"Children Who Break Your Heart": A Reader Asks for Your Advice

At the Legacy Project, we’ve asked over 1200 of the oldest and wisest Americans for their advice about how to solve life’s problems. In this post we ask: How do you deal with children who break your heart? For advice on this topic and much more, see the bestselling book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.

In an earlier post, one of the Legacy Project elders shared her mixed feelings about having children. Loraine,89 , talked about accepting both the joy and the pain children can bring. She stated: “If you don’t have children now, when you have them you will have these moments.  When you look at them and your heart – it’s like your heart takes all the pain and all the love for them that you have.”

We just received a comment on that post from one of our readers, who would like your advice:

What about when your children are disappointments? I would like to hear how parents handle situations when their most loved children are cause for a broken heart? Comments please!

We asked some experts for their advice, which you can find here.

Can you help? Does anyone have advice for overcoming the heartbreak children can sometimes cause? Please share your comments!

364 thoughts on “"Children Who Break Your Heart": A Reader Asks for Your Advice

  1. I have lost two adult sons, one at age 32 in 2001 and the other, at age 35, in 2008. Recently, my daughter who is the youngest of my three children, now age 38, has shut me completely out of her life and will not allow any contact from me with her and my four year old grandson. She has done this two times prior to this one but I believe she is determined to never see me again. I have tried very hard throughout her life to be very supportive and encouraging. I know she is very hurt and angry with me. But I feel like I am always bending over backwards to try to get along with her. She seems to be angry a lot of the time, and with others, as well. I have tried so hard to be a good mother and grandmother and I know I have made mistakes. Now i feel like I have lost all of my children and it hurts deeply. I just don’t think I can continually appease my daughter in order to have a relationship with her. My sons never acted this way towards me. They may have been angry with me at times, but they were always respectful and kind to me. They never blamed me for anything. My daughter blames me for almost everything. And she seems so filled with rage. I just can’t let this destroy my life. I am determined to have a good life in spite of this.

  2. Oh my my ….. I’m sitting here inside on a beautiful sunny day reading all these posts. Putting “My 16 yr. old is not speaking to me” into the search box led me to this (depressing) thread. I am very alone in raising her and it has always just bean the two of us living together, as she has no father, siblings, cousins, or grandparents. I only HOPE we make it through this rough spot to become close again…….. as so many of you have written, it doesn’t seam to be a given. I wish you all the best ….. the parents and the adult children ! Try to forgive and let go without cutting each other out of your hearts. Both of my parents died when I was 26. That was ten years before I decided to become a parent…. even though I was single. I’m almost 53 now and my daughter only has one more year of high school……. Really hope she doesn’t cut me out of her life….. I love her so much and will always love her even if she does.

  3. For some of us, estrangement is an act of psychological self-preservation.

    My mother and father divorced when I was very young, I am an only child. Many years later I met him for lunch at which point he told me: “For a long time, I regretted that you were ever born, but it was nothing personal. I was just angry at your mother.” He also made sure I clearly understood that in the future he would only see me if his new wife was present because “she never excludes me.” I will not see or speak to him again.

  4. Wow i feel for you all.my daughter is ten.from a previous marriage .and i love my daughter to death. I have remarried she didnt come to my wedding . She has decided to.live with her dad who.lies and smokes dope. He influences her to get back at me after 8 years even though he has moved on with someone else and she has three children from a previous relationship.they are frauding centrelink. Influence my daughter against me.my heart breaks everyday and i pray to god for fixing this.

  5. Amy Ries, I understand your feelings, I am married to a wonderful husband who is a great father to our 16yr old daughter and 11 year old son, yet our 16 year old daughter became difficult at age 15 1/2, and was determined to exercise her right to be allowed to do what she wanted at age 16, as the law permits here. Nothing helped, tried talking, counselling, reasoning, in the end she has accused us of abuse and gets all the help she may think she needs, she has no extended family, just two friends and in school holidays stays there, the social services gave her a allowance and scholarship for boarding at school. She was a top grade student and now is failing, my only connection was to the school website which has her grades, I asked the school for help, offered help, but the principal excludes us, and now changed the password to the website, and am completely cut off, Yet the law makes me legally responsible for her till she is 18 years old….system is wrong, and damaging our family to beyond repair.

