Has your child grown up, moved away, and now doesn’t talk to you anymore? Maybe they are at college or have a family of their own now. Regardless of what the circumstances are and how the estrangement happened, you feel like you are left on the outside looking in at their life. You are no longer the most important thing in their life, far from it. You have been completely shut out of their life. You feel alone now with no purpose in life. In your mind you can remember holding them in your arms, so small and helpless.They needed you for everything: Food, love, shelter. You got unconditional love from them you thought that would never change.

Now, you find yourself estranged from your adult children

Now it’s all changed, suddenly the bond is broken. It hurts. It hurts bad. And they don’t seem to care. You think they maybe even find power over you by cutting you out of their life. You sit silently on the sidelines waiting for them to come back to you like they did when they were a child. When the love was unconditional. But, it’s not unconditional anymore. When the ties that bind you unravel a parent grieves.

It has been named “the silent epidemic.” Many parents are too proud to disclose they are no longer in touch with their adult children. There are no official counts of parents whose adult children have cut them off, but evidence suggests it’s on the rise. Websites and chat rooms devoted to the issue are also on the rise.

Many parents don’t seem to understand what day it all went wrong. They wonder if their adult child is on drugs, under the influence of a cult, or being controlled by other people. Parents rarely look at their own behavior to explain why their adult children have become estranged.

The parent-child relationship is usually hierarchal with the parent in the more dominant relationship and the child in the more submissive relationship. This is good when the child is small or is not capable of making decisions for himself/herself. But as the child becomes a teenager, there is change in the relationship between the parent and child.

When the child becomes a teenager, he/she is no longer classified as a child but as a young adult. Many parents view their children’s adolescence as dangerous territory because their child can no longer be “controlled” which results in a contest of wills. Adolescence is a time when there is breakaway from the parents.

When a person becomes an adult, he/she no longer needs the parents so much. He/she is hopefully independent enough to make their life decisions. Many parents are afraid to let go of their children, insisting on treating them in age inappropriate ways or controlling certain aspects of their lives. Many adult children of these “overparenting” parents leave their parents never to see them again.

Furthermore, many parents have issues with drug and alcohol abuse, personality disorders, financial problems, divorce and relationship problems with their own parents and friends, anger and rage issues and even violence and sexual abuse issues. When children are small and dependent, parents can usually get away with maintaining control over them, but once a child becomes an adult, the consequences become evident.

During the past thirty years, more and more adult children have been pointing out childhood abuse and confronting their parents. Usually the parents want to deny everything and force the adult child into the image they created for them when they were utterly dependent, helpless, and blaming themselves for the abuse. The parents want that unconditional love back. They are getting older and their bad habits (alcohol, drug, food abuse, etc.) are making them sick. They had always expected their children to grow up and take care of them in old age and now they’re afraid it won’t happen.

Until parents can take responsibility for why their adult children have cut off contact, they can only expect to continue grieving, confused and wondering what happened.

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