"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!

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

  1. To all those mothers posting about how terrible their children are for cutting them off… they sound just like my mom. So much pity party and not accepting of their mistakes, all this whining about the children you raised. I have a feeling ypu have been complaining about your children and cutting people out of your lives for your entire existence . Teaching your own children how to eventually cut you out. It’s sad, to waste your life parenting a child to act in such a way and not understanding you did it. As a daughter of a mother with BPD who has cut me out of her life multiple times. Who is killing me daily because my hatred for her is soo strong. My goal is to not allow my own daughers see me cut her off, or see her cut me off. That’s not normal behavior and people learn it by having it done to them. To the mothers whining on here, perhaps look at yourself. How unbareable are you to be around and can you change? If you cant change accept it how it is so your children can find peace even if the only way is an adult life without their mom.

  2. Let’s all say a collective prayer that our children’s hearts will open, and know what we’ve done for them. May all of your hearts be comforted for there is no greater pain than to know the love of a child that looked up at us after birth with that sacred smile, and now have turned away. It hurts like hell, the only thing I can do is to become a child again, look up at my Father, and humbly say a prayer and ask for help…

  3. I don’t have comments, but I do have a situation, I have 4 children and I been raising them most of their lives on my own, I was raised with lots of violence. I end up having children and I was heading the same direction but I realized that the was not the right way, I seek for counseling, I try my best but my best has not been enough for any of my children. My oldest son join the military and his reason according to him was my fault due to my way of raising him, my third daughter hates me because her daddy end up in prison due to his behavior a rapist and she blamed me for her not having her daddy. My other two adult children they are respectful. This past Saturday I had a little party and the party turn into violence My 24 year old daughter and I arguing then my youngest gets involved and I ended up hitting her then my daughter in law comes and starts fighting with the 24 year old then my son starts hitting my 24 year old as well to the point that I pulled his hair so he can stop hitting his sister and that is when he starts beating me and saying that he hates me and don’t care for me. I am so hurt that I don’t know what to do anymore.

  4. I feel like a lot of parents with broken hearts have to realize that some of their feelings of anger or sadness stem from the fact that their child is just another person. In a parent’s eyes, their child is their child and nothing more. They give birth to a baby and don’t think about when they grow up – how they will be in their teens, what they will be like as adults; and when they finally are able to understand their child’s personality, they get defensive and upset when it wasn’t what they wanted. It’s true that parents do mold a child when they are young but a lot of what a person in comes through self-development, and parents should learn to accept that they have no control over that.

    Also, consider the fact that maybe you are being unreasonable. If a child cuts you out of their life there is probably a good reason, whether the fact was that you were a bad parent (in their eyes, which is the most important perspective) or the fact that their significant other doesn’t like you, any reason is valid. If they barely talk to you or call you or whatever, it’s because they have their own lives to lead. Think back to your own parents, when you began to live your own life and get married, you probably drifted apart from them as well. It is not your child’s duty or obligation to keep in touch with you. You chose to raise them and now you should let them make their own choices.

    Life is not just about your children, life is about yourself. Learn to accept you circumstances and move on peacefully.

  5. I have 35 & 33 yo sons. The elder has been estranging us for the past 10 yrs, has us in his life for awhile then cuts us off again. I gave him furniture, money whatever I could thinking he would want us around. He has been belittling his father, brother & I for as long as I can remember. Finally my younger son told us there had been bad relations between them as children, too ugly & perverse to go into. After much counseling I have decided it is over. I cannot fix this & don’t want to try anymore. He has used & abused all of us. I will always love him & wish him well. Unfortunately he is the one who has to own up to what he has done & I know it will never happen. He continues to hurt me by having visits with my sisters, brothers & my Dad. I know they are his family too but he has painted a picture to them of my husband & I being bad parents and his brother being some crazy mental case. He has also been lying for years about ordinary things. We have had enough. I have a granddaughter from him whom I did not get to know very well. He has told her we are bad people…sometimes there is no way back.

  6. I came looking for an answer to why our adult sons and grandchildren either take us for granted or we are not a priority on their lists.
    It came to a head today when after paying for a grandson to come spent three weeks with us and paying his way while he was here he left without us standing at the airport as he headed to the to go through the scanning system – he didn’t even say good bye or thank you. We were streaming and very upset by the time we got home only to find he had left us a thank you card in the room he was sleeping in. Yes it took the blunt off of the airport scene but that was soon erased by not getting a phone call when he arrived at the other end safe and sound…
    Just writing about this helps as does knowing we are not alone and it could be much worse…. Life will go on but we will not be contacting any of them begging to see them on SKYPE, to find out how they are or to let them know how we are… Maybe we will plan to go away for an extend period of time and not tell them anything about it… to see how long it is before we hear anything…from any one of them…

  7. Thank you Caroline for some useful, thought provoking comments and reminders. Too often this site is only a place in which we who have a difficult relationship becomes just a place to vent. Although I wholeheartedly agrees that venting is useful and necessary it is hardly an opportunity for person growth or enlightenment. It’s just venting. I really appreciate when someone shares something that actually helps me think about my own path and changes I can make to help improve a situation. Caroline you did this without finger wagging or blaming or other disgruntled grown children diatribes. Simply information to share with others that might be useful. Well done!

