (aka Tina Boomerina)

Grown children often cut off communication with their parents when there are problems about money, conflicts over new boyfriends or girlfriends, or silent issues concerning a parent’s remarriage. However, in some instances, parents have no idea why their sons or daughters have stopped talking to them.

The problem is widespread.

Parental Estrangement: When Kids Break Contact

kids stopped talking to mom or dadSince the time of Freud, psychiatrists have analyzed adult patients' problems and have deciphered how those problems were caused by one or more of the patient’s parents. But, now it’s time to look at things from the parent’s perspective.

This article is about “parental estrangement," a phrase often used when a child has cut off communication with a parent for no compelling reason.

Yes, some parents make terrible mistakes that are so bad that their children SHOULD cut off all communication, but this article is for those of you mothers and fathers who have lost contact with your children for less significant offenses or for subtle misunderstandings.

Parent-Child Feuds

How many of parents have lost contact with their adult children and don't know why? No one knows. But, any parent who has been cut off by his or her child should not feel alone. Just take a look at the following celebrity families:

  • mother daughter estrangementAngelina Jolie stopped talking to her father, actor Jon Voight, for years, after his marital infidelity caused Jolie’s parents’ divorce.
  • Demi Moore cut off contact with her own mother. Later, her own daughters reenacted the family script.
  • Meg Ryan stopped talking to her mother, Susan Jordan, when Jordan divorced Meg’s father.
  • Jennifer Aniston stopped talking to her mother in 1996 when her mother wrote a tell-all book about Jennifer. (This mother was definitely in the wrong.)
  • Jessica Simpson was estranged from her father after he had an affair with a gay lover… oy... what a mess.

Who is in the right? Who is in the wrong? Who caused the problem? Who cares? These are celebrities, not close friends or family members. However, one of the main elements in many cases of parental estrangement seems to be divorce. Let’s use the celebrities as examples:

  • Angelina Jolie was bitter about her father leaving when she was 4 years old.
  • Demi Moore’s entire family seems to be embroiled in divorce and rehab.
  • Meg Ryan’s mother ran off to become a star.
  • Jennifer Aniston’s parents divorced when she was 9, and Nancy Aniston wrote the tell-all book out of financial need, because most women take a big financial hit when they divorce.
  • Jessica Simpson’s parents recently divorced. Accusations are flying all around the internet, but it sounds like Simpson has good reasons for shunning her dad.

A Silent Epidemic - In the Real World

While it is interesting to understand that even the rich and famous have their share of problems, what the heck is going on with the rest of the country that inspired Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco psychologist, to write the book, When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along? (Collins Living, 2007)

 

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PLEASE CONTINUE READING ON PAGE TWO

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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27 Comments

  1. Kay Elizabeth Kerns

    Great post about this issue...my BF is going thru this, so sad... thanks

  2. Anonymous

    We've been on the other side of this. My husband stopped talking to his abusive mom 10 years, and she could never understand why. He died two weeks ago, and I've heard through the grapevine that she is under the delusion that we'll all be one happy family now. Rekindle a relationship with the woman who tormented my husband? No thank you!

    • Anonymous

      (And I know your article isn't necessary about estrangement because of abuse, but I needed to vent!)

      • Tina

        Anon,

        I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you.

        Have you come right out and told his mother what the problem is? This article is for parents who have done almost everything right and... their kids have suddenly stopped talking to them.

        I know that there are a lot of instances where it makes sense to cut a parent out of one's life. And... you can vent all you want. I'm not a shrink and I have my own problems with my mom, but if you want to explain the situation, I'm happy to listen.

        Cheers,
        Tina Boomerina

  3. Tina

    I'm posting this for a friend who will remain anonymous:

    I experienced similar emotional abuse by friends and family because I chose to avoid my birth parents due to physical and emotional abuse. (Ha, I guess I just preferred prejudice to being bloody. . .) Little by little, I'm writing some of the stories.

