How to Deal with the Estrangement of an Offspring

How to Deal with the Estrangement of an Offspring

How to deal with the estrangement of an offspring

Yesterday I posted answers to questions from you all, and then someone wrote in a really challenging new question, which I didn’t feel like sitting on for a month. A blog reader wrote in, “I’m wondering if you have any thoughts that might help me with my difficult emotions regarding the estrangement of our daughter…” I like it about this blog that we don’t shy away from the hard stuff, so thanks for asking. I feel for you.

I wish this problem was less prevalent. It is something that I’ve not only had to deal with myself, but also have had to help others deal with it as well.

I know this can be heart-rending and confusing. It feels unfair and unjust. It is usually  shrouded with unanswered questions. The parent feels misunderstood, alienated, maligned, and the offspring seems ungrateful, selfish, and unnecessarily hurtful. Parents want to feel included, appreciated, and needed, while kids are encouraged to have boundaries and defend what they need against all odds. The breakdown is in not finding middle ground.

I also know that there are many sides to every situation, and even if everyone is trying their best, it is very easy not to understand someone. Each side can be blinded by the way they see or experience a situation, in a way that another person can never even come close to imagining.

In my experience, you can’t really do anything about the other person. You can only take an honest inventory of your own behavior, without self-justification or self-flagellation. If there is some behavior or character flaw you need to fix, then fix it. They may never know you did that, but then again, they still may show up one day and realize they’ve been missing out on the improved you.

On the other hand, if you really feel the situation is not a reaction to something you did wrong– as so often it is not!– then let it go. I know all too well that this is not so simple to do, but it is so much better than the alternative of wringing your hands and being continually perplexed as to WHY. Get on with your own life with gusto.

Refuse to be part of the problem going forward. If the offspring is making boundaries that are hard for you to accept, accept them anyway, forgivingly, both toward them and to you. Unless you are deeply concerned about their safety for some clear reason, I wouldn’t even reach out or say anything.  Gracefully let them have the space they insist on having. They might even be doing you a favor, stepping away, instead of wreaking havoc in your life. You may never know what their behavior spared you. You can trust that you’ll understand what you need to when you’ll need to. The same goes for them.

I would go so far as to say that, as we don’t go into heaven hand in hand with our spouses, we don’t arrive there with our children either. You can be in-touch and fast friends with your offspring, or having not talked to them in years, but either way, spiritually, it is all the same. The only real communication is from God to each of us, and that’s the relationship it is important to cultivate. Our relationship with God is also within our sphere of influence, something we can actually do something about.

I think it is God’s will for us to follow the Ten Commandments, one of which is to honor your father and mother. I would submit that we all have something to work on to fully represent our sinless nature, or we would have ascended already. God can reach each and every one of us right where we are, with what we need to learn to progress. I’d focus on that ever-present possibility, instead of pinning away, feeling left out, worrying, or being frustrated about the situation. All these emotions are disabling and make the situation worse.

So if you are going through this hard thing, I’d pray about it when it comes up in your thought, but mostly, I’d just patiently let it be. Trust the child you raised to know what is best for them. Trust all the good you instilled in them to be born out in them each day.  Trust God to teach them what they need to know and respond to that appropriately. Be patient with both them and yourself, taking blame fully out of the equation. Continue to love them, but mostly get on with being who God made YOU to be.

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. Loree 2 weeks ago

    very well thought out- a challenging topic but you expressed solutions in all the right ways

  2. Meg+Hanson 2 weeks ago

    There are some good ideas here for thinking about any difficult relationships, even if they are not our children, or there is not complete estrangement. Thank you.

  3. Sherri 2 weeks ago

    Also applies to physical distance to children and friends where the relationship is wonderful and precious. I also trust the Bible’s promise that our heavenly Father knows all of our needs and supplies them. Meaning our real and only relationship is with God, the supplier of every need. The more important point is listening to and trusting this Divine Intelligence with whatever we feel that needs to be met humanly.

  4. Susan Krevitt 1 week ago

    Insightful and helpful perspectives, as usual! Thank you, Polly.

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