Why adult children distance themselves from their parents

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A lot of people think that “bad” or “ungrateful” children are the ones who grow up and distance themselves from their parents.

While this perception may or may not hold truth, there is much room for other important factors to think about.

An adult child would not just sever their relationship from their parents for “no reason whatsoever”.

For there is a high chance that children who have always felt loved, respected, and treated as an equal — give love, respect, and affection in return.

Behind most detachments – whether full or partial – is a child who felt unseen and unheard by their parents, especially when they needed them the most.

Here are some key reasons why an individual would choose to sever the relationship with their parents:

1. The parent sees the adult child not as an individual, but as an extension of themselves

A big chunk of your relationship with your parents is the kind of person they want you to become, around themselves and in general. If a parent teaches the child to stand up for themselves and own their thoughts, ideas and point of view; then the child will grow up to become an adult you can speak for themselves.

When your parents assure you that they are there for you through thick and thin, you form a secure attachment with them and also grow up to be true to yourselves.

On the other hand, if the parent wants you to “obey” to whatever they have to say, with no questions asked or arguments made, you could become an insecurely attached adult who grows up with no idea on how to communicate your needs and stand up for yourselves.

2. Parent manipulates the adult child

Emotionally immature parents may have no idea how to build a healthy relationship with their children in the first place. What’s more, if they do not have any intention or consciousness of the need for a healthy connection, they may resort to using manipulative tactics, believing they have the right to control the child’s decisions.

These tactics include guilt-tripping, shaming, comparing their children to other siblings or peers, and gaslighting.

Emotionally blackmailing the child, even through their adulthood, in another tactic. In this the parent appears to make a request, but it is actually a demand. This comes out when the child says no and the parent gets mad, aggressive, or resorts to silent treatments.

3. ​The parent is unable to understand the child’s emotional needs

The estrangement of a child from their parent is actually a journey, a process wherein more often than not, the child has made multiple attempts from time to time to communicate their parent’s flaws, or explain their view point, hoping to fix their toxic or dysfunctional behavior.

But, most of the time, at such attempts, the parent is standing far from understanding anything. What’s more, they could either react with a rage attack or use their manipulative tactics which would only puzzle the child further and further.

It is after these multiple attempts that the child may come to the painful realization that they can probably never have a stable and functional relationship with their parent(s).

​4. The parent refuses to take accountability or feel/say sorry

Another common problem prevalent in Indian households is the parent’s inability to apologize to their child. The reason behind this could be their ego or denial or something else. This is not just for the cases in which a parent should come to their senses about their wrongdoings, or hurtful or inappropriate behaviour on their own, but also when the child expresses that they have been hurt from their parents actions/inactions/words etc.

These parents would never admit their fault and might blame it on the child. On the other hand, a healthy relationship cannot be established if the parent and the child both see themselves and each other as “people” who make mistakes, who can apologize and try to never make the same mistake again.

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