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!

    • Signify

      And there are 12 days of Christmas beginning on Christmas day – but you show by your comment that you are not a needy adult – I certainly seem to be.

  • 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.

    • Signify

      oh brother

    • Elsie

      My parents smoked “on top of me,” meaning, smoked while we were all in the house. Both of them. The a/c unit would pick it up and recirculate it. From age 16-18 I left my bedroom window open, even in the cold and rain, and purchased an air purifier with my own money. The air quality in my room was better than anywhere else in the house, but that’s no way to live.

      What hurts the most is I asked my parents to please stop, to take it outside, that I didn’t want to breathe second-hand smoke. They seemed offended that a “child” who pays no bills would have the nerve to make such a request in “their house.” They then doubled-down on the smoking.

      I felt abused, neglected, unseen and unheard. Now that I’m 34 and five hours away, I almost never visit. Maybe once every two years. My mother finds subtle ways to communicate that she misses me terribly, but I don’t miss them. You mistreated me. You taught me that my voice and needs don’t and didn’t matter. You taught me that the only thing I was allowed to be was your daughter. Not a person with feelings, and certainly not a person who had the right to choose what happened to her health-wise. It took me years to untangle the codependency.

      That said, you will not know how your children truly feel about you until they are grown. How a parent treats the child WILL show up later in life. My parents would argue that they’ve provided for me financially which they have, but the one area I’ve needed them, to just treat me with love and kindness, they failed. In this life, you really do reap what you sow.

  • 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 :)

    • Signify

      Exactly. The time for parenting is over if you’ve done a good job of it, and if they were ok enough to become individuated adults.

    • Signify

      That you see becoming a grandparent as the transition from parenthood is something I question. The transition from parenthood is to grow more as an individual. Grandchildren are not a requirement, and people should look for adulation and perpetuity in some form, elsewhere.

  • 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.

    • Signify

      This isn’t about God. Leave God out of this. If you mentioned what you paid in airfare and lavishing of gifts one more time I thought I’d gag.

      • RINOSHaveAbusedBase4LastTime

        Don’t know what your problem is, but all the woman was doing was mentioning her financial sacrifice. It’s hard earned money that comes from WORK. The poor woman has sacrificed to provide and gets disrespect in return…..Period.

        • Signify

          No one, I trust and hope, forced her to have children. I’m tired of hearing what parents “sacrificed for the children.” It’s part of the deal. You produce them, you care for them, or you abandon them. They owe parents nothing. Far too many humans reproduce with the idea that their offspring will do something for them. That’s not how it works. You bear them, you care for them.

    • Debbie Hines Hicks

      I’m sorry you feel this way,my parents both died before I was 18 I would give anything to have them here today,so take time now because later it will matter to you but will be too late


    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.

    • Signify

      It’s not payback. You raised her to be, rightly, independent, as I raised my own daughter. Well, who knew. The thing of it is, they believe that you are fine, and adult, and love them, and don’t “need” them because they believe you’re just fine, and the whole point of raising them well, and to be independent was exactly so that they wouldn’t fret about contacting their parents or visiting them. Well, who knew it would still feel like this, eh? But it isn’t payback. It just feels like shit.

  • 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.

    • Signify

      I do not understand, “All I ever wanted was to be a grandmother.” You never wanted to be a great ice skater, banker, child specialist, on the stage, a writer, a poet, or just happy being in a loving relationship that lasted? I don’t get this. I do feel for you because I’m quickly learning what its like to have been needed, or maybe I wasn’t as much I thought I was, and how this transition is actually hell. Hell, hell, hell. There will never be any grandchildren, but I never thought that was the purpose in my life in having a child. The only reason I’m sorry there won’t be grandchildren, is that I know my daughter would have been about the best mother one could get. I don’t know how old you are, but this is happening to me very late in life, and with one thing and another health-wise, keeping eyes on some vaporous future is taking more energy than I quite have right now. I am very sorry this is all causing you such pain. Basically, I think women are wise not to have children of their own.

  • Sharon Numnut

    My daughter and her family live one hour away from me and its been seven months since they have visited me. She never bothers with her brother and hasnt seen his little boy since he was an infant. She is cutting ties it seems with both of us and we have no reason why and she says everything is fine. Phone calls from her and e mails have become almost non existent for some reason. I have planned get together so we all could get together and told her about it months before and she says she knows she will be tired and has 100 lame reasons not to be here I am at my witts end and right now I feel if she doesnt want to be a part of the family then so be it

  • Elsie

    She could always just go visit her daughter. Why do the children have to put forth all the effort?

    • Kelly Jo Tynes-Peissner

      My kids made it clear I’m to never visit them. They are to only visit me. They do not want me to invade their privacy.

  • Elsie

    For any parents reading, here’s why I don’t visit mine:

    – They live in squalor but have the means to live cleanly. I don’t have kids yet, but I feel like if I did, I wouldn’t let them stay the night because they will leave filthy and smelling like cigarette smoke
    – My parents smoke in their house. This act has ruined the inside, created endless dust, and saturated everything made of cloth. If I visit for more than 5 minutes, it’s all over my clothes and hair, and I have to go wash my hair to get it out. They offer for me to stay there when I come into town, but I always say no because it is traumatic for me (see post a few scrolls down for an explanation) and I don’t want to reek of cigarette smoke
    – My parents refuse to learn, grow, or change. They don’t want to do anything new or different. I suppose they want me to travel 5 hours to just come sit in the house. If I make an age-appropriate suggestion for fun, they always decline because “too many people will be there.” We don’t play cards, board games, group cook, nothing. They literally just want to see me
    – My parents rarely come see me, and they are healthy and financially stable enough to do so. This hurts a lot. I’ve done very well in my new city, and they don’t come visit almost as a protest to my leaving. They don’t even realize that if they put forth more effort to visit me, I’d put forth far more effort to come visit them
    – This really could be number one, but both of my parents are monopolizers, meaning, when you are with them it is their show. Their stage. They do ALL of the talking. I don’t think I’ve ever told a full story, or said more than five sentences in a row when in either of their presences. I take that back- my mom had a mild stroke and it temporarily affected her speech. Those were the best conversations we ever had because I actually had a chance to speak. It was a dialogue. It was beautiful and the most perfect our relationship has ever been, and likely ever will be.

    Some will say “Just tell your parents how you feel.” I tried this in my naive younger years, and was met with scorn, hostility, and worst of all, the silent treatment. I am not allowed to communicate my feelings in my family. Doing so gets me intentionally ignored for weeks.

    So here is the perspective of one adult child and why she doesn’t visit. I desire nothing more than to have a meaningful relationship with my parents, but their interpersonal habits and personality deficiencies make it next to impossible. I spent many years trying to maintain the relationship, something a child should never have to do. I am free now and finally learning to love and care for myself as a separate being.

  • Debbie Hines Hicks

    I divorced when my daughter was 32, when I told her about her Dad and I divorcing she I said she understood and didn’t know how I put up with him as long as I did,well to make a long story short she ended up siding with her Dad and still does to this day,well now she’s getting divorced and has a new boyfriend,he’s never married and she has two girls aged 12 and 4 …she spends most of her time with him and his parents then she does with me….I’m so depressed her girls even see them more than they see me…I’ve been divorced from her dad for 9 years and have been remarried for 6 to a wonderful man that the girls won’t even acknowledge…am I wrong for being upset.oh and if I bring this ugly p t her she says that’s it’s just stupid,,Help! Debbie

  • Tatiana Pires

    I find it weird how grandparents think it’s the grandchildren that should be striving to be part of their lives, when they are only small and their parents are working their asses off to have the life they dream of.

    Adults should make the effort to participate in the child’s life. Period! If you want your grandchildren to remember you, if you want to be a part of their lives, then just make the time for it. You go visit your grandchildren, you do the travelling, grandparents usually are more financially stable and have a lot of free time.

    We, as young adults, have so much to worry about, and we’re trying to make our own family traditions.

    My SO’s family is also very abusive with me, very intrusive. Everything I am, everything I do, is a problem to them. After visiting them every 2 to 3 months in the last four years, I just decided I want no part of it no more…and that’s it. I won’t refuse their visit, I live in a beautiful place, if they want to come I have a guest room which is very comfortable.

    It has got to a point where my spouse thinks I have some sort of obligation to visit his family, even though I’ve already moved two states far from my own family. I seriously am considering divorcing because of all the pressure to visit HIS family. I moved 1100 km away from my family, his family lives three hours away from us and still keeps reminding us that we should go visit!

    To hell with it! I now have a daughter who’s number 1 priority, my dogs and cats are number 2…grandparents should make the effort if they want to be part of the grandchildren life, that’s it! They are destroying my family, even from afar.