  8. If you treat your children with contempt, malice and cruelty because they had the audacity to be different from what would have served your selfish purposes best, know that even if they stay in your life, it’s no compliment to you at all.

  9. This is simply a sign of the times there are exceptions to all situations. Sometimes it is clearly, parents haven’t passed on a faith in God or shared and lived in away that would glorify God. Really no problem is so big ,it is just that people are so small in their hearts. The he said ,she said, drama ,the unforgiven person it’s all because their is no reverence for God. Also mental illness’s fall into the issues. Prayer Prayer Prayer and the last person that has a right to say anything is the person that this has not happened to yet. I say yet because if you are dishing it out you will get it back. God bless you all.

  10. Today’s the day that i would never want to look back. its the most painful thing i felt from my only child. Being a single mom raising a daughter was never been easy but i held on with hopes that we will get through with the help of my parents and hoping one day will have a happy family. with all that I have, i have tried to give everything i can to make my daughter always happy. I do have a strong spiritual faith that things will be brighter for us. Now that i am married (not my daughter’s father) and now that my daughter is a young adult(19 yrs old) with a boyfriend, things have changed. Her personality has changed who’d rather be with his boyfriend than be with us. who would find time for his boyfriend but not for our family affairs. Everytime i would ask her to get a time off to be with us for an outing she would say she cant but always habe plans to be with her boyfriend and would sometimes even get out of her way to make it. I have some interractions with her telling her how she has changed and of course she is denying it and saying sorry..I have been controlling my emotions but deep down inside im always hurting. Today me and my husband were both sick (my husband with gout attack and could hardly stand up, crawling in pain, and I with bursitis limping due to the pain i feel, I decided not to go to work to go to the Doctor. Knowing that my daughter is working at 3:pm I asked her to drive us to the doctor at around 10:30 am. She replied saying its going to take time for her to wait as we dont have an appointment. I told her that she has a lot of time and its not going to affect her work. She said its ok if she will just drop us off and pick us up again, To my dismay i replied thats not practical as the clinic is far from where we live and wouldnt even know how long it will take us to get our spot. I stopped and just left her as i didnt want things to get rough between us since im not feeling well. When i was at the clinic i texted her saying Im so dissapointed and humiliated by her behaviour and hurt to see how ungrateful she is to me when i needed her. I told her i felt ashamed to myself and my husband for seeing her bahve that way. I told her that i will never forget what she did for as long as I live. I told her that from now on she shouldnt be expecting anything from us. This is the 2nd time she did this to me. Im so hurt that I want to cut my ties with her… My only child disrespecting her only parent she has from the day she was born. I pray to God that she will still give me strength to overcome this and open my daughters heart and eyes to realize how she is acting. I feel so ashamed to have raised a very selfish child even to her mother.

  11. I brought my daughter up pretty much alone. My husband and I divorced when she was 14 and he took off to another state and gave no financial support. We were living on the west coast. I had no close family, they were in another country. I did my very best for her. Gave her everything she wanted. I had no social life of my own, just going to work, trying to build a career to earn more money, and taking care of my daughter. My daughter behaved badly and I was always paying or finding ways to get her out of jams. She was in with a bad crowd, but nothing I could do seemed to work. Finally, she straightened up, but was hostile toward me. After college, she told me she was going to the east coast for a one week vacation, but she never came back. About a year later, I was very lonely, so I also moved to the east to be closer to her and have a shorter journey to my family in Europe. She ended up marrying a man I really dislike because he has been so disrespectful to me, which she obviously allows. She told me over the phone she was getting married. I was not invited to the wedding. Recently, she had a child. When she was pregnant, I was not invited to the shower, but I gave them $1000 for the child. That’s a lot of money to me. (I’m still working past retirement age.) No thanks from the disrespectful husband, but I got an impersonal thank you card from her. When the child was born, I took 2 days vacation from work to be there for her. (I had told my daughter that I would take this time off.) My vacation time was wasted waiting around for a call to come to the hospital. It never came. She didn’t let me come to the hospital until the evening of the second day after his relatives and everyone else had visited. I feel so hurt. I love my daughter, but I just keep getting hurt over and over by her. Should I stop trying to be in her life and just walk away?

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