"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!

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

  1. I have posted on here frequently in the past about my relationship with my 40 year old daughter and how dysfunctional it has been. I can’t tell the story again due to the length but if anyone cares to go back and find my earlier posts, you will know the story and what I did to change it. Now…2 years later…I CAN tell you that it has made a world of difference! It went totally from me giving, giving, giving (money, time, stuff), to me letting HER come to me and ONLY if it didn’t include ‘giving’ something. I FINALLY set boundaries and by God, I stuck by them. And it got better. I went about my life and I did not give to get. And eventually things changed. And honestly? I was prepared to never see her again if it was going to be me having to do things and give things to be in her life. I realized that just because it’s ‘blood’ doesn’t mean it has to be ‘forever’. I don’t work that way anymore. It’s mutual respect now and that’s the way it always SHOULD have been and is definitely the way it always WILL be from here on out. May the force be with all of the parents that ARE in the position I WAS in. I truly hope you can find the strength I had to find to make it better. :)

  2. So what about if your good people that give what ever you can to your child even you really can’t financially or mentally and they still are disrespectful or cutting off huh or what do if your whole child hood you had mental and physical abuse me you hoe it is but yet your child acts up and your like y if I haven’t done anything you I feel like y like I’ve never hurt u try to go out of my to get what u need for school or anything yet u still act out but when I was growing up I had to wear what I was told or that was that it I got my hair pulled or called a name I’m just like why does she act out when I’ve done nothing and I tell her me growing up I did nothing to my foster mom and I still go beat and you you do its like y if you’ve never hand harm come to u but still disrespectful and ungrateful ness I don’t know hat to do I go out of my way to get what ever cause how it is theses days but still I get shit from her and her dad and it the same I can be the best for my husband and he’s the same disrespectful and in grateful and that’s not even her real dad they but act up with me what to do

  3. Hi. i’m in the same situation my Husband’s adult son (my stepson) never seen eye to eye about his spouse she has destroyed our family and torn us apart. when we made it clear she was not welcome around he choose her and disowned us as a result, this has affected his father whom had a loving relationship up until then he now acts as though we do not exist. he refuses to call or visit us this has been going on for a long time we have attempted to get a hold of him but was unsuccessful he just avoids us. we will not live forever and would like to be on civil terms but don’t see this ever happening. he doesn’t even call to wish us happy holidays like he use too i feel like he has changed. what should i do?

  4. I have two married daughters in their thirties but since their father remarried and moved where they live things have altered – I ve made mistakes but so has their father but they have always been loved – my older daughter was ill ( so I ve cared for her but now she is better) but there was a wedding in her husbands family which we were thought we d be going to ( but we had no invite but her father and wife did) it really upset me and we had s massive row and she text me horrible things ( I did not help airing my feelings on Facebook) so she text and said I’m bitter and she disowned me – her husband text me saying it’s his family and he should have told me we were not invited and he was sorry and he and my daughter feel awful but my other daughter was asked and her husband also ( and she never went to any family do s but my husband and I did) but for years mind we felt we should not be at the family gatherings as if we did not talk to anyone they would not really bother and I have always tried to make an effort – -anyway told my oldest daughter you are disowning me ? Well that’s fine as you have made everything a competition for years with your dad and I and I’ve had enough aswell ( for years she said I was competitive but I never saw it like that I just wanted to feel as important as her father !!!!! We be not spoken for months now and I normally contact her because she has an illness but this time I know it’s not my fault ( my other daughter supported me mind – I even had my granddaughter stayed at her house (which I loved ) even though they were all at the wedding- but my youngest at a go and me and her dad ( saying we always put our ill daughter first so we took it all and board. And said we love you the same but an ill child is always a concern whatever age they are- but then Iwe rowed as we booked a caravan as she asked for us to go away then because my other daughter wanted a 34th party my younger daughter said they would only come to caravan for a one night as she should go to her sisters party !!! Which was mentioned after I booked caravan ( my husband who is a great step dad but quiet actually had a row with her ) he’s had enough he said no more – he said I worry to much and care too much for them they treat me bad and had told me to let them come to me – the younger daughter has spoken to me since but uses our granddaughter as a pawn – but I just FaceTime my grandchild now ( as we have a solid bond) but I was asked by my younger daughter if we could have the little one ( I said we couldn’t as we had made arrangements but will have her any other weekend she said ok – no probs – I’ve not heard since ( so I will FaceTime our grandchild anyway ) buts it sad how it come to this – I love my daughters dearly and they have always expected me to run up there ( which I have always done and what they expect but now I want respect – I detest ve respect – they are not always right – it’s as though they are the parents and I am the child – so I am just getting on with life as it did all effect me for months this year – I have a 15 year old son with my husband ( my daughters step dad) and he is in his last year of school – it’s all upset him ( and I realised when he was upset – omg – what about him ???( Then I pulled myself together )