  4. Tina

    Here is the response from another anonymous friend:

    Sometimes the parents don't know the reason, as in my case when my daughter cut me off several years ago. We found our way back and it took time, and I discovered that it was never about me, it was all about someone else who hurt her, she took it out on me as I was her Mum and she knew without a doubt I would never walk away.

    • Tina

      I think that is true. Sometimes mothers take the brunt of a child's outbursts for that very reason. Even the father seems to be spared the worst of it in many situations.

  5. Anonymous

    I haven't talked to my mother for 10 years and I hope I never have to.

    • jane

      Its sad very sad when adult children stop talking to their moms for some reason or another....may be they are influenced with new people who come into their lives and dominate it and feel happy that there is no better person ...so the mother is totally out of his/her life without any feelings. ...well remember she was the one who made your first words for you..your first feed for you...and many more firsts which you must have forgotten with the new all in your life...I know how this feeling is ...as I am going thro with it...it kills....but at the same time I am not bitter with my adult child ...for after all he will still remain a kid in my eyes...so please what ever is the situation do not stop talking with your moms...they are the best people I feel in your life...unless if they are by the law otherwise.
      Cheers

      • Tina-Boomerina

        Jane,

        It is so sad to read your letter. I have been estranged (somewhat) from my children from time to time after my divorce. If I ruled the world, I would make divorce illegal (or difficult to obtain) unless there is a good, overriding reason like drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and things like that. But, I don't rule the world.

        Back to the subject... your comment almost made me cry. I have tears in my eyes from hearing your plea to your child and to all children.

        I'm sure there are terrible moms out there, but you do not sound like one of them. I wish I knew how to help, but this is a common problem in this modern world where people move away from family all the time and are influenced more by pop culture, movies, TV, friends, and celebrities than by family or common sense. It's so sad. I wish I knew how to help but I don't. The best thing I can say is that my kids "came back" to me, so things may turn around for you. Hang in there.

        Hugs, Tina

  6. David

    I had no choice but to leave my estranged wife. Now, my daughter of 12 now 13 years refuses to see or communicate with me.
    I have a new partner and my daughter feels iv left her. Her mother is really evil and I am so hurt.
    Can you give me advice?
    Regards

    • Tina-Boomerina

      David,

      I am so sorry to hear about your estranged daughter. I can't give you specific advice but I will tell you that it is very common for one parent to turn the other parent into the devil. I wish I could help, but I am not a licensed therapist. What I would do is to contact Dr. Joshua Coleman and ask if he knows any good therapists in your area. He has an online support group here: http://www.drjoshuacoleman.com/forum/estranged-from-my-parents/adult-childen-estranged-from-your-parents-please-come-forward/

      Wish I could do more. All I can say is that you're not alone and you somehow made it through the holidays... that's the worst time of the year for single or divorced parents.

      hugs,
      Tina Boomerina

    • Tullius

      Parental Alienation is a very real phenomenon. Divorce is difficult on kids. They often feel they must choose. It is anyone's guess how they will feel once they are grown. As you said, you had to leave your wife. I was faced with the same situation with my wife and two daughters. I could not continue in a marriage with their mother and keep my sanity or well being. I lost my kids, I am sorry to report. I hope you do better. All the best.

  7. Rachel

    Such an interesting topic that hasn't been discussed. Hoping some of you might know someone who wants to be reconnected to their relative. Here's part of our casting information:

    Have you been separated from a relative? Are you adopted but unable to find your birth parent? Is there someone special missing from your life? Or are you looking to make amends?

    Firecracker Films and a major TV network are seeking people who are looking to find or reconnect with family members or loved ones. Maybe you’ve been separated for decades due to a separation, a divorce, or abandonment. Perhaps you have become estranged for other reasons. Perhaps you have an extraordinary story that only a few people know. Whatever your story, if you are looking to reconnect, we want to hear from you and we might be able to help.

    Email me for more information - familysearch at firecrackerfilms dot com

  8. Jay

    I have aspergers, I'm 43 and found out last year.

