As a parent, one wants to feel loved by those on earth they love most. Of these people, it can be especially painful when one’s own children aren’t exhibiting the love in return that one craves. It is difficult to bear the pain of being ignored by those we not only gave birth to, but that we lovingly raised and watched become the adults that they are today.
So, what can we do about grown children who ignore their parents? Let’s take a closer look.
How Do We Define “Ignoring Parents”?
People often view things through different lenses, and what does and does not constitute “ignoring” is no different. You’ve likely experienced this within your past relations.
How many times has somebody you truly loved and cared about thought that something you said had come across as inconsiderate, rude, or mean when that was never your intention? Even more, would outsiders have viewed your comments or actions being completely normal?
The point here is that the same thing can happen with the concept of ignoring one’s parents. Parents very well may feel that they are being ignored by their adult children while the kids honestly have no idea that A) their parents feel this way, or that B) the number of contacts they are making with their parents throughout the course of a year is not enough for their parents to feel loved.
Case in point would be a very interesting report from CBS News which found that there are wildly different expectations amongst family members as to what constitutes an acceptable number of contacts with loved ones throughout the case of a year.
They found that 35% of Americans think once a week is an appropriate amount of parental contact, 12% think once a month or less is alright, and 24% think that once a day is necessary.
So, is calling your parents once a week ignoring them? Is seeing them once a month ignoring them? It depends on who you ask here.
If we look at the term ‘family estrangement’ though we end up with a more definitive answer. According to research, it is a family connection that hasn’t had any contact within a year’s span. It could also be a relationship in which the parent would give a low rating on the quality of the relationship. Either way, estrangement hurts.
What are the Problems with Ignoring Parents/Adult Children?
Both depression and loneliness are very common amongst older adults. Neither of these lead to positive health outcomes, however. In fact, the direct opposite has proven to be the case. We know that older adults who struggle with depression do indeed experience an overall lowered degree of health.
However, AARP has also demonstrated that roughly a third of those who feel estranged from their adult children have contemplated suicide. That’s how far these feelings of estrangement can take one.
Are There Common Causes of Ignoring Parents?
Absolutely. We can most certainly see that there are common denominators with familial estrangement. Divorce, political differences, religious differences, substance abuse, financial problems, mental health issues, and even differences of opinions on vaccinations can all be potential causes of familial stress.
Stress – if not handled appropriately – can quickly lead to the development of a much larger monster, and this in turn can spawn familial estrangement where adult children ignore their parents. If this is a problem, you’re seeing in your own life you likely already know what some of the root causes are.
However, as research has pointed out there are times that nobody is able to pinpoint what was the initial cause of familial estrangement. All everybody really knows is that it’s just happened.
To help deal with such, let’s see if we can shed further light on what are some of the other issues, we can see causing problems from both the parents’ side and from the adult child’s side.
What are the Causes of Ignoring on the Parents’ Side?
The act of ignoring one’s parents can be the direct result of both parties, but there are times when it is the parents’ actions that are leading to the estrangement taking place.
Divorce is a large reason that these types of feelings can develop. If the child has identified you as the “bad guy” in the family – seeing you as the reason that the divorce – a massive source of pain, anger, and confusion in their own lives – then they are going to respond as such. This may result with ignoring of you being how they choose to respond.
They view you as the bad guy – the destruction of their happy family – and they no longer want any part of you.
There is something to be said for the song Cats in the Cradle as well. Children learn from their parents, and how they were treated as children will largely dictate how they turn out as adults.
These are all factors that will have happened in the past and aren’t things you can change.
However, there are times that what we are doing now can be the cause of problems. You’ve undoubtedly witnessed these factors at play in others’ lives – perhaps even in your own with your parents – and may not realize that it’s taking place in your own life now.
1. Not Understanding that Your Role in Your Child’s Life Has Changed
Though you are still the parent of your child, you are no longer in the same role as you were when they were 2, 8, or even 18 years old. They are an adult now and deserve to be treated as such.
Sure, you have seen more of life than they have – you have wisdom in areas that they do not – but you are no longer the authority on many matters in their life. If you continue treating them as children, they are going to get upset and respond accordingly.
Treat your child as the adult they are. This doesn’t mean that you distance yourself and make things formal. It means that you respect their decisions just as you would anybody else’s.
2. Not Getting Along with Your Son/Daughter-in-Law
This is huge, and many people don’t realize just how much so. Your child’s spouse has a massive influence in their life. Think back on your own marriage. If something made your spouse unhappy, you heard about it on a regular basis, did you not?
If you are the cause of your son or daughter-in-law being unhappy – if they don’t enjoy being around you because of your words, actions, or whatever – they are going to have a massive impact on the number of times your children interact with you.
Don’t be manipulative but do try your best to get along with these people.
3. Undermining Your Child’s Authority Over Your Grandchildren
Your children have the final say over what goes with your grandchildren. Not you. If you are undermining the authority of your children in your grandkid’s life you are only going to create animosity. If your children say that X is nap time, X cannot be eaten before dinner, or that X is a show that is not to be watched and then you go and break every one of these boundaries – because you’re the grandparent, gosh darnit – then you are going to create problems.
You must respect your children’s authority over their own children. They are the final say in those matters and you are not.
