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Ask a Professional: My Son hasn’t spoken to me in a year

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Ask a Professional: My Son hasn’t spoken to me in a year

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Ask a Professional: My Son hasn’t spoken to me in a year

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I remarried after being divorced for 3 years. My middle son adored my new husband and was very much in favor of the marriage. He was 11 when I first introduced them and 12 when we got married. My Son and his Dad had a rocky relationship and my Son really enjoyed spending time with my new husband.

As my Son and his Dad became closer, my Son pushed my new Husband away. He was a teenager now with all the hormones to go with it and there was a lot of attitude and hostility whenever we would tell my Son to do something or tell him he couldn’t do something. Most of the time I was the one who disciplined or my ex but there were a few times when my husband got tired of the way the kid was treating me and would get upset. Words only nothing physical but my Son especially resented getting in trouble with my husband. There was a lot of tension in the house and I felt like I was the one always trying to make everyone happy and get along.

Then the Pandemic hit and my Husband lost his job. There were no jobs to be found in the State we lived in. He did apply to some that weren’t really in his field but wasn’t even given a call back. I too tried to find an extra job and got nothing. My husband started applying to positions out of State. He got an interview for a great job but it was very far away. I knew the kids would be upset and wasn’t sure what to do. I talked to my ex and told him of the situation and asked if it was possible for the kids to live with him if they didn’t want to move with us.

Given the better school system they were in, their friends and their ages, I thought the least selfish thing I could do was give them a choice. We sat them down, told them the situation and they both said they wanted to move in with their Dad. My daughter was very upset and my Son at the time was very understanding.

Once my husband accepted the job my Son’s attitude changed and he was very angry. He moved out shortly after and would barely speak to me. I had him over for his Birthday and made all of his favorites but he was very cold. Toward the end he started to warm up a little and I had some hope. The next day he came to get his Sister to go to my ex’s family event and he wouldn’t look at me or speak to me!

My Husband was already in another State as he had to start his new job right away and I had stayed behind to sell the house. He had texted me right after my Son left and I vented in a text about how hurt I was that my Son was treating me this way! Unfortunately my Husband sent an angry text to my Son about needing to grow up and understand that life doesn’t always work the way you want and nobody wanted to have to move but he shouldn’t blame me for it. Had I known he was going to send the text I would have stopped him but he told me after it was already done. This was like throwing gasoline on a fire! I tried to talk to my Son after that but he just sat there not really saying anything.

After I finally joined my husband, my daughter wasn’t talking to me either. She came around after a couple months and now our relationship is much much better. My Son ignores every message I send him and all of my calls go to voicemail. He won’t even see me when I visit and his Father does nothing to make that happen. Now he is 18 and legally an adult. I’m going back for a visit next week to see my daughter perform and want to see my Son more than anything but I have no idea how to even go about trying to make that happen. At this point I don’t know if he will ever speak to me again and it completely devastates me! I feel like a complete failure as a Mother


Dear @Usedtobemomof3,

I want to start by acknowledging how upset and sad you must be feeling. Being separated from a loved one is a very deep hurt.

Adult children not talking to their parents is more common than a lot of people realise - it's something that people are often reluctant to talk about (either due to the pain of the situation or feelings of shame). You’re not alone in this experience.

When reaching out to someone who is estranged, it can be helpful to let them know that you are willing to listen to them about their feelings and acknowledge any hurt that you have caused (even when this hasn’t been deliberate). It’s important initially not to try to persuade them to understand your reasons or see things from your point of view.

It sounds like you have made a lot of attempts to try to talk to your son. When there is a rift like this, after an initial contact attempt to acknowledge how they are feeling and let the person know you’d like to rebuild the relationship, it's important to give them the space to decide if and when they’d like to make contact. 

This can be really difficult, and a year is a long time (and no doubt it feels even longer), but sometimes when a parent is making regular attempts to get back in touch, the child will feel pressured and be less likely to respond. 

I’m not sure how often you have been leaving messages or attempting to call your son, but if you have tried a number of times I would recommend taking a break. I know that your intent in trying to reach out to your son is based on love and wanting to connect. Taking a break could be helpful for both of you - your son is more likely to be willing to talk if it is his decision (versus feeling pressured), and it also gives you a break from the stressful cycle of reaching out and waiting for a reply which doesn’t come. Sometimes parents find it easier to take a break if they send a message letting their child know that they won’t be attempting contact for a while, but that the door is always open.

People tend to associate grief with someone dying, but grief can be a reaction to any kind of loss - including loss of a relationship when a loved one is not speaking with you. Thinking about the distress you’re feeling as a form of grief can be a useful way of understanding it. 

In talking about grief, I’m not saying that thing won’t change - it is entirely possible that this isn’t forever and your son will be willing to talk to you in the future. The truth is I don’t know, and I want to acknowledge that the uncertainty makes this particularly hard for you. Regardless of whether he reaches out in the future, thinking about this as grief can be a helpful way of understanding how you are feeling now. 

When grieving, it’s normal to feel sad, and to be angry, and to question past events and decisions. It’s also normal to try to ‘fix’ the situation. Although written for a bereavement, the tips here may be helpful to you (it’s on our youth site but is relevant to someone of any age), and I would also suggest that continuing to focus on positive relationships that you do have (such as with your daughter) can also help.

I wish you the best,