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How to Handle Your Adult Children’s Disapproval of You

Honey good writing how to Handle Your Adult Children's Disapproval

 

“Honor thy father and thy mother,” -The Ten Commandments

How to handle your adult children’s disapproval is a tough area to discuss.

Estranged relationships between an adult child and parent are almost always skewed but if I were to pick one reason for an adult child’s disapproval of their parent(s), I would use the word, expectation.

My thoughts below are from my experiences; listening to friends and acquaintances, reading books on estrangement, and living through my own set of problems. You can read more about my personal experiences here.

There is a multitude of reasons that adult children disapprove of a parent’s actions. It could be a daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, or son-in-law problem. Or it could be the loss of a parent from divorce or death, the remarriage of the mother, an adult child’s mental illness problems, or as is often the case in this day and age, “I don’t feel comfortable having a relationship with my mother so I am going to estrange myself from her instead of communicating my feelings. It is an easier path.”

I must emphasize this, dear reader, it is not because you were a bad mother.

Many adult children do not feel their parents are living up to “their expectations” and they become bitter, jaded, or just decide it is easier to disengage. Bitter is a word I never use, and it is the first time in my writing I have put the word in a story. The word bitter means resentful, aggrieved, begrudging, spiteful, petulant, with a chip on one’s shoulder.

So, how does a loving mother handle their adult children’s disapproval?

With fortitude.

The Worse Case Scenario

For starters, it takes two to tango.

If your adult children have broken off contact with you, and you have tried repeatedly to rekindle the relationship with no success, my advice can be summed up in one word. Accept what you cannot change.

Unfortunately, you have no choice when one or more adult children disapprove of you. They become so bitter, they no longer see the forest from the trees. This adult child does not know how to express anger, a common emotion. Sometimes, even though they are ‘our children,’ their actions are unforgivable. In rare cases they eventually turn the table on themselves, losing their parent’s respect.

Decide to Live Life

In parent child relationships, where you can’t control the outcome, I suggest you decide to live your own life to its fullest.  Let your adult children carry the burden of bitterness on their shoulders. Shame on them, not shame on you. Even with this surround yourselves with loving friends, interesting acquaintances, family members you enjoy, and activities that spark your interests. This is the sobering truth: adult children who do not talk to their parents is epidemic in the United States. There are so many of us living life as a rejected mother.

If you are dealing with adult child estrangement, please come join my private Facebook group. Click here to join Estranged Mothers and Grandmothers: Millions Strong.

honey good adult children's disapproval

When rejected by an adult child, you must choose to live your own life.

Other Types of Adult Children’s Disapproval and What To Do With High Expectations.

Adult children’s disapproval comes in a variety of flavors.

  • They don’t like the way you spend ‘your’ money.
  • You remarried and they aren’t happy about it.
  • They don’t like your spouse or significant other.
  • It upsets them that you are not at their beck-and-call to babysit.
  • You should not have said this or done that.
  • They are jealous of your lifestyle.

These situations and more create a major disruption in the relationship between a mother and their immature and sometimes bitter, adult child or children. With adult children’s disapproval, everyone loses, especially innocent grandchildren.

Adult Children’s Disapproval: The Saving Grace

Smile, dear reader, for there is a saving grace. The saving grace is communication. Unfortunately, it often does not work because the estranged child will not communicate. Most situations are solvable if parents and disapproving adult children can talk. So, my darlings, you are the parent, and you must be prepared to be vulnerable first. The best way to begin the conversation with these disapproving adult children is to say, “I want to listen to you. I am here to hear you.”  And follow it with this: “I acknowledge we have a problem and I want to solve it, together.”

What To Do When You Are At Fault

We have invested our love, our time, our resources and all of our emotions in raising our children. But many parents cannot let go and do overstep their boundaries. They butt into their adult children’s lives. Though it is hard, remember that this is a no-no!

Darlings, as your children reach adulthood you must keep respectful boundaries. I suggest you keep your comments to yourself. One gets a lot further with honey than vinegar.