  5. I am a mother,although I never knew how to be,I never saw my mom do more than stay in bed,my sister became the parent. I was not “mother material” I was terrified of the idea,however,I gave birth to a daughter. It cost me my marriage(my husband wanted I have an abortion,I refused),I lost my career my home and returning home to my parents house,my self esteem and family members respect. My daughter was kidnapped by her father a week past her first year,my parents showed no compassion. For ALMOST 3yrs I didn’t know where my daughter was,until I answered the phone(which I was forbidden to do) my xhusband called telling me my daughter was in California.i rode 4days one way to get her,and 4days back. My family members constantly talked bad about me to my daughter,however I soon found a place to live,only for constant interference.I was physically ill however in my family’s opinion I was crazy,so they begin referring to the crazy mommy. What my family didn’t know was my stepfather having raped me and threatening to hurt my child.As ill as I was,I did what I thought I had to to be safe,it wasn’t until I confronted my dad that my mom had always known and pretended she was a victim.They are both dead,my daughter was at their house when I confronted him.she stated that if I accused daddy she would accuse me…that’s when the assassination of my reputation,character in my neighborhood our church people I didn’t know,would call cursing me. Lying,stealing,wrecking my vehicle threatening my life,cleaning out my checking and savings account,because she could….multiple times…I don’t know whether it was ALL my fault..however I know I am flawed,but no time when I needed my daughter would she ever help without stealing or lying ..just because she could. She is an adult now I’m no longer concerned whether she cares,her kind of love is far too costly and the price to have her as a daughter,I gave up everything to be a mom only to be blamed,cursed threatened and rejected. I just didn’t believe in abortion.

  6. Wow, what I can say. I have read many comments on here and some make me sad some makes me angry, I totally agree with LJ. Some people can be very opinionated, people like myself have come on here to listen to likeminded people who are hurting, it does t matter whose fault it is the fact is as parents when our children who we have raised probally breastfed and given our all to. They then turn around and disrespect you, don’t even want to drop you to a hospital appointment then that is sad. Further, they find partners and put them first, not saying that chikdren don’t grow up and move on but for goodness sake spare a thought for those mothers like myself who feel pain, deep seated wound when your children change into monsters heartless people. We can all pray and hope that the situation turn around but please you all don’t forget pain is pain. If a dog bites you it cause pain does it matter that you stood on he dogs tail. I don’t think so… For all the mums and dads on here feeling sad right now, my heart goes out to you because I have felt it first hand I understand your pain, but I tell myself in between the tears that ‘time is the master’. God bless all.

  7. Estrangement from three of my four children began after my divorce from their father after thirty years of marriage. He was a lobbyist, seldom home, unfaithful and verbally abusive, but he supported us. I stayed in the marriage
    for the childrens’ sake, so that they could have a great education and the stability of two, however dysfunctional, parents. When the last child left for college, the marriage ended. It has been seven years and the children do not communicate but blame me for the divorce. My ex has been talking against me and brainwashing the children for years. Nothing is ever the fault of a narcissist and the children give him credibility. My attorney said to
    keep emailing the kids and eventually they will respond, but so far nothing, and it has broken my heart. I loved them and did everything I could for them. How can I heal this wound? Anne

  8. These stories touch me deeply. The last two years have been the hardest years of my life . I raised two beautiful girls without their father who was an alcoholic and separated from us very early on in their lives . I chose to be away from their father and make a good life for ourselves I went to college got a nursing degree worked raised my two girls and tried to make a good life for ourselves . Now one of my daughters in the last two years has come out gay and this has been a real heartbreaking thing to go through , and my other daughter is 19 left my house in a huff when she was 18 and now is pregnant with a guy who won’t keep a job they live in a terrible environment and it’s just a mess . She didn’t finish high school either . Neither of my girls are coming to go to college which I dreamed for them both . I am heartbroken worried sad scared to death of the future for them and spent emotionally . Thank you for your stories at least I know I’m not alone .