    As a child, I was physically, mentally and verbally abused by my parents. I recently tried to get in contact and explain everything, after a year of non contact. The reply to my email was that they don't remember any of what I was talking about. I just wanted to help them see that I understand that I may have been difficult as a child. The reply told me that I should have just never bothered. Then again, I left uk for japan 14 years ago, to get away from them already.

    I've always wanted to get away, since I was a child, and I've always wanted to be fully loved by them, and feel it. I never have, and so now I give up. Changed emails, changed everything. You may think that they still know my address. 16 months ago, I told them we had moved. We hadn't, but anyway, they've never written again.

    Sometimes, parents don't know what's wrong, sometimes they do. But the violent ones never of course admit to anything, so they tell people around them that they have no idea why I just up and left, or why they don't hear from me. The violence I endured at home went unnoticed outside.

    Many people do try to contact their parents, to get some love or understanding. In my case I also wanted the later years of their lives to be better. What they did has affected me in many ways. I can't imagine that I shall ever contact them again. I simply don't want any more trouble.

  9. Tina-Boomerina

    Jay,

    That's a horrid story, but I have been through estrangement with my parents and with my own children.

    All I can say is that you should let it ride for a while and try again in a year or two. Then, just keep trying every few years.

    If you keep trying, then you will know you have done everything you could on your part. I understand the frustration but I don't know if your pain will ever go away. Many parents would rather be in denial than to admit they ever did anything wrong.

    I am so sorry.

    Tina

  10. Jay

    That's a helpful reply. I thought for many years that it was just me. You're right, every couple of years, or so should be enough.

    Thank you.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Jay,

      I don't know what else you can do. Maybe you want to talk to a therapist. Sometimes they are helpful, but not all of them are worth the money... still, it's nice to talk it out with someone.

      Wish I knew what to say. You are not alone.

  11. gizzy

    My dad died suddenly almost 4 years ago after being married to my mum for 36 years.
    3 months after she died I found out she was seeing someone else.. My brother and I went to see him and said If you respect my family you will not enter my dads home as I am still struggling with the loss of my dad and that is his home and I do not want to see you in there. 2 days later he moved in. I don't want anything to do with him he is a freeloader sitting in my dads sofa living in my dads house that he worked all him life to make a home. She came round to mine and we had an argument I asked her to choose and she chose him.. its now been 2 years since I have seen her and she has made a few attempts to contact me texts, Christmas cards but I have told her I want nothing to do with her. It upsets me everytime she tries to make contact and pushes me back to a horrible emotional place I have been trying to get away from as I have technically lost both of my parents and would just like to move on with my life. I would like to ban her from contacting me altogether is there anyway I can do that?

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Gizzy,

      I am so sorry to hear that. I wish I knew what to say. I have a degree in Social Work, but there's nothing that I can think of to help you other than to say this is a very common situation. And, Christmas is the worst time, especially the first few years after a parent has passed.

      Was your mum seeing this man before your dad's death or did he just jump in to take advantage of the situation? Did she know this man from before (through work or through church) or did she find him online or through a blind date?

      I can imagine that your mum was shocked and lonely and used to having a man to help her with decisions and with things around the house, but I hope this man is contributing financially and not just freeloading.

      Unfortunately, I am not a lawyer (solicitor), so I don't know if you can ban your mom from contacting you... and I don't even know if that's really the best thing. It might be.

      I googled the answer, but I'm just passing on information I found on a website. I don't know much about the legalities: http://ask-a-lawyer.freeadvice.com/law-questions/i-have-asked-a-family-mem-61280.htm

      More importantly, I would talk to a mental-health counselor. This isn't to imply there is anything wrong with you, but you need someone to talk to who can help you find the best way to deal with this. You need someone who can ask you specific questions and give you the right answers.

      If you have a priest, rabbi, minister, teacher, parent of a friend, they might be able to help you find a therapist who will talk to you for free or on a sliding scale if you have a limited income.

      In the US, there are hotlines to call:

      http://www.allaboutcounseling.com/crisis_hotlines.htm.

      http://www.psychotherapist.net/crisis-hotlines.htm

      You could try calling one of these numbers and tell them you want to find a psychologist or therapist because you're having a hard time coping with all the stuff that's happened in your life.

