Relationship Help: Adult Kids Not Talking to You?

I was on Facebook this morning reading the Mother's Day messages.  Several spoke of their sense of pain and loss that their adult children were no longer communicating with them. It was particular pain of the phone not ringing and the post box empty on Mother's Day.  understand that.

It made me think of a few things that might be part of that conversation and I want to quickly share them with you, just case you or someone you know is experiencing this today. Maybe this post will offer a little relationship help for you: 

  • Our children create the story of their lives, past, present and future. If they think something happened and they think  that it was meant to hurt them, that is the way they want to tell the story. There is nothing you can do but love them from a distance.
  • In the story our children create, there may be real pain, real loss, and real abuse. What I mean by real is that it actually happened just as they remember it.  They may feel very justified in their anger and desire to end communication.  Love them from a distance.
  • If we knowingly wronged our children, ask for forgiveness. If we unwittingly wronged our children by simply doing what we could, or we thought best at the time, ask for forgiveness. Love them from a distance.
  • If we have asked for forgiveness and received no acknowledgement in return, love them from a distance.
  • If we know we did not purposefully or consciously do anything to hurt, bewilder, confuse or endanger our children, yet they insist we did, love them from a distance.
  • If they choose to punish us by withholding our grandchldren, know that the children will grow up and make their own choices. Love them all from a distance.
  • If your children refuse to notice that you are not the same person you were when they were growing up, they are missing an opportunity to know you now. That's unfortunate for all, but, love them from a distance.
  • If your children do not have the perspective or willingness to admit that they were not always the angels they are thinking they were and are, hopefully, sometime before the grave, they will grow up.  Love them from a distance.
  • All we can be is who we are now, and that goes for our children.  If we have moved on, learned, grown and forgiven, great.  If they cannot, love them from a distance.

No matter what, the loving you do from a distance will demonstrate who you are right now. If they are open, they will receive it. If they are not open, you can know that you continue to love them from a distance and wish them well.

Their journey is the one they choose. If they want to spend it looking in life's rear view mirror, so be it. You know that the windshield is a much bigger window to the future than that. Hopefully, they will change their view, but it's up to them.

Release them from who we wish they are and focus on who we are right now.  Be someone who loves no matter what. That's how you create your quality of life!

P.S. If you want to talk about it, we can. CLICK HERE for more information.

Spread the word. Share this post!


  1. Debbie - Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful wisdom, Rhoberta. It has taken many years (and tears) to figure it out for myself 🙂 I manage to live by it most days, and am the happier for it; other days, not so much. May we all find peace in our hearts, and sow it.

    • DrShaler - Reply

      You are so welcome. You’re absolutely right: it is a day-by-day consciousness that allows us to manage with passive-aggressive people, or with our own passive-aggressive tendencies.

      You may find value in my new ebook: Stop! That’s Crazy-Making! Understanding & Managing Passive-Aggressive Behavior. You’ll find it at next week. Brand new!!

      I wish you well.

      Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
      The Relationship Help Doctor

  2. Pingback: I Need Relationship Help | Brandy & The Gang

  3. Diane - Reply

    I’m sure you meant well by this post but their are a couple of points that are insulting to anyone who had a crazy or abusive parent. It implies that if someone remains estranged from their mother, it’s somehow a misunderstanding of what actually transpired in the relationship. Sometimes some children just end up with awful parents, and they are better served by choosing not to have that person remain in their life.

    • DrShaler - Reply

      There are two sides to every relationship. You are absolutely right. I have experienced the pain of a crazy-making, emotionally abusive parent myself. So, I know.

      This post was written very clearly from the point of view of the parent whose children are no longer speaking to them. Children believe they are justified in not speaking to their parents, and they may be, or they may not be, in the eyes of the parent. No story is actually fully accurate, the parents’ or the children’s. No one has the whole story.

      In the post, I wanted to empower parents whose children are not speaking them to know that they have choices regarding what they dwell on. These choices greatly affect the quality of their own lives. If Mother’s Day comes along and the children do not acknowledge their mother, it can be painful. The post was intended to empower the parent to choose a loving point of view, one that will allow them to choose to live from a conscious, loving intention, expressed as who they choose to be right now.

      Perhaps, I will write a post sometime soon about the other side of the equation, loving our crazy-making, emotionally or physically abusive parents from a distance so that our lives are not about the “s/he done me wrong” but from who am I and what I want to be focused on and expressing at this point in my life. As a therapist, I continually see clients whose parents are “taking up a lot of real estate in their emotional lives” because they have not worked through the past pain and moved on to living from their own values and making their lives about demonstrating them.

      Shame and blame are terrible, soul-destroying places to live our lives from. We have the opportunity to choose our focus and demonstrate our current values. We miss that opportunity when we make our lives about how other people have hurt us and how angry we are. Some people use their past pain as a reason for not living their best lives and relationships in this moment.

      Thanks for writing, Diane. Life is always a work in progress, but little progress is made when we are always looking in the rear view mirror!

      Choose to Sow Peace®,

      Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
      The Relationship Help Doctor

      • Dee - Reply

        I know you mean well in your post here, but it does seem to make it sounds as if us adult children are the ones misunderstanding the situation.

        I’m 27 and think it’s time to cut ties with my mom and love her from a distance. She cheated on my dad and left us when I was 12 for an alcoholic and since then has been married and divorced many times. She will toss my brother and I aside in a heart beat for a man.

        At the age of 21 my husband and I bought a house, he already had a house on the market to sell and my mom agreed to rent it out until we sold it knowing we depended on that rental income. Well less than two months later she meets a guy and moves in with him leaving us high and dry.

        My mom didn’t see my during my entire pregnancy. My son is going on 5 and I can probably count on both hands the number of times she’s seen him. And when she does see him she interacts long enough for me to snap a few pictures and that’s that.

        Earlier this year she promised for over a month to come visit me (I live less than two hours away) and she didn’t even bother to call and cancel, she just didn’t show. I was so happy for a month looking forward to spending time with her.

        But what ended it for me is that my brother is going through the hardest time of his life and her biggest concern is it all interfering with her vacation.

        There’s a point it all becomes too much.

        I acknowledge there has been good times too and she has always been there for us (physically) when it really mattered, but she’s emotionally unable to connect and care about anyone but herself. I believe she loves us as much as she’s capable of, like in the way I love my dog, but she is absolutely unable to love her children like a parent is suppose to. I know she’s upset about me not talking to her, our last conversation was me going off on her and letting out a lifetime of emotions, but I needed to say it. I deserve to be able to say my real feelings for once as I have been nothing but a great daughter to her and get nothing in return. She has time to go out drinking with friends and on endless vacations with whatever current man she’s with, but she cannot drive 2 hours to see her daughter and grandson. When I see her it’s because I did the driving.

        So out last phone conversation was her telling me not to call her again until I showed her some respect and I told her respect is earned and so I guess I will never be calling her. She’s left a few voicemails since telling me she loves me and I can tell the sadness in her voice, but it’s not enough. At this point I don’t think anything could be enough. No words or actions can erase a lifetime of all the pain she’s caused us all. And I’m sure she will convince herself that I am the unreasonable one…well so be it. I have a child of my own and the emotional state she puts me in interferes with me being the kind of mother I want to be, so its time to let go for the sake of my son.

        She’s made her choices. Now all she has to show for her life is a lot of financial debt, two grown kids who simply tolerate her, and a grandchild who will never know her.

        It’s not a matter of forgiving her because I have forgiven her for a lot. It’s just that I cannot keep dealing with the emotional punches she throws at me. By the time I forgive her for one thing she’s done many other heartless, self-centered, stupid things.

        I am willing to bet that a majority of the time when an adult child cuts off a parent, it’s for good reason. Parents can’t go through their lives putting their own desires first while putting their kids through hell only to think that their kids should grow up and respect them. No, it doesn’t work like that. My dad isn’t perfect and there is a ton of things parenting wise I disagree with, but I have nothing but love and respect for him because I know he did what he thought was best, no matter how hard it was on him. He gave up his happiness to see that we were okay. He said it wouldn’t have been fair for him to move on while we were hurting so bad.

        So you see, that’s the difference. My dad lives his life trying to repair the damage my mom caused us while mom just kept adding to the pain throughout the years. He put us first and not his own desires, which is where many parents mess up at. They will introduce step and half families without a care as to how that affects their first kids, and yes, more often than not that creates bitterness and pain. Kids don’t get a second chance, so maybe parents shouldn’t either. Or at least not unless it’s done right and with the kids blessing. I can’t imagine seeing my child depressed over a broken family and subjecting him to a remarriage on my part. That’s the problem…parents care too much about their own happiness and often times don’t stop to think about what their kids are feeling. And often times that is why us adult children want nothing to do with our parents, after all they were too busy moving on with their own lives when we needed them the most.

