Ask Stavroula: A Single Mom and Her Grown Children

Dear Stavroula

I am a woman alone, who for years struggled to survive in America. My husband from the beginning treated me badly. He left me with four children while he ran around with all sorts of women. We never got a divorce, but for 45 years we have lived apart. I raised the children on my own with all the effort and many sacrifices. Their father was always far from the family, he never cared about me or for our children. But now that they are grown, they have taken his side. I believe he brainwashed them and turned them against me. I have no relationship with any of my children, and they often talk about their father and say they owe him a lot. I can’t believe it. I’m struggling with many problems and I have no one to help me. I do not know what to do to fix this situation.

Maria

Dear Maria,

You write to me that you do not have a good relationship with your children, but you do not give me more information about them, where they live, whether you are fighting over inheritance or some other reason, so as to better understand what may have gone wrong in the relationship with your children. So I can only make assumptions in my attempt to help you.

Unfortunately, it is commonplace now for adult children to move away from their parents, mainly for business reasons. Sometimes this results in psychic distancing as well, as their obligations are many and force them to limit communication with their mother or father. Is that what happened in your case? Do your children happen to live closer to their father now? If so, wouldn’t it be natural for them to have a closer relationship with him? Do you see them getting closer to their father and interpret that as their rejecting you?

But even in this case, where distance plays a role so that the adult child does not have close relationships with his/her aging parent, there are usually other problems behind the child’s behavior that may have begun since childhood or adolescence. Many times parents, especially those who raise their children without help, become overprotective, oppressive, do not show trust in their children, and force them to live by strict rules as they must, in order to protect them. Often their relationships are never friendly or familiar, as the parents themselves keep their distance from their children because they fear that if they are too close to their children they will lose control of their upbringing. Did this happen in the relationship with your children, meaning that you never solved the problems that always existed between you? Do your children feel that you do not accept them, that you intervene in their lives even now that they are grown, that you want to control them? Do you, when you are with them, take responsibility for your own life?

You write to me how their father has influenced them against you. A mistake often made by separated parents is to blame the parent, the father, for example, who has left home. The parent that remains feels injured and reacts whenever the child says something good about the other, causing the child to be afraid to have feelings about the parent who does not live with them. Growing up, however, the child may realize he was wrong and wants to restore his relationship with that parent. Did this happen to your children? Did they feel that they were deprived of their father, and now they want to know him better and you accuse them of taking his side?

So, I would advise you to visit a specialist and talk to him. It will help you clarify what exactly has happened to your relationship with your children. To look deep within yourself without blaming yourself – no one is a perfect parent – and with sincerity and love for yourself to understand the mistakes you have made so that you will be able to correct them.

Then, try to speak clearly with your children and allow them to express their feelings, desires, fears, without accusing them of anything or blaming them. Ask them to talk to you and let them understand that you want to put your relationship on a new level, with mutual respect, understanding, and love. It may take time, but it’s worth it.