      If you are not in the US (or if that website doesn't help), try googling "crisis hotline" or "crisis services" or look on your local government website for counselors.

      Another person who would be able to help you find a therapist or psychologist would be your family doctor. Just call the doctor's office and ask for the names of counselors they recommend. (They should have a list.) If you don't have a doctor, you might be able to find the names of some good therapists by calling your local hospital. (I'm not sure which department. If nothing else works try the ER department and maybe they can give you some names if they aren't too busy.)

      If you have money to pay for a therapist, you'll have more options. Really, if you get someone good it will help. Or go to your church leader.

      I'm not saying there is anything wrong with you. I would feel the same way in the same situation, but a therapist or counselor might be able to tell you how to ban your parent from you life... or help you cope with this awful situation.

      Wish I could do more, but I don't know you. You need to talk to a professional. If you don't want to do any of this stuff, make an appointment to talk to your family doctor. He or she is trained in family issues and he or she will be able to give you a list of therapists.
      hugs,
      Tina

  12. Tullius

    I was an abused boy. I have the documentation to prove it. I took breaks from my parents during the time I saw an analyst to make sense of how to live as an adult and get over what happened. I was and continue to be shunned by many family members who considered my parents to be above reproach. I was always honest about taking a break and always apologized for the distance when I returned. By the time I was 30 years old, I understood my PTSD and learned to live well in spite of the poor prognosis I entered adulthood with. And, I forgave my parents. We enjoyed a very good relationship (22 years with Dad and 34 years with Mom). I never even thought of cutting them off or ignoring them. I loved them too much. I don't believe that anyone abuses their children on purpose. It is difficult to explain abuse.

    I was married for 8 years. We were divorced 27 years ago. We had two wonderful daughters. I enjoyed being their father very much. We had good times and they were well cared for. I never laid a hand on either one. I am estranged today. I believe that their mother campaigned for my estrangement and won. But, I also made my share of mistakes with my daughters. I have moved on. Too much time has passed. I just figure that my mistakes mean very much to them. I consider it a loving act to accept that they don't want anything to do with me.

    It hurts sometimes. I want to be their father. I am able to help them. But, I love them too much not to simply accept that they don't want me in their lives.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Tullius,

      That is a truly sad story, but I am happy to hear that there are people as forgiving as you in the world.

      I am sure your ex's entire family turned your kids against you. It's so very common. But, there's not much you can do about that. What you can do is write loving letters to your daughters every now and then... (have someone neutral look them over to make sure you're not saying anything bad about their mom or whatever). If they throw the letters away, they throw them away. Maybe they will read them. Maybe they won't.

      I'm not a therapist, so keep that in mind, but I think that sending a letter with a birthday card or a Christmas card or an Easter card would be perfectly appropriate if done with a happy heart. I'm sure your children love you on some level. They may not figure it out until it's too late.

      Tina

  13. Kelly

    My daughter stopped calling me in July without a reason. As any imperfect parent but did the very best I could for her, I'm stumped over why she wouldn't talk to me. This was right around the time my father became terminally ill and I called to let her know. I would have assumed she'd be supportive but she has not even reached out to him.
    I made a lot of sacrifices for her and am angry that she could treat me this way.
    I'm moving on, but it still hurts.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Kelly,

      That is terrible. It breaks my heart to hear your story.

      I wonder if there is a reason your daughter isn't calling. New boyfriend? Relatives talking crap behind your back. Depression on her part? Different job?

      You have to move on, but you always have to leave the door open a little in case your daughter changes her mind and realizes that you are one of the only people in her life who is TRULY on her side.

      I've gotten one of my daughters back and the other one is much closer to being my daughter again. I imagine there's always some reason why a child stops talking to a parent. It may take years to discover the reason, and it may be a reason that the child can't verbalize, but I suspect there is usually a reason. The reason may be without merit or it may be something you would never guess in a million years.

      I wish I knew the magic words.

      Tina