Love, Always

What to do… when your grown-up child doesn’t want a relationship with you.

You raised your child. You love your child. Now, your child is all grown up…

And all you want is to enjoy a healthy, happy, mature relationship with them.

Only problem is…

Your kid doesn’t seem to want the same kind of relationship with you.

Or maybe…

Your kid wants absolutely nothing to do with you.

Right up there with death, divorce and adultery, this is probably one of the most devastating experiences that a human being can go through.

It’s so easy to assign blame. “After all I’ve done for you… this is the thanks I get!”

And it’s equally tempting to blame yourself. “I screwed up. I was a terrible excuse for a parent. No wonder my kid hates me.”

If this is something you’re going through, as a parent, my heart goes out to you.

There’s so, so, so much I’d love to share with you about how to resolve the emotions that might be pummeling through you. (If you want to talk, in private, I’m here. I’d be honored to support you.)

But for now, in the limited space on this blog, I have just a few words to share.

I hope that these reminders bring you some comfort.

Comfort, or even… hope.

1. Deep down, very possibly, your child is craving your acceptance. This begins with your acceptance of where your child is at, right now. No matter how painful this may be for you, it may very well be the first step in repairing your relationship.

2. If you want to start a conversation with your child about what’s going on, do it with care, compassion and love. First, ask if it’s OK to open up that kind of conversation.

“I’m aware that you don’t seem to want a relationship with me and I respect your feelings, but I really would like to talk about it. Can I please talk to you about this?”

3. If your child says, “No, I’m not open to talking about it”… respect that. If you don’t respect your child’s decision, you’ll probably be giving them another reason to resent you. Let it go. Perhaps you can try to open the door again later, but for now… let it go.

4. If your child does give you permission to talk about the relationship, it’s best to calmly, simply and briefly say what you want to say. Don’t justify or blame. Just express what you want.

“I would like to have a happy, healthy, loving relationship with you. Are you open to mending what’s hurting, and co-creating that kind of relationship… together?”

5. In order to express yourself calmly, you will probably need to vent and release the strong emotions you’re holding inside, privately and safely, before you talk to your child. Otherwise it’s likely to be difficult, if not impossible, for you to stay calm during the conversation.

6. It’s important to grieve your loss — even if it’s only a temporary one. Let yourself cry about it. It’s OK. Of course, if the grief is interfering with your life, career or other relationships, get help from a professional.

7. It’s important to forgive yourself. You did the best that you could with the skills that you had, then. As Oprah’s mentor, the late Maya Angelou, so accurately put it: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

8. Honor yourself for giving your child the gift of life. Be the mother (or father) that you truly are. Be unconditionally loving. Love your child, no matter what. Accept your child, no matter what. Bless them and wish them well. Believe in their ability to heal whatever is ailing them… and when they do, be there waiting… with open arms and a loving heart.

Until then…

9. Keep the love burning, inside.


10. Keep hope alive.


PS. Have you made a change for the better (as a parent or otherwise,) once you learned a better way?  

  1. Thank you for this. I can relate and I don’t take “no” for an answer well. Grateful for the reminder to be more accepting.

  2. Tried to have a calm talk recently, but we both exploded. That’s what always happens. I’ll try clearing feelings before talking, like you say in #5.

    • Hi Belinda: Explosions in these types of situations are so common — venting ahead of time, safely, can prevent the later derailing of a conversation (derailing tends to happen when people are verbally “upchucking” on each other…).

  3. I’m not in this situation (that goodness), but I have two relatives who are at war. This will be in their inbox first thing in the morning.

  4. The change I made for the better once I learned better was to see the cup half full with my relationship with my adult child, instead of half empty.

    And I started using that more positive, grateful outlook in other areas of my life to and it made a big difference.

  5. Dr. Gelb:

    This is lovely. As a child who severed my relationship with my mother (and my father opted to “go” from my life at her insistence), I appreciate that you are giving advice on how to mend bridges and/or accept the loss.

    My mother’s attempts at apology were full of blaming and a refusal to accept her role in the breakdown of our relationship. I love my broken mother; I just can’t have a healthy relationship with her. That others be kind and accepting of her loss, and that she can be kind to herself is all I can ask for.

    • Hi J:

      Thank you for sharing, especially your deeply caring, heartfelt request: “That others be kind and accepting of her loss, and that she can be kind to herself is all I can ask for.” So beautifully expressed.

  6. “9. Keep the love burning, inside. 10. Keep hope alive.”

    Thank you for these words. My son is on his own [misdirected] path, that’s excluding much of the people and happenings from his past, including me and his mom. I think he’ll come around, eventually. But for now and today, your 9 and 10 especially are helping us to focus on love instead of blame and futility. That feels so much better.

    • Hi Ben: You’re welcome. So glad to hear that, for your & your wife, love & hope are fueling your day.

  7. I’m experiencing a time right now where I’m just not part of my oldest daughter’s life — after having been very close. This blog has helped me to accept the situation rather than feel angry or sad, which is how I had been feeling. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Karen: Thank you for sharing your comment during this tender time. I am so pleased that this blog has helped. :)

  8. What I once dreaded: making a mistake, I now recognize as an effective method of learning. After all, everyday is a learning experience and filled with the opportunities to grow.

    I also realize my limitations and there are times it pays (figuratively and literally) to get a professional. Plumbing is an area that could get me in HOT WATER. I would rather DROWN in a mountain of bills than turn into a prune in a homemade river of water, and turn my bed into a flotation device.

    • Hi Ron: So good to hear that you’ve found a comfortable balance between being kind to yourself if you make a mistake, and reaching out for help when a “mistake” is inevitable.