why kids abandon parents

Why do children abandon their parents? 8 Reasons for Estrangement

Many people wonder why children abandon their parents. There are many reasons why this might happen, and it is important to understand why estrangement happens before you can address the issue. In this blog post, we will explore 8 different reasons why adult children have a hard time reconciling with their parents, plus tips for how to repair these relationships.

8 Reasons for Parent/Child Estrangement 

It’s difficult to think about an adult child abandoning their own parents. But it happens. Here are 8 common reasons for parent/child estrangement.

The parent’s relationship with the adult spouse is strained.

If a child has to choose between their spouse and their parents, they will choose their spouse. They’re building a life with the person they’ve chosen as their partner, and if the parents cannot get along with that person, they’re most likely going to be cut out of the relationship altogether.

The parent refuses to respect the adult child’s parenting choices.

It’s extremely common for parents to criticize their children’s parenting choices. They might say “Well, this is how I did it and you turned out fine!” These are not valid arguments. Your parents raised children at a different time in history, and we know so much more about child-rearing and child development today. Parents who refuse to respect their adult child’s parenting choices might be cut out for the sake of the grandchildren.

The parent was a terrible parent.

Parenting skills are learned. Some people never learned to be good parents. If the child has bad childhood memories, they might not want the parent around as a reminder. Bad parents can turn into bad grandparents, and the child might be trying to save their own children from their parents.

RELATED: Why are my parents so strict? 8 Signs your Parents are too Strict

The parent and child no longer share the same values.

If the child makes a change to their foundational life values or principles, they might also cut out the parents who initially introduced them to those values or principles.

For example, if the parents raised their children strictly according to the Catholic religion, but the child grew up and decided to become an Athiest, they might cut their Catholic parents out of their life.

Another example might be politics. If a child was raised in a traditionally Republican house, and they grow up and switch their affiliation to the Democratic party, they might also cut ties with their parents over the change in personal values.

The parent refuses to apologize for a transgression.

Some parents tend to think they can do no harm. And some estrangements happen over a single incident or a series of incidents that the parent refuses to apologize for.

RELATED: Why is my mom so mean?

The parent is a toxic person.

Some people are simply toxic. Kids might distance themselves from parents they find toxic for their own wellbeing. Toxic might be abusive or neglectful. They often have narcissism, borderline personality disorder like narcissism, and/or another mental illness.

RELATED: Do my parents hate me? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

why do children abandon their parents
why do kids abandon their parents

The parent doesn’t respect the adult child’s boundaries

Some parents have boundary issues. They don’t understand why their own child would want to be autonomous and make decisions for themselves. Parents without boundaries might call their children multiple times a day, show up at their home unannounced, and never respect their child’s need for privacy. These children might cut off the parent in order to establish boundaries with them.

RELATED: How to say NO to house guests without feeling guilty

The parent plays favorites among the adult children

Parents often treat all of their children differently, and some children are simply unlucky enough to always be on the losing end of these decisions. Parental favoritism can cause a great deal of conflict in families, especially when one or more siblings are left out.


So, how do you reconcile with your estranged family member(s)? Here are three simple steps you should take.


Conflict is rarely one-sided. And relationships are always a two-way street. Reflect on what you could (and should) have done better in the past. Make a heartfelt apology for your part in the conflict.

Take responsibility

Avoid making excuses or explaining away your behavior. Take responsibility. Own up to the fact that you alone are responsible for your emotions and your behavior. This will go a long way in building back trust.

Set and stick to boundaries

The last, but most important step is to jointly set boundaries. Be specific. What does your child need you to do to resume your relationship? Do they want you to strictly follow their parenting rules for your grandchildren? What are the limits for calling and seeing each other? Do they want more equitable treatment between your children (their siblings)? Find out specifically how your child needs you to behave, and then firmly stick to those boundaries.

The Bottom Line

It’s not always easy to understand why children abandon their parents, but there are a variety of reasons why that can happen. It might be due to bad memories from childhood or estrangement over values and principles. Whatever the reason, the parent/child relationship is valuable and worthy of taking the time to try and repair.

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

Are you ready for more activities to build a rock-solid bond with your kids? Try our Connected Parent Challenge! It’s 15 Days of 15 Minute activities that are sure to improve your connection, diminish bad behavior, and create lasting memories. Plus, I’ll deliver more amazing parenting strategies to your inbox weekly (don’t worry, unsubscribe any time!).

2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.

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