  9. I am a widow and have raised 2 boys on my own.I am handicapped and have been in a wheelchair for almost three years. Everyone has always told me that I am such a wonderful mother. I am doubting that now. My oldest son is 34 and we have no contact. My youngest son is 31 and we have always been very close, we always helped each other and were there for each other in good times and bad.
    He just got married and his wife and 10yr old daughter live with us. She talks very little except to him. Others have noticed this so it isn’t just me. I am having major surgery on my ankle and foot at the beginning of the yr and will in a few weeks need to have an infected toe amputated. I am scared of both surgeries especially the amputation. I take two chemotherapy drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis and they are likely the reason for the infection but I couldn’t do anything without them. I can’t drive or go out without his takng me and he has been good about it. Being housebound is like being imprisoned and when the surgery comes up I won’t be able to put my foot down or stand for a prolonged time for 12 weeks. My son and I set aside Sundays as a day for me to get out and go somewhere so at least for now I would be able to get out of the house, last week he suddenly told me that he wanted that day to go out with his wife and step daughter so no more Sundays. I am not going to be ‘allowed’ to go with them. I am left to sit home alone, not a part of the family that I support and are living in my house. I am heartbroken that he is breaking his promise and being exclusive. I’m tired of sobbing myself to sleep and he doesn’t seem to care how I feel or what this is doing to me. I’m so disappointed. Telling him how I feel doesn’t do anything to make him see how hurt I am. I want to sell the house so they will have their own place and I will have mine and not be subjected to things like this. I (we) have redone this house and it is beautiful. I don’t want to move I love the neighborhood and area. It just seems like the only thing to do unless I become a house hermit I can’t escape the pain. I’ve been by his side and he has gotten everything he wanted–no college loans to pay, two cars, expensive gifts. I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of, like it was all a spam.

  10. It was years of heavy pain. I know it feels as if our daughters died. However I wanted to give you hope. I was where you are and it changed. It changed slowly. If I were to give advice I would say
    1. Her anger comes out on you because she really does love you. She can’t do that with her father. Know that and when she does that you don’t need to be affected by it. She just unloading her stress.
    2. Don’t ever say anything negative about her father. You cannot win here.
    3. Be at peace with yourself and know you did the very best you could do.
    FYI my daughter knows now that her father was abusive to me. She can talk about it but if I talk about she will get angry.
    Please take care of yourself because she will want and need you sooner before later

  11. My son is 24 and in his first relationship she is older than him an we were friends before they started to date I did everything to make her welcome in my home but she hates me now he does too my son lives in my house and had ignored me for weeks now I adore my children and its killing me.
    I can’t get away from it as they both work with me too I had a bereavement a few weeks ago and he didn’t even ask how I was or offer support his behaviour is killing me.
    I had a turbulent childhood myself he knows what he’d doing to me and its crushing me .
    Last week I didn’t want to be here anymore I came that close but only the thought of my daughter stopped me.
    I have to think of myself now im not a bad mum I’ve packed in my job given up my house and plan to go abroad to live with my daughter in the next few weeks.
    I love my son and will always be there for him but for now I have to let go of a situation I can’t change for my own well being.
    I will always be here for him and always be his mum

  12. Powerful for me to discover these mailings. I have lost two children. I’m blessed to have one child in my life still. Never knew my father and had a mother who made it clear she wished that she had never had me and so as a baby I was given to others to raise me. After much damage and a very isolating childhood, I went everywhere seeking some form of acceptance, sense of home, belonging, and a feeling of being wanted. Constantly being reminded to be grateful not to have been adopted or taken into care. Without the awareness that it actually wasn’t totally my fault, that I was broken myself, I dived into unhealthy relationships with dangerous, damaged men all alongside attempting to balance being a mother. I had blindly believed that somehow I would manage this huge life changing responsibility. The rest became and is a stream of damage and loss. Enough to say that I have been through years of leaving behind that life with the help of real and strong therapy, healing, and have stood up and opened my heart to my children, having apologised profusely to them for my part in everything that caused them damage and pain, having given them a heart promise to do anything and everything to help them heal and move on with their lives, having given them my word that I will do anything they feel they need to help them let go and to heal. They have decided that for them, they must let go and leave things be. I did, for some time, keep writing, but then realised that this was just more pain for them and so have now stopped and honoured their request for silence from me. Every single day I struggle to keep going through the loss and the pain of this. My ex partners unfortunately have never had to pay for the damage they also caused back then. For my children, they will never be aware of how things happened, they were young. I live with the truth and the memories of how hard I tried to protect us and keep going, but they will never know. I’m in the process of taking one day at a time, learning to accept and look after myself now, more than I have ever done before. I see that it’s so important to keep climbing back up every single day and to keep growing. I am learning to forgive myself now, a slow process but one that I need to keep focusing upon. I care deeply for every creature that suffers and for this beautiful planet. Wherever I can share my heart with compassion, I do so. I hold my children in my heart and thoughts every day, through tears and loss and pain, no matter what. Every time I read about others loss, it strikes me deeply and I know of this pain. There’s nothing like it. Thank you for sites, pages and for people mailing this way, it connects us a little more and reminds us all that life is a constant journey of pain, learning, growth and hopefully, forgiveness too.

