AUDIO VERSION: (Transcript below for those who prefer to read)
“You are the adult, the parent and it’s up to you to keep the lines of communication going with your adult child by reaching out to them, telling them that you love them and keep on doing it even if you don’t get a response.”
Those are the words of “the experts” on the topic of estranged adult children and I’ve done it all, continued doing it all and I’m simply finding myself further away from where I had aimed to be with this advice. Why? More than that, why is it that so many parents of estranged adult children are both heart broken and at a loss for reasons as to not only why their adult child has abandoned as well as abused them but, why this “expert” advice hasn’t worked while their estranged child is still ignoring them or being cold, mean and hurtful?
The reasons are many. The answers are few but to these “experts” and “professionals” who utter things like this, I say, “BULL!”
Long ago, somewhere, someone decided that it was the parent’s faults for their adult child’s actions, choices, decisions and reactions to their parents. The parents had to be doing something wrong, right? Children don’t just up and leave their parents either wholly or treating them with abuse for no good reason. There has to be something that the adult parent(s) has/have done to have created this situation. Something has got to be wrong with that parent or those parents. That’s the only answer.
Let me put in a disclaimer here first.
***We are not talking about truly abusive or negligent parents who have put their children in true harm’s way. Those types of parents do have issues and they need help but, by far, these estranged adult children do NOT have abusive, neglectful or toxic parents.*****
Let’s take a look at where these “experts” have gone wrong in their theory that the parent(s) must have done something wrong and why this is being said this way.
- Back in the 1980’s onwards where most of these estranged children hail from, there was a movement by so-called “experts” and studies done to the tune of millions of dollars, often sponsored by school boards or governments that had come forward with flawed theories of how children should be raised, treated and dealt with. Praise was favoured so every child from that era onwards, were treated with kid leather gloves, given awards or praise for everything that they did that was right. There was no such thing as a true punishment, only rewards. If the child showed up, they got a reward. If the child tried, they got a reward. If the child didn’t show up and didn’t try, they weren’t rewarded but, neither were they punished. In other words, this generation of children learned that what mattered was a reward of some kind and they expected it at home as well. After all, if they got it everywhere else, why shouldn’t home operate that way as well. “I did the dishes. Where’s my dollar?”
- Billions of dollars were spent on open connecting classrooms where one class melded with another and they brought in games, water and sand tables, desks were gotten rid of and tables were brought in or desks were pushed together end to end to form a 4 or 6 style table for these kids to socialize with one another. The theory there was that “the good would influence the bad” and get them working. The opposite happened. The bad dragged the good down with them and no one achieved their levels, including those who had tendencies to work and work well. Everyone lost out. The reward for completing a unit was to move onto fun/play or to go onto the next module. It was dependent upon which school board one was in but the models were all fairly similar.
- The 1950’s saw moms at home, cooking, cleaning and watching soap operas, having healthy meals on the tables while dads were out earning the bread and butter. Mom saw to it that kids were well fed, clean, and everyone sat to eat together at a set time for the most part. Both dad and mom saw to it that homework was done and children played out doors if their homework was done, inspected and then, it was a set bed time for children. By the 1960’s, women were entering the work force in secretarial jobs or what was considered “women’s work” but, some were still in Leave It To Beaver mode and stayed home to care for house and children. By the 1970’s more moms were working and the Women’s Liberation Movement started with the burning of bras. Most women held down jobs now, bringing in a second income though still far behind their husband’s salaries in stature and kids were less controlled, more on their own with teachers having to take part of the parenting roles. By the 1980’s onwards, more than 3/4’s of the work world, was made up of women or moms. With 2 salaries now coming into the household and the mom not around to look after children as much, schools and staff became day care givers and pseudo-moms and dads. It’s also the time frame in which “the experts” decided that play based learning was #1 and the reward system was what worked. Parent’s had less and less to do with their children or their educational needs but, they set up more activities and hardly anyone’s family ate at the same time anymore. Add to that, the fact that a lot of children not only were “hushed” with more material things bought for them with more cash coming in but, they were also enrolled more in organized activities such as soccer, baseball, football, hockey, swimming, figure skating and just about every other activity one can think of. Classes were springing up all over the place for this and parents were flocking to get their kids into one or another of them or even many of them. Society had more interaction with children than parents did at this point and adults were taught to have less and less punishment for children’s bad or poor behaviours as well as results or achievements. This is where things took a turn for the worst.
