Why adult children estrange from their parents

I lived in an unhealthy family for the majority of my life, but I wasn't on the receiving end of their dysfunction until I became an adult, entered a relationship and started my own family. I didn't make the choice to walk away from my family overnight. 

For most people, it is unimaginable for an adult to stop all contact with their family. A family who provided food, clothes, a roof over their head or looked on proudly at school plays don't deserve to be abandoned because they made a few simple parenting mistakes, right?


Dysfunction, especially when combined with abuse does not end once a child reaches adulthood. In fact, because this child now has their views, opinions, life it can magnify the treatment. 

I am one of those people who recognised slowly what was happening to me. I didn't make the choice to walk away from my family overnight, I am not happy I have no relationship with them. I wish it were different, but it isn't. 

If my mother had been willing to really listen to what I had to say, respect and consider it, the outcome would have been entirely different. Yet as I have learned in my journey to understand and heal, I am not alone. It is not uncommon as you would think that people go no-contact with the very people who raised them. 

Over the past couple of years, I have had people question my decision, question if the treatment was really that bad and even question if my mother knew my reasons because I had never actually explained. The truth is I have repeatedly told my family why - they have just chosen to ignore it. My mother recently tweeted "When ppl walk away from family situations it's because they don't like the truth. And the truth hurts" - She couldn't have gotten it more correct if she had intentionally tried! 

Here had 5 reasons why adult children end their relationship with their parents. 

1. The parent refuses to apologise

The refusal to apologise is a red flag! It allows someone to justify their hurtful actions whilst blurring reality. Time and time again I tried to make them understand a different perspective, but my family failed to see their own culpability. A term that is known as gaslighting (making somebody question his or her sanity, memory & perception) was repeatedly enforced. Numerous times they tried to force me to apologise and "mend" the situation, their reasoning "You know what your mum is like". When we hurt somebody, we are taught to apologise without justification. "I'm sorry, please forgive me" is simple and enough. Adding "but" means forget everything I have just said. 

2. Overbearing and undermining grandparenting.

There is a huge difference between parenting and grandparenting, Your days of making all the decisions are over. An important fact to remember a grandparents role is to give unconditional love and guidance but it is a privilege NOT a right. Be thankful for the time you are given with your grandchild(ren) rather than resent what you think you deserve. 

  • Demanding to have your grandchildren for certain events or visits is not ok. Ask don't demand and if you are told No, respect it.

  • Mother's day or father's day is not all about you

  • You are not entitled to "alone time"

  • Checking to see or having an opinion on what clothes they are wearing is not ok.

3. Disrespecting the adult's spouse and spouses family.

Like me, many consider their families behaviour normal until they enter a relationship or marry. Looking at your families behaviour from your significant other's perspective can be eye-opening. 

Parents must respect their adult children and their spouses, including their family regardless of whether they like them or not. Whether you want to admit it or not you are not - nor can you ever be - the most important person in your adult child's life at all times. 

4. Ignoring boundaries

A lack of respect for boundaries is a huge issue in unhealthy relationships. The most important thing to remember is the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem. 

  • Discussing your marital problems with your adult child is wrong and crosses boundaries.

  • Criticising clothing choices, careers, parenting styles is crossing boundaries and it's downright disrespectful.

  • Punishment for making decisions without them

I'd just like to add, I am very well aware those reasons listed above are not the only reasons for estrangements. I have not mentioned trauma or substance abuse which has played a huge part also. I also haven't talked about undiagnosed mental health issues. That being said people do not walk away from families that are healthy. All families have their issues, but functional families talk them through, try to understand one another's perspective, apologise for any hurt or any wrongdoings and move forward. 

Sadly my story doesn't end with a happily-ever-after but I know I made the right decision and I know I am not alone. I am not happy about it, relieved it's over, yes, but I am certainly not happy especially not having a relationship with my grandparents. 

Why adult children estrange from their parents