Why You Should Stop Trying To Reconcile With Your Estranged Adult Child

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Why You Should Stop Trying To Reconcile With Your Estranged Adult Child

Are you one of those parents, who is trying very hard to reconcile with their estranged adult child, but whatever you do, it just doesn’t seem to work?

One of the most common questions I receive from parents in my practice is whether they should keep trying to reach out or just give up.

In general, I think that parents should try to reach out to an adult child for a significant period of time with letters of amends, empathy, and attempting to address their complaints before they stop trying.

However, sometimes giving up is best for everyone. But when?

Here some good reasons when you should stop:

  • You are being threatened with restraining orders.
  • Your adult child says that they need time apart but will be back in contact.
  • Whenever you do reach out, they’re consistently hostile and threatening.
  • All your letters or gifts to them or to your grandchildren are sent back “return to sender.”

While those conditions may seem obvious, many parents feel like they’re being neglectful or abandoning their child if they stop reaching out.

This may be especially challenging for mothers who are often governed by the following convictions:

  • Put yourself last, especially where your children are concerned, including grown children.
  • Give till it hurts.
  • Worrying about your child is part of being a good mother.

The constant cultural transmission is that if you don’t feel all of those things then you’re somehow behaving selfishly, irresponsibly, and unlovingly. That you’re being unmotherly.

Yet, sometimes the most loving, parental action is to allow the distance that your child says they need. You don’t have to commit to it forever. But if things are so inflamed that you’re getting threatened with restraining orders or your gifts are being sent back, then they’re too inflamed for progress to be made by reaching out. 

And even if those conditions aren’t met, but you’re being ignored year-after-year, then discontinuing to reach out is probably best. I typically recommend at least a year. 

Want to know more about the estranged parent-child dynamic? Read 10 Reasons Why Your Grown Kids Don’t Like You

Here’s why discontinuing to try is not only better for your mental health, it’s  sometimes better for a potential reconciliation:

  1. Your estranged adult child may feel like you’re respecting their wishes more.
  2. They may respect you more for not continuing to set yourself to be rejected by them.
  3. It may invite more self-reflection on their part: “Hmm, my mother hasn’t reached out in seven months. Wonder what’s going on?”
  4. It may cause them to miss you. That old saying, “How can I miss you if you never go away?” is sometimes true in families.
  5. It gives the relationship time and space to allow things to become less inflamed.

It’s not easy to stop trying. But sometimes it’s best for everyone.

Joshua Coleman is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written three books: 

  • When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along (HarperCollins, 2007)
  • The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)
  • The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin’s Press, 2004)

His new book: RULES OF ESTRANGEMENT will be released in Nov 2020


Written by Joshua Coleman

Originally Appeared In Psychology Today

It’s only natural as a parent to want to make amends with their estranged children. But sometimes, you might need to take a step back and give them some time to get over all the issues. Giving space to your estranged adult child is sometimes the best thing you can do for them and also improve the chances of a reconciliation.

If you want to know more about why you should stop trying with your estranged adult child, then check this video out below:

Stop Trying Reconcile Estranged Adult Child pin
Why You Should Stop Trying To Reconcile With Your Estranged Adult Child

3 responses to “Why You Should Stop Trying To Reconcile With Your Estranged Adult Child”

  1. a broken hearted grandma Avatar

    i have been so upset my daughter signed away her parental rights when i was fighting cancer. i was just getting over an esophogectomy when my daughter had my first grandson. She barely visited him and CPS was called in. the other grand parents took parental rights of him and i had no say in anything i didn’t even know till it was all over and done. my daughter quit talking to me cause we argue I kept asking her why she wasn’t with her child(thats all i knew is she wasn’t with him) i had no idea this was all going on. we were told after it was all done and over. now she won’t talk to me at all and i don’t get to see him i got to see him a couple of times but i had asked the other grandparents about seeing him regularly and i guess that was a BIG no. i’m so sad now i don’t have a daughter or a grandson that i get to enjoy. he’s over a year old and i missed out on all those fun firsts i don’t get to hear him babble as a baby or watch him walk or crawl or any of that i never got to change his diaper or feed him. IT breaks my heart to know he laid there in the hospital with no one to be with him. I cry over that. and even with all that i still want to love my daughter i want to understand why she did all this but she just won’t talk to me cause we argue and i try to parent her and she won’t listen. i’m so sad i have to walk away from them both but i have no other choice sometimes its not that it’s a better thing to do you just don’t have a choice. I wanted to love my grandson i still cry telling it the way it happened it brings me to tears knowing my daughter walked away from him. if she ever gets to read this i still want to say i love you both my heart is broken i would give anything to hold him and love him and you i guess i just didn’t understand why i fought cancer just to be left in the dark

  2. Dedra Galyon Avatar

    Sometimes nothing works so it is best to move on.

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