  6. My daughter turns 15 next week and has decided she needs a break from me. So she is living with her father for two weeks. She has been drinking and smoking and stealing and lying. I’ve tried to discipline her but each time I do she leaves for her father’s home and he has the mentality that whatever goes on at my house is my problem. She is allowed to smoke and drink at his house. So she told me that she has lived hell with me and needs a break. She refuses to tell me why and won’t speak to me. She is a very demanding child. I have a handicapped older son that she mocks, she steals from her older sister, tell me to get f’ed up the ass, calls everyone vile names, is angry because I won’t take her on my honeymoon next year, and is upset when we go out to eat a restaurant when she isn’t at my home but at her father’s. She purposefully breaks our things when she gets angry with us. I just don’t know what i did. I raised her the same as my other two, they are great and ordinary children. They are both 17 and struggle as teeanger’s do (deciding what they want to do with their lives, getting a job etc) I just don’t know.

  7. i have four sons, (grown) who have all cut me out of their lives and thus the lives of their wives and children. I was not a great mother but i wasnt horrible either. How do you get over knowing the very people you gave birth to hate you? I cry myself to sleep and call their phones just to hear their voices in the voicemail and I want to stop. I have done everything i know how to make up the awful childhood they claim to have had to them and nothing works. At one point do you say enough, my heart cant break anymore and move on as if you never had children and will never know your grandchildren? Any suggestions on moving on without them being part of my life?

  8. Amy I would guess your daughter is just acting out like teenagers do. I have the same issue as Betty my daughter has been shutting me out off & on for close to 20 years. Some times for 6 months to year at a time. This time has been almost 3 years. She text me I am dead to her. I have always been the one to beg, apologize, plead. I bought the book Walking on Eggshells which really opened my eyes that she is probably BPD Borderline Personality Disorder which includes Narcissism & lack of empathy for others. I am now 63 too tired for the roller coaster ride so I too have decided to just try to live as happy as possible. I am fortunate my son does not treat me like this and doesn’t understand why his sister does. Betty so sorry for your loss.

  9. I hate Mother’s Day. Seeing all the happy “normal” families celebrating, and all the Facebook posts from the children and adults to their mothers just hurts my heart and fills me with sadness and longing. Every year I think maybe I’ll get a card from him this year. He used to call me which made me very happy. Last year I did not get a phone call, he simply posted a message on Facebook wishing me and his wife and all mothers a happy Mother’s Day. This year, his wife posted one, saying happy Mother’s Day from both of us. She asked me if I knew that my granddaughter had been in the hospital for a week and a half with a double ear infection. I said no because he never calls me, the only time I find out anything is from you. She is a very sweet and loving daughter in law, and I love her very much. But I don’t want to cause friction between them, so I don’t say much. I may not of been a perfect mother but I was a good mother. I have regrets and I did make mistakes, but I have apologized repeatedly, and I think that I have been paid back in spades. I have learned that the more we try to cling to them, the harder they push us away. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you on this site, including the few adult children who have posted responses. I like to read your point of view of the situations. I do not know the answer on how to stop the agonizing hurt in our hearts, except to just trust God to watch over them, and if they are happy in their lives be grateful for that. And allow yourself to cry on Mother’s Day when the card and call doesn’t come.

  10. Patricia Case, I also have 4 grown sons. Three have cut us out of their lives with no explanation. We hear from the 4th one occasionally, but he lives out of town and really doesn’t care much either. The worst part for me was the loss of two grandchildren who were closer to me than my own children. I don’t even know the other two. I tried a number of times to have contact with our sons, but they are not interested.