  13. I have grown extremely tired of my 28 year old son taking out his frustration on me, but sparing his girlfriend because he doesn’t want her to know the real him. He is very disrespectful to me. He wants to quit his job because he thinks no one likes him and that his boss and co-workers aren’t always receptive to his ideas (don’t blame them because of his pushy nature). When he was overseas in Afghanistan, I was the one he called in the middle of the night to vent and yell at. He owes me money but his girlfriend wants an expensive engagement ring so I’m the one who has to wait. I reached the end of my rope and have blocked his calls and texts, and forwarded his emails to the trash folder, and he can no longer track my location using Find My Friends. He needs to realize that I’m not his whipping post. I never treated my parents this way, things were very different when I was his age. I would rather not have any interaction from him than to have him in my life and suffer from his tirades. Still love him, just don’t like him at the moment. He needs to do some soul-searching.

  14. I’ve lost so much over the years but nothing compares to the loss of a child.. I raised my grandson from an infant. Sent him to a Christian school, enrolled him in several extra activities, and then into sea cadets. Because he excelled in trumpet, I purchased him an expensive trumpet. He appeared to enjoy the life that we gave him. We were disciplinary, but not overly, and we loved him..so much.. Life was good for us and our grandson. We attended all his concerts, in school as well as in cadets and no one could be as proud as my husband and I at those occasions. Then one shocking day anger erupted, he said he hated us. He said he was using pot, alcohol and sexually active. He said he had his own dealer. My husband and I were totally destrought. He was leaving. He is sixteen. Where did he go? To his mother,whom the ministry documented as unsafe and dangerous. That’s why we had him for so long. I have no contact with him. But I do receive abusive, accusing letters from his mother. She then asks for money rides assistance. I can’t sleep and I cry all the time. He has only eighteen months and he’d be out of school and be eighteen years old. He left cadets where he was to be the band leader this year. He had the world at his fingers. I’m told he will go to school but he isn’t to interested in it. Because of this loss I have nothing left. We have no idea what to do, where to go, how to live any more. When he left he took out hearts with him. My husband, who has cancer, just wants to give up. As the other people write, I too real the pain deep in my heart, the unending dreams of loss only to wake up and face a day oh heart-ache. Oh how we suffer for our loss day after day, night after night. God be with us …

  15. Hurt people…hurt people. That’s the only thing that keeps us prodding along, hoping our children come back to us someday.

  16. You think you know pain then one of you’re children hates you for no reason that’s really pain I feel it every day like a knife twisting slowly in my heart!

  17. I’m looking for answers and support. My situation is like many others that have posted in different ways. I am 31 and have 4 Boys ages 13,11,8,5. I lost my boys to the state even though I tried my hardest to get my boys back. My 5 year old I can still get back in my custody because my rights were never terminated. I have not always made good decisions and have made many poor choices. I grew up in a home of an abusive father who is narcissistic and was very verbally abusive to my mother and us. I ended up in the system going to jail alot and I’m finally done with probation and jail. I did a year in jail and I just got out June 17 of this year. I myself repeated the pattern of dating abusive men and I have 4 kids with 4 different dad’s. One question I always want an answer to is Do my kids hate me or think bad about me because they all have different dad’s??? I love my kids so much and I tell them that Everytime I can see them but my parents have custody of my boys and they talk bad about me to my boys, I just don’t know what to say to my boys because I have to get permission from them to be able to see them and I’ve told my kids that their grandparents are the reason momma cannot always come over. What can I say to my boys? I don’t know if they hate me? They are always happy when I’m there to see me and sad when I have to leave. This has been so heartbreaking and unless you’ve gone through it, u can’t explain with words. Thanks for reading and please some support suggestions anyone???? Thanks so much

  18. I was such a good mother. My daughters became adults in age but not in behavior. They moved back in after college because they couldn’t afford their own places and didn’t want to share an apartment together. They did nothing to help around the house and did make a mess on a daily basis. I would ask them over and over to please put things away, clean up their areas, etc. They had no respect for our home or our feelings. I believe they both have personality disorder as their father does. They really only care about themselves. Never do anything for me or their step-father. No presents for Christmas for many years and barely any acknowledgement on birthdays. I decided they would use me as long as I would let them. I disinherited them and removed myself from their lives. It is an adjustment for sure but I am at peace knowing I did a wonderful job as a mother for years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *