Why good parents get rejected by their grown children

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD explains some of the reasons good parents get rejected or estranged from their adult children
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Why good parents get rejected by their grown children

Many of the parents that I work with who come to me because their adult children who have cut off contact with them were actually good, loving parents. As a psychologist I used to assume that if a kid, adult child, cut off their parent they must have done something really terribly - looked them in a closet, beat them, neglected them and I'm seeing more and more in my practice a lot of really good parents get rejected which is kind of ironic. You would assume, "Gee, I'm a great parent. Those should be my golden years with my child. They shouldn't reject me. They should love me and want to spend time with me," but yet there's a lot of reasons why goods parents get rejected. One may be that the fact that they were a good parent and were really close to their child, the child may have no other way to feel independent of their parents when their older. They may feel so close to the parent that they don't know how to feel independent except to cut the parent off. Another common reason might be when the child marries somebody and they marry somebody really difficult. I see this a lot, especially with daughters-in-law but sometimes with sons-in-law too. If they don't like the parent, they may tell the adult child, "Choose them or choose me but you can't have both." Perhaps the most common thing I see is in the case of divorce. Probably 80% of the families that I work with there's been a divorce where the parents later get estranged. There's a number of reasons for that. One is that it may tempt the child to take sides with the parent; they may feel more sorry for the parent over the other; one of the parents may poison the child against that parent either in youth or in adulthood, what we call Parental Alienation Syndrome. They may feel really bad. They may feel one of the parents got a much worse deal than the other parent did. And finally, we live in a very individualist culture and what that means is that when there is a divorce kids may be much more likely to see their parents as individuals rather than a family unit of which they're a part.
ALL PARENTS, Parenting, Family Life

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD explains some of the reasons good parents get rejected or estranged from their adult children


Expert Bio

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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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