One Tough Mother: Parental Alienation and Family Estrangement

Updated on December 2, 2018
Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

Life and relationships can be erratic and writing about perplexing issues is cathartic. I hope readers can find beneficial information here.


No One Is Immune From Family Dysfunction

If you are a parent, please think about the long-term consequences before allowing your anger, judgment, or a grudge against your adult child (or another relative) to ruin your relationship forever. Think about the effects these negative actions and behaviors of today will have on your other family members, future generations, and the legacy left behind.

Negative reactions can have a very painful and lifelong effect on not only you and your child but others within the family who may feel compelled or forced into having to choose a side. What is the point of such reactions? Is the sake of being right, controlling, or wishing to guilt your child really worth the long-term agony and hurt it will cause?

Instead, why not try taking the high road and let go of the inner narcissist. Try sitting back and offering a listening ear, and allow your child to make their own decisions—and then do your best to support whatever those decisions are. It takes a strong will, a conscious effort, and dedication to your child to not make knee-jerk reactions that you may forever regret.


Our Children, Young or Old, Need Support and Acceptance

Of course, you do not have to approve of or agree with your child's choices; but as with many situations in life, you must pick and choose your battles wisely and decide if your family bonds are worth sacrificing over a difference of opinion. You can provide the support they need as a parent, as he or she likely in a dark place and faced with a very tough decision. What they need and seek from you, is comfort, acceptance, safety, and love; not opinions or judgment that makes their issues even more difficult for them.

Our children are not a possession for which to be controlled. In most cases, our children were wanted and desired and some parents even worked hard to have them. They should not be expected to live up to our expectations; just because we created them.

As mothers and fathers, it is our job to raise our children to be kind-hearted human beings with a strong work ethic and respect for others. We should help and support them through their life struggles and teach them the necessary skills to survive and cope with life's challenges. On a side note, to those who throw religious guilt into the equation, please don’t. Not everyone believes the way you do, even if it is "how you raised them". That is yet another form of control and is mentally abusive too.

No One Is Guaranteed a Perfect Set of Loving, Understanding Parents

If you find yourself the target of family aggression, parental estrangement, or as a victim of emotional abuse from a parent or family member, it's time to remove yourself from that situation if you have exhausted all measures to reconcile or even to agree to disagree.

It's very hard, but you must bear in mind that the issues are not specifically with you and what they perceive that you did or didn't do correctly. It may sound cliche', but the issues are actually within themselves.

You must find a way to forgive and give yourself permission to break free of the guilt that is being put upon you. I am not saying that you must cut all ties with the tough parent(s) initially, but putting distance between you until you can pull your life together is crucial if they are not giving you the support that you are asking for.

Why Some Mothers Can't Love

For some, it could be jealousy that their child has accomplished things that they never had the courage to do. It could also be that they have nothing in common and simply can't find a common ground on which to connect.

Perhaps the parent/child relationship was always stressed, or the parent did not handle an active, opinionated child in a positive manner (the "seen and not heard/you will speak when spoken to, your opinion doesn't matter, show me respect at all times" kind of parent).

Maybe it's because they did not feel loved by their own mother or father or that something happened to them during their childhood that they have not been able to process or overcome and therefore, the estranged child or relative bears the brunt of this anguish.

Ways to Cope and Respond

Whatever the case may be, if you are the victim of any or all of the above actions by your "tough mother", you must first and foremost realize that it is perfectly acceptable to take care of yourself before you can even try to repair the damage caused by these behaviors. You must practice self-love by doing what you need to do to get your life on your desired path, whether that be moving and starting over, finding a new job, taking up new hobbies, or establishing a new relationship/marriage.

Distance and silence are key at first. Try reaching out slowly with a call or even an email or a card. Then try a meet-up for coffee or lunch. Don't expect a happy reunion at first; actually, don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed. The most important aspect is that you tried.

If you continue to try in good faith and persistently get bitten, it's time to resume the silence and distance until your parent is ready to seek counseling or guidance and work on their reactions and approaches. For some, the painful reality is that it may never happen and the situation may never change.

There are many excellent books that are loaded with advice from experienced writers and professionals who have lived this situation or helped those who have. Take advantage of these reads. Talk to your friends or see a family counselor. Start a yoga practice or take up a sport as an outlet for your frustration.

If you are an adult child of a tough mother (, you might even find improvement with the manners in which you respond or react to your own children in their times of need or change. I know that I did and that today, I have more patience, understanding, tolerance, and acceptance for them than ever before.

I will probably always feel unloved by my own mother, but at least I know now that it's not my fault and it's out of my control. All I can do is use what I have learned to be a better mother and grandmother today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.

I value any comments and feedback or the sharing of your own personal experiences with your own "tough mother". We are all in this together and it's nice to share coping and learning strategies.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Debra Roberts


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      • profile image

        Bruce Fruehan 

        2 days ago

        Very well written and very true. I've never had a better friend or one I respect more.

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        4 weeks ago from Ohio

        Thank you Anna. It was deeply emotional indeed for me to write this as no one wants to admit their family situation is not so great. I used to find it very embarrassing until I started writing about it. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback.

      • profile image


        4 weeks ago

        Your site is something I am very interested in as it talks about deep emotions that we go through and struggle with in life. I enjoyed reading this article. Thank you!

      • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

        Debra Roberts 

        2 months ago from Ohio

        I had never heard of NPD until I started reading and researching and trying to figure out why this happened...and why things have always been so contentious with us. The more I read, the more I have learned that it is more common than I thought. I'm definitely not alone in this struggle.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        A friend of mine once did some study on narcissistic mothers, which was interesting to read. Your article further enhances my understanding of the subject.


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