- Along came computers and within a few years, the internet which, while more limited than now, grew by the day. Add in digital gaming systems, VCR’s, more tv time and parent’s less involvement in their children’s lives as time restrictions and society both dictated children’s every movement and time slot in a day. Parental influences over their children were watered down greatly at this point as the modern age of technology, rewards, lack of punishment and hands-off parenting and teaching took ahold of these kids. Children held the power now because of all of the above and they quickly came to know it. There were even lessons taught both between the kids themselves and in schools as to children’s rights. This led these kids into a power situation where they quickly figured out that they were in charge and could manipulate both parents, teachers and even society into what they wanted to gain. Rather than having respect for family, parents and each other, these “experts” and their studies had turned these children into little monsters who would throw temper tantrums when they didn’t get their own way.
- The internet grew and children were growing into powerful, knowledgeable little tyrants who realized that they had the rights, not the rest of the world. As a matter of fact, for a lot of these children (save for freshly immigrated children where older values still held for awhile), they were the masters and the parents and teachers represented authoritarianism which they hated, resented, cursed at and didn’t want around them for the most part even if it went unsaid by them.
- By the 1990’s or so, it was realized by these “experts” that Play-Based Learning wasn’t working. Kids were playing and weren’t learning. Millions or even billions of dollars went back into reverting open concept schools back into single classrooms, tables were being taken out and desks returning for the most part. By then, kids had access to far more knowledge about their “rights” as created by these “experts” who were out to make a name for themselves more than anything good for the child or children. Their pay checks said more to them as did credit for papers or journal pieces, meant more to them than what was good for the child or children. However, it was far too late by now to reverse the damage. Parents were working more. Income was more plentiful and parents had far less time to spend with these kids. They were “the school’s problem during the day” and by night, they were permitted time on technological advances that led these kids into a false sense of power with violent television programs, movies, music, music videos, gaming as well as reading about what they wanted to learn more about online and much, much more. Sadly, most parents were only too relieved and happy to have their children out of mind and sight so, they bought more and more to keep their kids occupied and out of the way while they attended to their own needs, duties and responsibilities, including housework that didn’t get done during the day hours while working. Even packaged and processed foods that were once only reserved for “tv dinners” were now plentiful. Mom or dad only had to stir in water or rip open a package and stick it into the microwave ovens that most homes now had along with the computers that these kids were playing on.
- By the 2000’s, these “experts” had lost control over these kids. The damage was done by many factors but, more than anything, most of these professionals were self-indulged in getting their work published in some format or another and making a name for themselves. If the pieces didn’t fit the hypotheses that they came up with, they’d find a way to peg a square into a round hole. It had to be the parent’s faults, right? What else could they blame? They weren’t about to admit that they, themselves and all of their precious studies and educational trials had all failed the child. These kids of the 80’s were now in their 20’s and lost. There was no getting them back into line. They were too far gone to do anything about now.
- By the mid-to-present 2000’s, these kids were in their mid to late 20’s and even their 30’s. There had to be an explanation as to what went wrong as an entire generation of 1980’s and 1990’s kids had gone terribly adrift into irretrievable land. More studies that were half-baked, half-arsed and self-serving came about. It was the parent’s faults as the conclusion and once again, square pegs were hammered into round holes by both the experts and these adult children who were listening to the so-called “experts” because they proved these kid’s points. Their parents were no good. They were all flawed in one way or another, to some extent or another.
- Entitlement grew as did more information from these “experts” who had made public their findings of “Flawed Parents” and how these kids weren’t flawed but, their parents were and why. This fit “the expert’s” needs as well as those adult children.
- Somewhere around 2000, a movement towards “blame your parents” came about and these adult kids flocked to both one another as well as the internet with these professionals backing them. That got them off of the hot seat and into good graces with an entire generation of adult children. The more that they could dig up on parents, the better for them all. Parents were now being considered “narcissists” when they didn’t agree with letting that adult child have their own way. The term was and is so famous now that it’s being tossed around like velcro balls and sticking onto parents’ backs. “Toxic” is another term that’s being used by these kids towards their parents and doing the same thing as the term “narcissist” in spite of a parent never having been professionally diagnosed as such except by these kids or some “expert” with a file on computer and a DSM book on their book shelves. The moment a parent didn’t cave into and treat their little darling adult child as though they were the gold that these adult children thought themselves to be, the adult child withdrew themselves from their parent(s) lives as punishment or as simply a self-diagnosed and self-serving way of dismissing themselves, their own choices and actions as adults from their own mistakes in life. Blame the parents. The parents are flawed. They’re the reason. It’s a mantra now.
So, who is really to blame?