4. Coming Across as Judgmental
Whether we’re talking about occupation, parenting decisions, spouse, living arrangements, politics, religions, or whatever, coming across as judgmental is going to do more harm than good. I don’t believe one should sacrifice their values here – for otherwise they are not values – but there is a way to stand fast in what you believe without coming across as judgmental towards those (such as your children) who may not hold the same views.
There is also a time when wrong is wrong and it is time to say so (e.g., drug abuse, spouse abuse, etc.), but there are other issues which are not hills to die on.
Use your discernment and perhaps outside opinion to determine where this line may fall but remember that judgmentalism is not going to create a healthier relationship.
5. You are a Guest in Your Child’s Home. Not the Owner.
Should your child invite you over, this is key to remember. If you were to be a dinner guest at a new friend’s home, walking in and changing things without their permission, criticizing design choices, and so on would be viewed as rude and cause strife.
The exact same happens if you do so with your adult children, particularly if your son or daughter-in-law is around. Blood is thicker than water, and they may not be as prone to being forgiving of your comments and actions as is your own child.
Either way, you need to respect the property and decisions of your children when you are invited over to their home.
What are the Causes of Ignoring on the Kids’ Side?
We’ll mainly focus on the parental causes of such, but kids are not always blameless in this situation. Of the many possible reasons that this family estrangement could be happening, here are two very common situations one will see.
I believe this is likely to be the number one cause here. This is often simply something that is not on the radar of children. They don’t realize how important it is to show love to their parents – to show that they care.
2. A Feeling of a Lack of Time
Society is at a faster pace than it ever has been before. Bosses can now access their employees 24/7, kids’ schools are filled with extracurricular activities which require a lot of driving, and many have to work a side job just to make ends meet.
As a result, many simply feel that they don’t have the time to contact their parents.
How Can You as the Parent Help to Bridge this Gap?
We’ll mainly focus on the parents’ options here as they will hold a large part of the answer.
1. Be Willing to Forgive
Being ignored comes with feelings of pain, anger, and resentment. You raised your child from the get-go. They will never truly understand the things that you have done for them – the sacrifices that you made. Research has shown that they’ll never love you as much as you love them.
And yet despite all of this, you must be willing to forgive. It is the only way that you are going to be able to heal. It is necessary for the bridging of the gap that has been created. It is the accomplishment of the parent who loves their child so much that they are even willing to overlook their own hurts – even those caused by those they love most on this earth.
If you cannot forgive the pain that they have caused you – if you cannot let your love for them supersede such – you will not be able to bridge this gap.
2. Apologize When Necessary
A simple apology can go a long way. It shows that there is a recognition that wrong has been done or that hurt has been caused (even if unintentionally). It shows that there is true love there that wants to move past the hurt that has been caused. It shows humility.
Humility, love, and observance of feelings all show love for another. In the case of your adult child, they still desire all of these from you. They still want to know that you care for them. Sometimes it takes the manly act of apologizing to let it be known that you still do.
3. Stop the Vortex
Downward spirals are often the destroyer of relationships. The catalyst occurs, the other party reacts, the original party reacts to that, and down and down it goes.
Have enough love for your child to be the brick wall that stops this downward spiral, shattering it. If they aren’t reaching out and contacting you, you still stay in touch with them (while simultaneously respecting boundaries). If they aren’t sending letters or gifts in the mail – something you would love – then you do so to them.
When they are hateful, you be patient and loving.
A parent is willing to fight for their children. Even when the child is acting as the aggressor, a parent’s love supersedes this, willing to fight for the relationship.
How Can You as the Adult Child Help to Bridge this Gap?
In many ways, the same factors that help the parent will help the adult. Forgiveness, patience, mercy – these all matter for those on both sides of the equation. However, there are some adult children’s specific things that can be done to bridge the gap of estrangement, helping you to better ensure that your parents do indeed feel the love that you harbor in your heart for them.
1. Mark On Your Calendars Time to Check on Your Parents
We live in a busier world than our parents ever did. Many older parents don’t understand the world of travel soccer leagues, gym time, busy work schedules, side jobs, family time, and so on.
Yet despite this, you need to make time for your parents. Factor in time into your calendar to contact them. Whether it’s visiting weekly, calling, sending letters, or inviting them on family vacations, have the love to carve out the time.
If anything, your own children will watch this and model their future behavior towards you off how they’ve seen you interact with their grandparents.
2. Read The 5 Love Languages
- Northfield Publishing
- Chapman, Gary (Author)
This book will not only help you with your relationship with your spouse and children, but it will help you to better interact and understand your parents as well. Your relationship with them has changed, you still want them to feel loved, and part of that requires understanding how they feel loved.
Perhaps that’s taking them out to dinner. Maybe it’s shipping them something cool in the mail that made you think of them. Whatever it is, reading this book will help you to discover it.
3. Create Family Time
You are the patriarch or matriarch of your own family. Live up to it. Part of that means you have the responsibility of ensuring people in your family feel loved, and it has often been pointed out that the way to spell love is T-I-M-E.
As research shows, family time can help to prevent depression. So, find ways to do such. Celebrate birthdays in person, go on vacations, have meals at nice restaurants, and invite each other to the kids’ sporting events.
Find ways to create the family time.
Being ignored by one’s own children is incredibly painful. But it does not have to be the end. There are things that you can do as a parent to help to bridge the gap and put an end to the estrangement. Hopefully, you will find the above tips and research helpful.
But what are your thoughts? Is there more you would add here? Let us know in the comments below!