When Adult Children Don't Want to Visit

The Holidays start tomorrow, and I’m cooking all day in the kitchen today! I love the day before Thanksgiving almost as much as my family loves the actual Thanksgiving meal. I’m planning a big Thanksgiving feast post tomorrow, but here’s a question I received concerning “parenting” adult children that I want to respond to. The Holidays is where families either get together or, sadly, avoid one another, which, as you’ll read, is tearing this mom apart.

I’m cooking all day today and am planning a big cooking post for tomorrow, but I first wanted to reflect on a sad reality: When adult children don’t want to visit.

Okay, here’s the letter I received:

What do you do when your adult child that has moved out doesn’t get around to see you and it is killing you inside? My adult child, spouse and baby are coming in next week and it looks like we are only going to see them a couple hours one day and a couple the next. Out of their whole trip we only get a few hours and it is tearing me apart.

I need to know what I should do. I don’t know what to pray for cause I am hurting so bad. I want so much to spend time with my grandchildren so they will actually will remember me when I am not here. I have no idea when we will be able to get together again. Please give me some guidance as to what to do for I am hurting so much. I love my children beyond belief and want to be a part of there lives as much as I can.

I am so sorry for this. I know it hurts. Your adult children are not trying to hurt you. I have two adult children, and I’ve learned to recognize that sometimes they do things that you think they should know would hurt you, but they are too involved with their adult lives to understand. They just don’t see it the way you do right now.

But here’s the guidance you and every parent of adult children should take: Be kind to them when they visit. Like, overly nice, even if it is a short time. Offer meals, let them stay at your place, offer to babysit for free, pay for gas if you can. Take them out for lunch and insist on paying, or pack a picnic and meet at a park. You may not be able to make them to come over to visit, but you do have the power to “meet” them where they’re at.

When you do this, do you know how God is transforming you? He’s turning you into a Grandma. A loving grandma, one that all the kids and grandkids love to visit and hang with. That’s the kind of grandma you want to be.

Count your blessings, too. Your adult children are not in open rebellion, which is much more painful. Though their stay is going to be short, at least they’re coming over. For those who have estranged relationships with their adult children, I recommend reading The Best of Barbara Johnson by, of course, the late Barbara Johnson. She dealt with extreme rebellion from her adult son, but she wrote a lot about what she learned from it.

And our book isn’t too bad, ya know! 😉 We speak of our estranged relationship with our oldest daughter, Alicia (now 27), who today is a joy to get together with. Back then, though, we wrestled through the same pain you are feeling today. Our book Love in the House drills down deep and analyzes how the power of love can overcome any relationship problem.

Most likely, your daughter and her budding family probably just need time to grow. They are putting other things on their priority list. Though it hurts when you are pushed down the priority list, there is little wrong with it. Did you ever cross off your parents from the priority list when raising your family? Chris and I did, and though we’re sorry for it, we recognize (as do our parents) that at the time we just needed the space. The older you get and the more you parent, the more you realize that your parents are pretty neat people, that family is way more important than anything else our time demands. The journey of love teaches such truths.

Keep your chin up! Parenting is a journey, even when those little children become adults on their own. A mother’s prayers are worth it, even when your children don’t seem to appreciate it.

Now, onto cooking. We’ve got big plans for today. Lydia will be filming me whipping up some Jeub family favorites, and I hope to get them online tomorrow. If you get a chance, visit tomorrow, or subscribe to our site and we’ll remind you. Happy Thanksgiving!

About Wendy Jeub

Yes, Wendy Jeub has brought 16 children into the world, and loves each and every one of them. So much so, she'd welcome more!

  • laura

    Thank You Wendy for sharing..have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family <3

  • sandra

    I agree,I think it’s about basic boudaries,too.Just be as nice as you can be to them and it will draw them to you eventually.But you have to give some space and let them decide to come to you.It can’t be forced.

  • Melissa McKimmey

    Try thinking of it this way: you raised them to grow up, become self-sufficient and start a loving family. While it may hurt, they are showing you how well you did raising them.

    And if you offer to baby-sit, they will come.

  • Leah Sheatsley

    Wendy.. you are just amazing. Happy Thanksgiving to all the Jeubs!

  • Michele

    Beautifully put. I wish you were *my* Mom! Or that mine had the thought process in place that you do… Thank you & Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Margaux Hames

    Hi Wendy, Your words to this loving gramma touched my heart. My mother was a wonderful, loving and generous woman. Her love of family and motherhood was a living example of God’s love to His family and children. She was a very intelligent woman who chose to devote her life to her family. When my sister married a minister she was going to live at a great distance without having much opportunity to come home. My mother gave her a great piece of advice. She suggested that she look around and find a gramma, a grampa,aunts and uncles among those that had no famly that lived close by. My nieces and nephew enjoyed a rich family life growing up with that advice. There are many children and adults that do not have family nearby, who would love to have an extra gramma in their lives. Thank you Wendy for sharing your family with us. margaux.

  • tereza

    when I finished reading your post I thought: “so this is how a bad Mom becomes a wonderful Grandma.”

    My Mom is a great Mom to me and my siblings, but she is even more wonderful as a Grandma now. I think Grandmotherhood is God’s second chance to us women. :)

    Thanks for the wonderful advice.

  • mollie

    I think that this is a very wise article. Very well said.

  • Kathy Wooten

    Wonderful article…I shared it with my mother in law. She is a wonderful grandma that would be encouraged by these wise words. :)

  • Margaret, Kathy’s Mother-in-law

    Thank you Kathy. Enjoyed the article.

  • Mary

    I know how you feel I also went thur the same thing years ago. So what I did is changed our Thanksgiving Dinner to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. That way all show up and on one had to leave early. What a great Thanksgiving Sunday for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    I confess I am one those who don’t want to be around my family, I won’t lie. My father remarried when we were young and it was challenging growing up. My step mom has some real issues, still does. But through a counselor and friends I shook the dust from my feet and walked away after my father died. Letting go wasn’t easy especially as a believer. My aka step sister still doesn’t get it or understand, she says she does. I’ve been able to connect with people I went to school with which is a huge step forward. But it’s just easier for me not to be around family, in honesty I would rather be around friends, when it comes to siblings and the growing up years.

    Our daughters are grown now, I have the utmost respect for them, their spouses, even on those things I don’t agree with. They are unique individuals even though they are still our children. I let them do what they want for the holidays because the spouses families want their children home for the holidays too. We don’t make Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day the only holiday, we have created other special days around the holidays and through out the year. One thing I know I can do is pray, pray for our girls and the family I grew up with.

    • Chris Jeub

      You bring a lot of insight to this conversation. Thank you for commenting!

  • Kim

    My mother could have written this post about me a few years ago. In fact, maybe it was her. The problem was, I am very health-conscious, and my mother is a chain-smoker. I absolutely did not want her smoking around my baby, nor did I want to be in her house that reeked so badly that we would all smell like cigarette smoke just from the air in her house, even if she didn’t light up while we were there. The thought of letting my baby crawl around, pick things up, and put things in her mouth that had been in that house made me feel sick. So many well-intentioned birthday/holiday cards were sent to the recycle bin instead of being saved, because the smell was unbearable. I suffered from many illnesses as a child, due to second-hand smoke, and I will protect my children from it as much as possible.

    So, we visited, but it was never at her house. It was at a restaurant, or the bowling alley, or the park. It was brief, because how much time can you spend at any of those places, really? This past summer, I helped my mom to clean her house, and she promised never to smoke in her house again. We can finally visit for longer periods, and even spend the night. She still smokes, but she takes it outside. I am so happy to finally put that situation behind us. It wasn’t anything against her personally, it was just her terrible habit.

  • Jen

    Just be kind and giving towards your adult children. No need to parent them anymore or try to influence their decisions. Be mindful that they are ( in my case) in there 30’s and have accomplished much with there lives. Your can be proud of the fact that you gave them a good start and if there time with you is pleasant then they will spend more time with you. Grand-parenting and parenting are not the same. Parents make the decisions and rules grandparents should support the decisions and rules not the other way around. I think this is the most difficult concept to grasp as one transitions from being a parent to a grandparent. It should be a freeing time where you get to have the joy of spending time with the grandchildren and none of the stress of making important decisions for them. It’s just my take on the subject, take from it what you will :)

  • Cort

    I ran across your post while searching for the best way to honor my mother (dad passed 16 years ago) while shielding my own heart. I’m the daughter you describe. 20 years ago I changed the denomination of church I attended. My family has made it clear over the years that they are personally hurt by my choice, and blame my husband. When I visit I make a conscience effort to not react negatively when they find every opportunity to point out mistakes from my past, or how I’m continuing to hurt them by not visiting more, or attending their church. One time in the 20 years, I tried to tell them that those attacks are exactly why my visits are few, and had all 5 of them swarmed with raised voices that they do not make my visits hostile. Many times though the years I have made suggestions that have been ignored or shot down, only to have someone else make the same suggestion minutes later and it was a great idea. I don’t know why we seem to speak different languages, or why I am so different from the rest of my family. Visits are mentally draining. I see the easy comradery they share and would love to be a part of it. Yet I know that even when I choose to help around the house, and engage them in conversation, and put my best foot forward, I am not. I am told how far off I am. I don’t want my lack of visits to hurt my mom, I also don’t want hurt myself. So I allow plenty of time between visits.

    • Chris Jeub

      What a raw and honest response. I encourage you to keep gathering courage and visit the family. Perhaps a redemptive conversation will break from the tension. It certainly won’t happen if you’re not present. Thank you for posting!

  • reereegal

    Thank you for this….I was searching, “What to do when your adult children don’t want to visit.”

    Frankly I don’t want to visit my own parents! I’m almost 50 and my husband and I recently went to visit both our parents; we hadn’t been home for about 5 years although they have come to visit us once or twice. After this last visit, it will be at least another 5 years. During our visit, they made no effort to do anything while we were there except sit around and watch TV. The other set of parents left our last day there…to drive 12 hours to see their other adult child who has never once come home to visit them since he has gotten married about 25 years ago. Wow! We spent a week of leave, over $1000 for airfare and car rental and they up and left our last day!

    Our own children don’t want to visit us although we have purchased their airfare in the past, lavished them with fun things to do and paid for everything while they have come to visit. Ironically, our son always finds the leave and money to go visit his wife’s family. I’m tired of always being the one who buys my children’s visits and wonder if I’m enabling and/or freeing up their money to visit or do other, more important things. I want my own children to come visit us because they want to and they enjoy it. I wonder if that is how God feels about us….He wants us to come to Him because we enjoy being with Him and worshiping Him in His House.

    I know years ago when our daughter had left to go to college, she never called us, unless, of course she needed money. (She’s a bit better now, she may call once a month.) I remember wondering back then if that’s how God felt when I never spent time with Him reading and praying – talking with Him. Ever since that time, I’ve been pretty consistent with a daily devotion and I’ve grown to love my time with the Lord, although sometimes it’s hurried and rushed. It’s almost as if I have to spend time with the Lord in order for my day to go well.

    The best sermons I ever heard were from my own children and it reflects how God must feel when I, His child, don’t always behave in a loving way.


    My daughter moved out almost 6 years ago and the last time she was home was 4 years ago. Because both my husband and I still work and the jobs we do, it’s impossible for us to travel during the holidays. She will go to her boyfriend’s parents’ house, but never come to ours. Says it’s too far to travel. I know she’s busy (she’s in school and working too) but it hurts and she refuses to understand WHY it hurts. So, for the last years, we know she goes to the BF’s family but refuses to even try to come home.
    I know we raised her to be independent, but it’s like she avoids coming home and avoids us.
    It hurts. It REALLY hurts and when I try to explain, she gets angry.
    I look back on how many times I missed going home to my own parents and regret it so much now. Maybe this is payback.

  • Kaye

    My sons live in different states. They have chiildren in NH, CA AND Texas. I have 2 grown sons. They never call unless we iniiat the calls. They don’t realize how much this hurts. They never say thank one when we send something.
    I know this sounds like children of abused parents. If abuse is sitting through 18 years oh baseball games, attending every PTO. Having grown up with 2 parent who love each other. I am tired of crying from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I am at my wit end. In case I didn’t mention it I live in SC and both the boys were raised there. With 4 wonderful grandparents.
    All I ever wanted was to be a grandmother and I don’t think that will ever happen.