What do you do when your children have abandoned you?

As parents we hope that when our children grow up they will understand the sacrifices we made for them and

As parents we hope that when our children grow up they will understand the sacrifices we made for them and maybe even step in to look after us the way we did for them.

Sadly, it doesn’t always play out this way.

There are so many stories of this epidemic… Children who abandon their parents in later life.

Judy is a 67-year-old widower with three children, five grandchildren but hasn’t seen any of them for years.

“I gave birth to three children, but now they are strangers to me. I breaks my heart and I miss them terribly.”

“I have racked my mind to try to work out what I have done that could have justified the abandonment. I am at a loss to what I’ve done or said.”

Judy has now given up trying to contact her children but sill diligently sends presents each year to the grandchildren on their birthday.

There have been multiple reports about parents who are isolated from their adult children and they have all received an overwhelming response from others who say they are both bewildered and saddened by the strained relations with their adult children who they brought up as best they could.

So what is the reason for this epidemic? Does it stem from a specific incident, an argument, a criticism taken the wrong way, the disapproval of a new partner, or perhaps it can be from some unresolved tensions from earlier years?

Or perhaps expectations of parenting have expanded dramatically. Today we see images of perfect families in advertising and these could lead to envy and deprivation if childhood memories do not live up to these ideals. Perhaps the new generation has become too self involved…

Jane who grew up in the 60s jokes “we were grateful if our parents fed, sheltered us and sent us to school, our kids got everything and yet they still want more”.

One father of three children tells of how he and his wife have been cut off and ignored by their eldest son who is now a highly successful businessman. On mother’s day he refused to visit, “We received an hour-long rant on all the things we’d done wrong as parents, including once driving away from him when he was naughty. We did this to all of our children at one stage or another and was quite effective. It taught them a lesson and made them behave better. They turned out ok and we were just trying to do the best we could as parents at the time”.

Some mothers think that childcare might have impacted early bonding. They worry that they left their children in the care of others too early and tarnished the bond between mother and child.

Perhaps it has to do with today’s society, which is busier than ever before, and the shifting dynamic of the family unit. Families are now no longer based on biological connections and we now have more mixed and blended families, gay parenting and friendship groups that converge to become todays family unit.

The tradition of going home for a Sunday roast and other rituals seems to be dissipating in this time of loosening family bonds.

Maybe it has to do with the way we handle conflict? How many criticisms and arguments are held in family units with so many things unresolved, left to stew with resentment over the years.

For whatever reason this lack of interest from some children in reaching out to their parents is having a real impact. Some mothers feel a lack of identity when abandoned by their children. Motherhood was such a large part of their lives and when it is gone there is a big hole.

Ruby, who has also had also been abandoned by her daughter, has decided to give up contacting her children and grandchildren. “I just started to feel like a stalker and have now decided to get on with my life”.

“Of course it still hurts, but I keep myself busy. I have joined a quilt club and practice yoga and dancing,” she said.

Ruby recalls with angst her own mother who she left in England to migrate to Australia.

“I used to receive letters from her all the time, letting me know how much she missed me and how sad she was not seeing the children grow up. I now know how she feels”.

“Sometimes that is just the way life turns out and we just have to make the most of what we have,” she said.

Can you relate to this experience? Do you or anyone you know have a strained relationships with your/their family?

  1. Gary seen  

    Judy I have finally given up trying to be the reason my three daughters took it upon them selves blame me for our problem why even one sent me a letter telling me what a terrible father I was because I did not ring her on Father’s Day go figure that logic I’m sure like me you still think off them.daily.and you don’t stop loving them I do wish I could see the grandkids but I do sneak a look any chance I get on Facebook that’s always nice Still I have a policy now no Rearvison mirrow don’t look back

  2. [email protected]  

    Wounds within families are the hardest to heal. Families are a minefield of power plays, strained relationships, pride, resentments and hurts with origins decades old, torn allegiances between blood relatives and life partners, the desire to protect oneself and loved ones from ongoing mental anguish, and the list goes on.