    Anyway, to save myself, I had to let go. My faith has been my biggest help. I go to Mass every day and put my trust in God’s plan. There are still times, like Mother’s Day, when I get down, but basically I am finished. Much of it is a conscious choice. I decided it was over, found other things to do with my time and just let go. It’s hard, but somewhat liberating when you can do it.

    Also, I took the three out of my will. They cannot treat me this way and expect anything from me. My husband won’t do that and I don’t understand. The saddest thing to me is that I know so many people in the same situation.

  11. I have a daughter of 24 married with a daughter after my divorce she hated me and cut me out of her life did not speak to me for 2 years when she got pregnant she come back into my life I thought wow this is a good thing I found out her husband was wanting to leave state to see other women he had lost 2 jobs since the beginning of the year and he is gonna loose the job he has now my daughter had told me this and also explained how in 2 years she wants to clean up credit and pay medical bills and buy a house I explained that you need to have a steady income for a bank to approve a loan and with her husband not able to seam to keep a job lately I didn’t know how that would happen well of course that angered her and she has again told me she doesn’t want me in her life I have apologized for what I said but she don’t want to hear it. I will mail birthday cards and xmas presents to my grandbaby and see where it goes. yes it hurts but what are you suppose to do you cant beg them to be in your life . the saddest thing for me is she has an older sister she wants nothing to do with and a younger brother that I don’t know how she will see him

  12. I cut my parents off. They know what they did. I guess I should rant about how abusive they were, how much injustice I feel, how they stole my childhood. Something to justify myself.

    But I wont. It hurts every day of my life and will until I die.

    Mom and dad for what it is worth I did love you and I think in some ways you did as well. Sorry, it didnt work out. If it is any help I am a much better parent then you were, if only because the bar is so low. So you did teach me what not to do. You have a a grand daughter btw but you will never meet her. She is safe, loved, and smart.

  13. It’s a comfort to know I am not the only one going through the heartache of being hated by a child. I am grieving for all of us. In spite of all I’ve done for her and loved her, my 32 year old daughter ignores my requests to see her and my grandchildren ( who I helped raise since they were babies). She won’t and can’t tell me why she hates me she just does. I’m almost 70 and recovering from major surgery and yesterday she was 2 hours late coming over to bring me medicine and food. When I asked her what kept her, she exploded and screamed in my f ace that I was lucky she even came over. She went on a 20 minute rant about how she hates me and I am to blame for her problems and then gave me the middle finger and told me to f@$# myself and stormed out of my house. She didn’t leave me my medicine nor my food. I had to call a service to help me because she is my only living relative and all my friends were either at work or out of town. She has done things like this so often in the past 2 years that I have decided she is dead to me. We were best friends up until 2 years ago but that sweet person has been replaced by someone evil and the kindhearted daughter I had is gone. She is sick with hatred, blame and revenge and her light has gone out so I will mourn her as a dead person. It’s all I can do . It’s the only option to keep my sanity and my will to live on. I’m out of hope she will change so I will have to proceed as if I never had her. I’m done.

  14. It is a comfort to know there are more of us out there, but the media sure does not show it…so our hearts break.

    To the child who said he had lousy parents who “stole” his childhood, watch out.

    I too thought I was parenting “so much better than my parents” who hit us and made us work and yelled and screamed at us and would never let us do anything. I gave my daughter the life I dreamed of having. She met an arrogant boy in college and turned her back on everything – Family / Friends / Morals she was taught etc.

    To the woman who mourns on Mothers Day:

    I too have not got a Mothers Day card/Birthday card in three years. I make sure I VOLUNTEER on holidays : Veteran Dinners / Homeless Soldiers at Holidays / Homeless Shelter Holiday Baskets/Dinners / Dinners for the elderly. I just make sure I’m too exhausted to hurt so much and I am relieved when the holidays are over.
    I also make sure to treat myself to SOMETHING at those times…a nice dinner / a massage / an expensive lotion I might not normally buy.

    Someone else mentioned this and it is true: In the end, we really are not parents and children…We are all just people, so I try to be good to everyone and treat everyone as specially as I treated my daughter when she was in my life.

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