Don’t pick on your adult children or their spouses. You shouldn’t try to rearrange the furniture in their living room! Definitely don’t tell them how to raise their children.

Adult Children: Give Them Wings

When one of my daughters left for college as a young adult, she gave me a framed poster (that I have in my memory drawer) that reads: “You gave me my roots, now my wings.”

Darlings, please don’t have faulty expectations of your estranged adult children. Let your adult children live their lives by their set of rules, let them fly.

I hope my musings have set a realistic tone.  If an estranged child’s expectations of you as a mother is skewed you have the choice to wallow in self-pity or reward yourself with the knowledge that you are a good mother, remembering you do not have the power to change their feelings yet remaining hopeful they will return home.

 

Do you know someone who is dealing with adult child estrangement? Consider sending them this story!

If you are in the throes of adult child estrangement, I hope you’ll seek out support and community.

Please consider subscribing to my newsletter for ongoing inspiration for women over 50.

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February 7, 2024

Passages After 50, Relationships

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  1. Tonja Harris says:

    As a Mother of Four Adult Children, 28,29,30 and 31. I had mental illness when I had two of them and when they got older, I tried to explain to them about my Life, and they are embarrassed of me, So I do have to live my Life, but I appreciate Honey Good, because it will never change.
    Thank You So Very Much , I believe I had to read it to receive it.

    • Honey Good says:

      I do not understand how this happens to mothers. I never will. What I have had to come to terms with is the reality …I cannot change the way others think or their actions. Therefore I must ACCEPT what I cannot change and not let it interfere with my life. I succeed 80% of the time. What more can I say. Happy New Year. Warmly, Honey

  2. Stac Ree says:

    Thank you Honey Good!
    My husband and I did our best, we have been married for 28 years, love our children, paid for college, and made sure they were set up for whatever success they chose in life. My adult daughter blames me for a horrible childhood, even though her brother (our son) tells her “that never happened. Mom never said-did-behaved like that”.
    I have apologized for all of the things she says made her feel this way. I follow her boundaries she has set up for me, I love her, I am kind, and I tell her how much I love her and proud of specific events-accomplishments-everything. Yet, she is still horrible towards me. As much as I want a positive and healthy relationship with her I’m pretty much exhausted, sad, and frankly done.
    The information you have provided is the affirmation I need to move forward with my own life. Thank you for providing me with a way forward without guilt and the freedom to live my life loud and outside!

    • Susan Good says:

      You roar, girl! You are a good mother. Period. You have every reason to command respect from your daughter. And, tell her nicely to stop calling until she can appreciate and respect her parents. Period. I am smiling. Warmly, Honey

    • Heather says:

      Dear Stac Ree,
      Just because one sibling didn’t experience the same parenting as another doesn’t mean it never happened. All children have the same parents but no child is treated exactly the same as another, nor should they be as each human is unique and special in their own ways. As insight, someone who feels heard and respected as an equal (which you are both grown adults now and the parent-child power dynamic no longer applies) doesn’t need to set boundaries. The language from Susan Good that says to “command respect” from your daughter keys into the same narrative that you are trying to continue the relationship with the power dynamic that you are above and she is below. My opinion is that you should take the time you are using by being “frankly done” with the relationship and do some internal self work. Resources are abundant online now and can be done from the privacy and in the time frame that you feel most comfortable. Dr. K (taught at Harvard) and Dr. Henry Cloud are both excellent places to start. Wishing a reconnection on healthy terms for both your daughter and for you as well.