    All that can be done is to make an honest and non-accusing approach to the estranged family members, perhaps by letter is best, saying that you really want to work at repairing the relationship and asking if they may be willing to agree to taking the first steps with you in that direction. If they agree, then take it gently from there … but if they are unwilling to do so, then they have their reasons and you have to accept that decision.

    Either way, it’s important to make a happy life for yourself. Fill it with activities you love and people who enhance your life. Of utmost importance, in the interests of your own well-being, try to let go of any feelings of bitterness and resentment.

    Remember the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

  3. Parent child relationships are pretty complex especially when adult children express a range of emotions about childhood memory issues. There is nothing new about this, but what we see today is a sort of numbing in the relationship – like it’s okay to forget they exist. One interesting thing I see is that in third world countries the conflict also exists, but duty to the parents welfare is stronger than the smaller problems. No one is perfect and parents are people we know a lot about, so they are usually glaring in their imperfections. In those poorer countries some fathers can be pretty bad and brutal, but still the family holds . What I see is that it’s okay and mom has her pension and in Australia people mind their own business, whereas in many simple third world villages it’s a brave son who forgets about his mom. What I’m saying is that the negative emotions have always been there, but today we live in a world where relationship breakdown has become acceptable.

  4. Kaye Gordon  

    Isn’t it such a shame – I had two beautiful sons you I adored & worked two jobs to keep as their father left when they were very young & in the days when ‘Child support’ had to go through the courts & I couldn’t afford to go there! We lost our house & everything we owned – & now at their ages of 46 & 43 I’m the bad egg! Their charmed Father is the love of their lives & when it’s MOther’s Day (joke), my birthday (joke), I think in possibly 26 years I haven’t received a card, call, hug, love etc.

    We now have two grandsons (5 & 7) & I can’t ever remember going out with them (& their parents) for lunch, breakfast, come over for dinner – come to our house for dinner etc. etc.

    I think the old saying goes ‘ a son’s a son till he has a wife – a daughter’s a daughter all of your life’! I don’t seem to know what I have done either only seem to fill my sons & their partners with total animosity. I suppose I would you kindly wish that ‘what goes around comes around’!

    My daughter-in-law with the two grandsons – whenever I see her & my cherished grandson (which is not very ofter) seems to spend most of the time either rolling her eyes at me, sighing or looking totally exasperated!

    Yes & the Sunday roasts have certainly gone out the window – I have asked them numerous times over the year but the reply goes ‘we’ve got our own food’!!!

    I do believe that the grandchildren certainly miss out on so much love, time & care & the parents really don’t seem to care!

    • Jane smith  

      It was done to me. But the grandparents. That could not be bothered. With my grandchildren. Now have plenty of money I helped the so much. I have done. They go,on holidays. With them
      Me the. Don’t even see. My son and daughter in law are separated. My sons new girl friend. Will not let me or his kids there. To ther house. What hurts I have a disabled daughter. She does not understand. All I did. For them. They turn their backs when I need them. I am almost 70 with very bad arthritis. Can just walk. I found each day my heart harders to them. For the pain they cause.

  5. Jane smith  

    I know it hurts brought up three children went with out. Cared for my grand
    Kids like they where mine lost. My house. Even my 2nd husband. Lent them money they said jump I did. Now they are adults. They don’t care. If I am dead or alive.
    Only my daughter. Because she as. A mild intellectual Disability needs 24 /7
    I would never do that to my mum they go to the. Highest. Bidder the person that can
    Pay for holidays. Or give them money. They forget I gave them my life savings to help them when. They needed it. Hurt yes I am. It gets to a point. Where. You want to run from the hurt. And pain they cause you