        • DrShaler - Reply


          You’ve thought this out very well for yourself. You’ve been through some very difficult parts of your relationship with your mom and, it seems, nothing is really changing. As an adult, you are absolutely right to take care of yourself and your family and do what is best for them.

          One thing that happens when we make the transition to adult life is that we fail to also allow that, as in this case, your mom is also an adult. Now you have an adult-to-adult relationship. It’s really hard to make that transition when you have been hurt by a parent. You still want your mom to be your parent, or to make up for not being the parent you felt she should have been. Mom was just mom, being the adult mom. You have grown from child to adult and have your own story to tell about the relationship now.

          Really, your mom seems to have been quite consistent as you tell the story. She was consistently looking for love, validation and acknowledgment in relationships with men. She was consistently disappointing to you. She may also have been consistently looking for what she did not receive during her upbringing: validation that someone loved her. As you will have realized now with your son, kids are not always the most loving, respectful creatures on the planet. A woman who has not experienced a loving, respectful, non-abusive childhood herself, often is still looking for validation that she is lovable. Is it possible that your mom fits that scenario and, hence, she seeks male validation? That’s not an excuse. It may be a reality.

          Moms and Dads screw up. You’ve probably already made a mistake or two that your child may harbor, even though you don’t know about it. Your child may have the story completely wrong, but the emotions he associates with it are his. No amount of your telling him that it didn’t happen that way will change his feelings. Why? Because of the way the brain grows. Our brains as humans are not completely developed until sometime in in our early twenties. When we are one to eight years old or so, we are very egocentric–seeing ourselves as the center of the world and the cause of what is going on–and we are running almost entirely on our feelings. So, an event occurs and we feel it. That’s what is real for us. No matter how others tell us it did not happen the way we tell the story, the feelings are there. It happens. But, what we do with the actual information about the story can help us if we let it in. We still have our feelings, but it may allow us to see that others had theirs as well. The story contains more than one person. Each person believes they have the accurate story, yet each has only their part of the story.

          Back to your mom, now. There are many degrees of separation and/or distance you can create. The most important thing to know is that healthy adults clarify, express and maintain their boundaries. For example–and you may have done this–when your mom promised to visit and failed to show up, did you then tell her how much you had been looking forward to the visit, that your child was also excited and that her not coming hurt. Did you go on to say that people you allow to be close to you and your family demonstrate respect, and that would have been shown by keeping the arrangement or cancelling it in a timely manner? Then, if you did that, the next step is to get her agreement to do it that way the next time. Then, if she changes her tactic and behaves respectfully the next time, you all would have taken a step forward. If she failed to live up to the agreement, you would then know that she knew your boundary and had purposefully and consciously ignored the agreement.

          Emotional grown-ups have boundaries that are expressed and maintained. Over-stepping them has consequences. However, if boundaries are not expressed and maintained, it is difficult to have an equitable relationship, with your mother or anyone else. No one is in relationship with a mind reader!

          I am not excusing parents or excusing adult children from the responsibilities and decisions about past life decisions. What I hope you will take from my post is that now you are not a child, you will relieve both you and your mom of your past and create a respectful, hopefully loving relationship as adults, as who you are now, not as who you were not earlier. It may or may not be possible to get closer. One thing, for sure, you won’t get closer–or get the relationship with mom you really want–when the perceived wrongs of the past are continually set between you.

          I had a tough mom, and I know what that feels like. What I decided to do was to come to know myself–my values, vision, beliefs and purpose–and behave accordingly. That meant that I took care of my mom when she got sick and wanted to die at home. We did that. She never did allow herself to tell me she loved me or that I had done well in life. But, and this is a big but, taking responsibility for who I am and behaving accordingly, I have no regrets. It wasn’t what she did or didn’t do (and, believe me, there were very long lists in those two categories), it was who am I and how do I choose to behave.

          I hope you find a way to a well-boundaried, non-blaming relationship with your mom. She’s the only mom you’ll ever have. She may not be the one you would have chosen from The Perfect Moms Catalogue, but she’s the one who delivered you. You may never be close but please find the place that is respectful of yourself AND your mom.

          I wish you well.

  4. cathy - Reply

    What an excellent article. Thanks for giving parents some peace when children choose to go away for awhile.

    • DrShaler - Reply

      Cathy, you are so welcome. I hope it helped some as I know what it all feels like!

      I wish you well.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Log In is required for submitting new question.