      • Susan Good says:

        Dear Heather: I agree with you. Two adult women, mother and daughter, should respect one another’s feelings. And, through heartfelt communication and understanding try their best to find the tools to reconcile their differences. That is the kind of mom I am. I don’t recall how I used the word command. But, I am a believer that most parents try their best and that those children who chose to leave the nest without a word – lack communication skills, have high expectations, and lack the respect to sit down to save a relationship with their parent. Commanding respect from a parent who tried their best, wiped away tears, sent their children to college, kissed them goodnight, listened to their problems should command respect. I am taking about good mothers who are not robots but human beings with shortcomings. Please consider joining my new private facebook grouop- Estranged Mothers and Grandmothers: millions strong. Warmly, Honey

  3. Heather says:

    From the perspective of a daughter who is low contact: In response to “I don’t feel comfortable having a relationship with my mother so I am going to estrange myself from her instead of communicating my feelings. It is an easier path.” It is not the case for many of the adult daughters in my circle. In fact, we openly communicate our feelings when we are not comfortable. We are; however, often met with hostility, demeaning and dismissive language, or simply ignored. My mom also prefers to pretend like we didn’t even have a discussion the next time I talk to her. Going no contact is never an “easier path” for adult children. It is 99% of the time a last resort in order to back up and protect ourselves from the emotional damage being thrown at us. If an adult child has “behavioral issues” it is ALWAYS a result of some type of trauma that happened within the household growing up. There may be 1% that simply got hooked up with the wrong crowds and drugs are involved, but for those of us who are well adjusted, work full-time, are married and have families of our own, who don’t even drink, smoke, or do drugs, we back up because we have learned that because we cannot change our mothers behaviors, we must simply accept that we are not being, nor will we be, heard. That is a devastating reality to accept within a relationship between a mother and child and not one that is easily done. I can only say that I desire for more of my mothers generation to take hold of the abundant resources available, for free, on social media or search engines to learn better communication strategies and to dive into what drives them to behave in the ways past generations have. Just because people did it in the past doesn’t mean it was all good and healthy. Do your own work as we are doing ours and the hope is to meet once again in the middle so the beautiful connection we BOTH desire deep down can perhaps be revealed.

    • Susan Good says:

      I am so glad you reached out to me. I know estranged daughters have to feel pain, too. I am sorry that when you and your group of estranged daughters reach out to your moms you are met with hostility, demeaning and dismissive language or simply are ignored. That is inexcusable. Yet, as a wise young woman I am certain you are aware that the majority of estranged children leave the nest without a word and cut their moms off entirely. Moms try and communicate with no response.This solves nothing. In my case one of my daughters has said one sentence to me in almost 8 years- “Mom, you would not understand.” I have no idea what she means because she cannot or choses not to sit down and communicate with me. Running away from a problem will never solve the situation. I am sure you have the tools to have your cake and eat it, too. What do I mean? You can be a respectful young woman, respect the values your mother passed on to you and politely keep a distance. I say that as a daughter who had a very strong mom. We went head to head. She gave me my life and though we often argued – I am my mother’s daughter in many ways. And, so are you. Please don’t give me the generation bit. You can learn from the older generations. I learned so much from my aunts and grandmothers and mother. Their wisdom is still in my head. And, please don’t use the excuse of your home life. Grow up. Be resilient.Learn from your mom’s weaknesses. Don’t use them as your excuse. I know you are frustrated but not all estranged moms are like yours. My last words of advice for your wellbeing: be respectful, lower your expectations, stop the blame game, and polity keep your distance. Remember her birthday and mother’s day and holidays. You be the big one. It will serve you well. I know – I am a daughter. Love, Honey PS. Yesterday I opened a private FB Group: Estranged mothers and grandmothers- millions strong. Maybe you want to join as a daughter. You might help those moms who have your mother’s pattern. Think about it.