  6. Jeaniesue Rogerson  

    Thankyou for sharing this article..I thought that it must have just been me who has no contact with her three older children ( to my first marriage) ..I have a daughter to my second marriage and could not ask for a more wonderful and loyal person..have cried many tears over the older ones but not anymore! Have been remarried for over 38yrs and without my hubbys support and my daughter and two beautiful grandsons by my side I could not have coped. It has been eight years since any contact with the three (now adults) other children and I want it to stay this way..too late for contact now..too many hurtful things said..I am after all just human..I had my first child at sixteen and three altogether by the time I turned 21yrs..not easy!My first husband was a violent man..had I stayed I have no doubt that he would have killed me! BUT..I never told the three children about the reasons for the marriage breakdown…they apparently see him all the time…C’est la vie..life is too short for regrets.

  7. ione reason we gave them to much never said no ,gave them uncoditional love all they do is take take take .they never accept responaibilty for there own failings .yes its our fault we happened to love them

  8. Dean Scott  

    Well I know for one my mother continuely abandons me. I certainly know what sacrifices she has made like most parents!..,, it’s your job as you’ve brought life into this world!….so why let it be known! Are you trying the guilt tact?!….
    If my mother wasn’t such a dictator , forcing views & wasn’t so judgmental things would be different!…. I’ve been there for my mum for many years but refuse to be treated like this!
    Maybe mothers should have a close look at themselves and what role they are really playing in this situation!
    To me this is nothing more than a poor old victim story!!…

    • Jessica Gray  

      You sound very bitter, so I feel sorry for you. However, these people are NOT victims at all, and you have judged them harshly. They are just humans who still love their children, and have no way of even seeing their own Grandchildren in many cases. Mainly it is through know fault of their own as well.

    • Debbie  

      Dean Scott, I think your comment “Maybe mothers should have a close look at themselves and what role they are really playing in this situation! To me this is nothing more than a poor old victim story!!…” is very selfish and should not be branded to all mothers. I think many would agree that the Children of today including Adults carry the “IT’S ALL AOBUT ME” attitude and if you criticise them in anyway shape or form the kids think you are a bad parent. We’re not bad parents it’s just that you kids need to toughen up and grow up, deal with the situations that come your way. Not everything goes according to how YOU want it. Your in the real world now, you need to learn respect. You may not like your parents but you do need to RESPECT them. Life is too short to be filled with hatred and sadness in your life…….you’re a long time dead.

  9. Kate  

    These children come back sadly to get there share of the inherentence when the parent passes on very sad

  10. Belinda Nielsen/Taylor  

    Yes I too know the pain of my adult children’s abandonment and it breaks my heart. I have grandchildren I have never seen or met. I yearn for a hug from them all but at the same time I am living my life as best I can.

  11. Joan Marshall  

    My second son hardly sees me I have to go to him. It breaks my heart to think if only he knew all I went through for both my sons after I divorced my husband who was a terrible man. I worked so hard to give them a decent life of education, love, example and good standards and this is all I get. My older son tells me it is privilege to have me as his Mother he tells me i am a shining example of a human being who always put them first and still do. The younger son is rebellious and lives in a strange world but he may regret it all one day or he may not. Each child so different.

  12. Mary  

    A recent article re the damage ‘helicopter’ parents are doing to their children links to this epidemic I think. We tried so hard to be the ‘good parent’ that some of our children got a large dose of ‘over-entitlement’ which has tragically influenced the way they ‘remember’ their parents during childhood and adolescence. The increased focus on childrens needs has in some ways exacebated this despite the intention to protect children and young people. With an increased focus on today’s parents needing to meet every ‘need’ and ‘desire’ of their children I think many parents will find to their dismay that once their children reach a certain stage they too will be ‘cast off’ and very likely in much larger numbers than is happening to us. It is a pity that many of these young parents ‘know best’ and won’t listen to the wisdom of their elders. In the mean time those of us who have been ‘cast off’ must not allow this to dictate our lives. There is still a lot off satisfaction and joy in the world if we seek it.

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