Alert
Close

Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Family
poll

Most Popular
Articles

Viewed

When Your Child Won't Talk to You

More and more kids are "divorcing" their parents. An expert provides advice for rebuilding ties

Also, Coleman says, the high divorce rate means fewer children see themselves as part of an unbreakable family unit. Even the conveniences that help today's single-parent and two-earner households function — such as prepared foods and cleaning services — reduce family members' dependence on one another, making the parent-child bond more emotional than immutable.

And technologies that seem to draw families closer together may actually contribute to estrangements, Sichel says: "Now that texts and emails are replacing face-to-face conversation, misunderstandings are easier to have."

Today, people are free to abandon unfulfilling relationships, says one therapist, but "what are we sacrificing for that freedom?"

The boomer generation's child-rearing style may play a role as well. "A lot of boomers came from very restrictive families," Sichel says. "We didn't make the kinds of demands on our kids that our parents placed on us, and that fostered dependency and helplessness. So our kids never learned to exercise autonomy in a healthy way."

Elizabeth Vagnoni, 56, is a filmmaker who is estranged from her two adult sons. She runs the website Estranged Stories, where people post painful personal accounts they may not have shared with anyone — even close friends. "It's hard to admit that your children are no longer speaking to you," Vagnoni says.

In an ongoing survey that Vagnoni hosts on her website, nearly one in three parents estranged from their children reported having contemplated suicide. That's almost 10 times the annual average rate for suicidal thoughts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There's a primal bond between a parent and a child," Vagnoni points out. "When that's broken, parents feel they've failed as human beings."

In Vagnoni's survey, 61 percent of alienated children said they would like to resume relationships with their parents, but only under specified conditions. Sixty percent wanted an apology. Nearly half of the young adults said they bore "no responsibility" for the estrangement.

Of course, some of those children are right. Manhattan therapist Irina Firstein says backing away from a parent is sometimes the best option: "When a grown child gets nothing but disapproval from an overpowering and controlling parent, he or she needs to separate to develop a healthy sense of self."

Next: The problem with growing up. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Grandparent
Resources

GrandFacts

National and state fact sheets listing services, programs,  benefits, laws and policies for grandparents raising children. Read

GrandFamilies Guide

Information, tips and tools for grandparents raising grandchildren. Read

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

1-800flowers.com (1-800flowers.com)

Members save 20% or $20 on purchases of $79.99  from
Fruitbouquets.com.

Collette Vacations

Members save up to $200 per couple on select tours with Collette Vacations.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Being Social

Featured
Groups

Wisdom Circle

Join our circle to ask for — or give — advice on topics such as love, friendship, grief, parenting and grandparenting. Discuss

Grandparenting: Joys & Challenges

There are many joys from being a grandparent, so let's celebrate them together! Discuss

Raising Grandchildren

Grandparent caring for grandkids share tips and discuss challenges, solutions and triumphs along the way. Join