  4. Debora Crosby says:

    I have recently found out within the last year that my 46 yr old very accomplished adult son who is very high ranking in the military still, has lied to me about how his wife and in-laws didn’t want me around, when it has been him lying to them about me and turning them against me for 28 years. When I found out and he knew that I did, he verbally abused me like never before right in front of my grandchildren and ran me off from his house when I was visiting him for his birthday. We haven’t spoken since because he told his in-laws that I began a fight and argument with him before the children woke up that morning which was another bald face lie, I guess because of themgrandchildren (14 and 15) witnessing what he did to me that morning. Then yesterday to make matters worse I found out that my daughter had been doing the exact same thing with her husband against me since 2010 and they were both 22 years military. Lying to their spouses about me and lying to me about how their marital families were the ones who didn’t want me around them or my grandchildren. I don’t understand why or how they could have chose to do this to me and their innocent marital families to keep none of us liking each other. Both my son and daughter claim to be Christians too and somehow have no conscience bothering them about this but have accused me of being always the problem because of me constantly catching them lying to me at different times over the years about things that talking to the other side were being told that I had mental issues and were on drugs and alcohol at times etc. All bald face lies and I was cruel and mean and they didn’t want me left alone with my grandchildren. I was and never have been those things. I blocked them both from contacting me ever again. Thank God all my grandchildren have cell phones but they have taken them from them in the past too and I am afraid they will again because I know the truth about what they have been doing and probably have told my grandchildren too. I have been robbed of time with my grandchildren all of their lives which I was convinced by them it was because of their military careers and their in-laws. I am devastated by all this. If I do anything drastic they will use it as a weapon to back up their 22 years of lies. Saying see we told you she had mental illness and issues. I want to get some professional help now for real but I am scared they will find out and use it to validate their lies. Please pray for them and especially my grandchildren. God will help me through this situation somehow. I told them both I love them and I was blocking them from hurting me anymore.

    • Susan Good says:

      This is very sad. He said, she said, they said. Grandchildren are the innocent victims of family strife. I think it is best for you to accept what you cannot change and move forward at this time, always leaving the door open, with your life. If you want to see a professional for help don’t let their tongue wagging stand in your way. Do what is good for you. Warmly, Honey

  5. Denise Bearden says:

    Thank you, Honey, for this writing. You are spot on. While this may be the most painful thing moms will ever deal with, what makes it worse is when we dwell on it and miss out on precious times with the others who love us. I want to again remind Sharron and other moms out there what you said about this being an epidemic problem. Once I opened up about it happening to me, I was amazed and saddened at how many moms are hurt by their adult children.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I cannot grasp why this is happening to mom’s who do their best.No matter what an adult child is upset about this display on their part is just awful. They are blaming their mothers for their lifestyle and anger. They should look in the mirror and accept responsibilities for their adult actions. Mother’s have to try and ‘accept’ what they cannot change. Warmly, Honey

  6. Sharron Gisler says:

    Excellent and thoughtful writing, Honey. I, too, have one of those “lost” relationships… my first-born, a son. His father, my husband, died when he was 13, and I carry the feeling in my heart that I have been very much a disappointment to him. He is now 53. I have two other children, his siblings, that I am close to… however, I grieve deeply the loss of this son. He has a good life with a wife and a son of his own… but is distant with the rest of his family. I have, long ago, communicated my feelings to him in a letter, but we have been unable to speak about anything personal in person. It is sad and such a loss for us both, I know. I know that he has missed having his father in his life, and I feel so very badly that I haven’t been enough. Thank you for listening.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I know, there are no words. This is not about you. This is about him. For him to live in the past and punish a loving mom who was not perfect (none of us are) is unkind, unloving and disrespectful. It is time for you to stop feeling guilty and put your gilt on a back shelf and revel in your other two children until or if he comes around. If he never does, you will have to try and accept things you cannot change. Warmly, Honey

  7. Arlene Davey says:

    Always keep the door open. When they get into their 40’s, it seems a balance can be achieved. Earlier, they often think everyone else had better parents. This is usually not true. We hung on, did our apologies, made amends. They are also. Just took some patience, understanding a few changes regarding our comprehension of these generational differences.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      You are lucky. Other parents do what you did and their children turn their head. It is a disgrace. Shame on them. Not shame on the parent who tried. I am glad your children are blessing you now. I am happy. Warmly, Honey