There’s no one answer to this as there are many factors to it all but primarily, it’s society in general, not the parent. In effect, it’s multi-faceted and far too complex a subject to be covered in a piece such as this one but, suffice it to say that a lot of estrangement issues can be chalked up to failed societal experimentation, self-serving and centred adult children and especially, “the experts” who have backed this type of thinking by these adult children, often having written books, papers, been interviewed or papers that have been published. It’s also adult children commiserating with other adult children that they have been wronged by their parent(s). The whining that can be seen on some of these forums for estranged adult children with their “reasons” for ousting themselves from their parent(s) life/lives is as pathetic as they come. (Again, that’s not to include the minority of parents who truly have done damage, abused or neglected their children though.)
Can we do anything about it as parents of adult estranged children. It hurts!
For the most part, no. That’s a simple answer compacted because there are so many variables in circumstances that it can’t be all covered here. Secondly, these adult children want you to hurt. That’s as sad as it gets. They are punishing you for either what they didn’t get from you that they wanted or because it’s what they’ve come to truly believe from so many sources, including professionals who have their work readily available for these kids to read and self-diagnose their parents into categories. It has become delusional thinking on these adult children’s parts in most cases and one cannot deal with the irrational with rational talk. Whatever you do, if you know that you’ve done something wrong, try to apologize to your adult child. If you don’t know what you’ve done wrong (which is most of the cases that I see and hear and have experienced for myself), try asking that adult child for an explanation and really listen to their words. If you find no merit in it, try to talk it through but, don’t expect miracles. Remember that I said that it was likely “delusional thinking” on your adult child’s part or they have banded together with one expert or another who is self-serving for the most part as well as other estranged adult children. It’s almost a FAD and you’re not alone in this aspect even if it feels like it. It seems to have become an epidemic. Yes, it all hurts. There’s no getting around that but, ask yourself if you really and truly want the adult person that they’ve become now, back again in your life as is and cater to them some more where they will abuse you more? If your answer is “no” then, you have an answer right there. If your answer is “yes”, you need to do more work on loving yourself and perhaps, seeking out therapy for yourself might be a good start. That’s not being mean or degrading towards you or as a parent as well as your wants but, it’s more to say that you’re likely out of luck in getting your child back again. Once these kids have deluded themselves into believing that your flawed, wrong and bad for them, you’re likely not going to convince them to come back even were you to prostate yourself on the ground and let them walk all over you.
FADS die so don’t lose heart.
Like I’ve said in the above question, this has likely been the result of both these expert’s trials as well as their self-serving goals but, in all likelihood, it has become a fad to estrange themselves for these adult children. Like all fads, it takes time for them to fade. More than that, it takes parents, banding together and talking about it, forming groups and figuring out ways to prove that estrangement is never the answer. It’s the problem. Whatever you do or don’t do, don’t lose heart that your adult child will hurt in some way or another eventually and realize that it’s a fad. Not all estranged adult children will recognize it in time to spend with the parent(s) but, with some work on the parent’s parts and taking back some power, going on with our lives the best that we can and letting time pass, we can go a long way towards getting this trend to die out.
We need to work together.
Parents of estranged adult children need to talk it through. There’s no shame in it happening. People just aren’t willing to go public or talk to other parents out of some sort of shame, guilt or blame that they or their estranged adult child have placed upon them. Sadly, far too many parents in this position will suffer it through without talking to one another about it. Believe it or not, I’ve let out my situation to even parents who still have their children around them. Would you believe that the most common statement that has been uttered is, “your child needs help. There’s something terribly wrong with them.” It’s NOT, “you must have done something wrong for them to be like this with you.” Oh yes, I’ve had a couple of those but, these are younger parents who still have their kids young and under control. Their time is coming too where it’s going to be like walking on thin ice to keep that child or children happy. What then? That’s the question that I’ve had to ask myself. I have no answers but, when I look at how they are jumping through hoops for their own children, I realize that it’s a potential waiting to happen. In the meanwhile, we are in the position that we are in and unless we are willing to stand together, talk about it without shame, guilt or blame, our estranged adult children have succeeded as have these “experts” with their esteem and pocket lining papers, books, interviews and prestige. What are YOU going to do? Lay down and grieve, cry and hope? I hope not. I hope that you’re going to dust your rear off and get up and try to help do something about this situation. Are you?
From my little corner of life to yours, grow a spine and stop thinking that you’re alone. You won’t know until you come out of the proverbial closet of estranged adult child temper tantrums. Stand up for yourselves and let’s talk this through.
Be well. Love and Light,
Have a great day or evening.