When Should Parents Give Up On an Estranged Adult Child?

ambiguous loss

The question of whether and when to give up on a relationship with an estranged adult child is a painful one. It’s also difficult to answer. As much as it hurts to be estranged from your child, continually hoping for reconnection invites another kind of suffering. There can be a fine line between hope and …

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Episode 43: How Can They Do This After Calling You the Best Parent Ever?

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Some of the cards and letters sent in the past from now-estranged adult children to their then-admired parents express the most beautiful sentiments you’ve ever heard. “To the world’s best mom…” “Thank you for being there for me, Daddy.” “I will love you forever.” How on earth did these same adoring adolescents become the silent, …

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Who “Owns” the Problem of Estrangement?

If your adult child has distanced himself from you and/or other family members, it’s tempting to think of this as a problem that belongs to him. After all, he’s the one who created the estrangement by refusing contact. So doesn’t he, in some sense, “own” what’s happening? That thinking is understandable, and it makes sense …

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Episode 27: Estrangement Hurts, But Not on Purpose

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There’s no question that estrangement from an adult child is painful for rejected parents. But many parents suffer even more than necessary, because they believe their child is willingly hurting them. Nobody wants to think of their child as heartless, cruel, mentally ill, easily brainwashed, or any of the other qualities often attributed to people …

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Episode 25: Estrangement… A Phase of Development?

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Although estrangement from family isn’t normal for young adults, a normal phase of development can contribute to your child’s need for distance. In this episode, Tina briefly explains individuation and differentiation, and why these natural processes sometimes require distance from family. More importantly, she talks about specific steps you can take if you suspect your …

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Episode 24: Yes, There Is Such a Thing as a Hopeless Case

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“What if my child never speaks to me again?” This is the worst fear for many a parent who’s estranged from their adult child(ren). Few cases of parent-adult child estrangement are truly hopeless. But there are three situations that just might have you making your peace with never reconciling. In this episode, Tina discusses three …

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Why Adult Children Cut Off Parents They Used to Say Were Wonderful

If your estranged adult child once gave you a greeting card addressed to #1 Mom or Dad, you might be confused. How did you go from being the best parent ever to being rejected by your child? It happens. The child who won’t return a parent’s texts today is the very same one who wrote …

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Episode 22: Stages of Estrangement

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Not every parent estranged from their adult child (or children) is in exactly the same place, emotionally or spiritually, during the estrangement. From observation, Tina hypothesizes that parents go through five predictable stages. And just like the stages of grief observed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, not everyone goes through all of them, and the stages don’t …

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Episode 11: How Often Should You Reach Out to an Estranged Adult Child?

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The question of how often to reach out to an estranged adult child is probably one of the top concerns of rejected parents. That’s mostly because they’re in a hurry to resolve the situation, which is understandable. They want to know how soon they can try again. If you’re feeling anxious about when you can …

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Episode 8: Don’t Take the Blame, Do Take Responsibility

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Taking responsibility is not the same as accepting blame. Blame is punitive, destructive, and a dead end. Responsibility, on the other hand, is constructive. Responsibility says, “I’ll take on this challenging task!” Taking responsibility for your relationship with your estranged adult child is an intentional act that puts you in the driver’s seat. If you …

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Your Circle of Control

circle of control

We all have people, circumstances and events that affect and concern us. Let’s call that group of items our “circle of concern.” Our personal circles of concern may overlap, but what concerns one person might not concern another. For example, any kind of legislation affecting mental health professionals in Colorado and Oregon will fall within …

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Is Your Estranged Child on a Power Trip?

Our next podcast episode will look more closely at the behavior of estranged adult children to determine whether they’re getting some sort of thrill out of pulling you this way and that. In the meantime, I’ve written an article over on PsychologyToday.com about an alternative interpretation of power-hungry-seeming behavior in general. When it comes to …

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Episode 1: Why Time is Your Friend

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Most estranged parents feel like time is a thief, stealing opportunities and happiness while they’re estranged from an adult child. This makes parents feel a bit desperate, so they reach out in ineffectual ways. But the reality is, you can only do so much. You can’t push the river. Fortunately, in addition to be a …

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Why Apologize? And How to Do It Well

Well over half of all estranged adult children, according to one website, would like to receive an apology from the parents they’ve rejected. Of course, many of those parents would appreciate receiving an apology themselves. Their hearts are broken by what feels like callous disregard and disapproval from their estranging children. This creates a dilemma. …

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These 4 Things Affect How Long You’ll Be Estranged

How long does estrangement last?

I’m often asked how long estrangement between parents and their adult children typically lasts. Although there’s a wide range of answers from a few research studies, there’s nothing that can tell you how long you and your child(ren) will be separated. The one thing we’re pretty sure of, I’m pleased to tell you, is that …

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Is Your Estranged Adult Child a Narcissist?

“Narcissist.” It’s a loaded word, tossed back and forth between estranged adult children and their parents. Adult children cite parental narcissism as the reason for necessary cut-off. Rejected parents on the other hand wonder if narcissism is keeping their child from taking perspective, or caring about the wounds they’re inflicting. This latter assumption is the …

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No Contact Means No Contact

Reach out at your own risk

Most estrangements I hear about are not symmetrical. The adult child maintains silence, either partial or total, while the parent reaches out regularly, trying to keep some connection alive. It’s very one-sided. I often hear, especially from parents of 20-somethings who’ve disappeared on them, “But it’s been a year. How long can this continue?” It …

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