  8. Isabelle says:

    I needed this. I’m healing from an illness and my adult daughter called a former close fiend to get information pretending to have talked to me or have a lower relationship that she had. The grind never told me that she called so I was blindsided when my daughter caled my son and lied and said I was lying about having ill health. I was hurt because I really don’t talk about it. I called said friend and she confirmed. Needless to say that friend sat up and talked about me twitch my daughter discussed things that were not privy to ‘my daughter then my friend refused my calls. My daughter tried to test me and so I oooiyely told her that she knew what she did and we have nothing to tlak about and that I knew her motives and that from that moment forward she is not welcome in my life since she can’t respect my boundaries. She tried to lie, I shit it down and blocked her from contacting me. My peace is more important than a non existing disrespectful and slanderous relationship with her. I love her but I don’t like her. I must add that my daughter was raised by her father family (longer story for another day) she feels entitled to my life even though she has said out her own mouth she wasn’t my daughter. Also she would come over just to get things from me . When I asked her to return my things she kept giving me excuse after excuse and lie after lie . Stay strong moms !!!

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      You are both on the warpath. And, to make matter worse now your son and your friend have joined the war. These situations between mothers and daughters can get very messy and yours is. You love her…but you don’t like her is the way many mothers feel about their daughters and many daughters feel about their moms. Your case is complicated because she was raised by her father and not by you. Ask yourself if that created the problem you are faced with today. She may be trying to hurt you. My suggestion to you is to take the high road. Don’t get into the drama. Stay calm. Be above the roar. Silence can be golden. Write your daughter a letter, apologize if you should for not being in her life during her growing up years. Make no excuses. And, come from love. Ask her what is troubling her. Ask her if there is a chance to reconcile and if so, how. Tell her you have always loved her if you have and you can take the rest from here. Keep me in the loop. I care. Warmly, Honey

  9. Kim Casey says:

    I found this article while searching for advice on “how to cope when a parent remarries” I have been a “bitter adult child” since my Father passed away two years ago. The thing is… I don’t want to be bitter, I hate it! I have been searching for an answer as to why I haven’t been able to let these negative feelings go without much success until I read the word “expectations”
    Thank You,
    Miss/Mrs. Susan Honey Good for writing this article.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Oh I am so happy for you and your mother. I have tears in my eyes.You will feel so much better.And, you will make your mother happy.I understand how you feel. It is very difficult to see your mom with someone other than the father you love.I have struggled with this situation with my daughters. Warmly, Honey

  10. Thank you so much for this. I’ve spent way too much precious time trying to figure out what “went wrong”, longing for happy years past, and trying to make amends. It felt like giving in to say “that’s the way it is”, but, truly, sometimes it just is. I’m saving your piece to reread when I need some reaffirmation and a little boost.

  11. Derita says:

    Thank you honey you really went down to the bone marrow of this matter I’ll let your love like keep shining 😊

  12. LeighAnne Giles says:

    Hello Honey,

    I want to preface by saying I am a long time follower. I was a supporter and interested reader when Orchid was thriving and then went through the illness and passing and though your blended family success and writings about grandkids and mending the pain of your step sons death and bonding with his wife and her sons, etc. I have avidly read it all.
    I have actually lost sleep about this estrangement with your family. Lost sleep, because I have wanted to reach out but was hesitant.
    I can’t imagine how it would feel to see this family pain being exposed with only one side. The other word you might add to ‘expectations’ is ‘assumptions’. When reading your thoughts on this family estrangement..I hear extreme one sided assumptions and to put it on the internet and to such a large audience..your daughters and grandkids in such a negative light with them not able to have a voice. It pains me.
    I can’t imagine how something like this could ever be healed. I would suggest a qualified therapist to mediate, but I would be ready to hear things that will be uncomfortable for you.
    Lastly, I would mention on a specific note. Adult grandkids will not turn on you out of loyalty. I would listen to them and be open to the truth. I feel so incredibly bad for you, please take care.

    • Susan Good says:

      My dear dedicated follower, LeighAnne- Thank you for your outpouring of good sense and for following me all of these years. The situation is too long to go into. Yes, there are two sides to every situation. I am in the process of writing an e-book on Estrangement and in the book I do go into both sides. I would like to write a longer reply to you but I am expecting an out of town person this am ( who I have never met) to discuss becoming involved in a Charity and I am rushing. My husband has not been well and I want to help him. I have an idea! Please write back and tell me about yourself and I will reply. Warmly, Honey xo

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