Helping Parents Heal

A 10-week support group program to help parents who have been rejected by their adult children.

Based on the principles of the book, When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along (HarperCollins)

Contains leader guide, and handouts for group members…  



Dear Fellow Parent,

There is an epidemic of parents suffering from alienation from their grown children. If this is you, then you likely

  • Feel rejected by an adult child
  • Fear that you’ll never see your child again
  • Feel heartbroken about not being able to see your grandchildren
  • Are confused about whether to reach out to your child or pull away
  • Feel hurt and angry about the disrespect that you’re being shown
  • Feel tormented by guilt about your past mistakes
  • Feel manipulated by requests for money
  • Believe that your son- or daughter-in law is negatively affecting your relationship with your child
  • Feel devastated by the loss of a good relationship with your adult child
  • Feel depressed and anxious about not having your child in your life, or by having such a strained relationship
  • Worry that your adolescent or grown child will never grow up
  • Feel accused of things you never did or said
  • Suffer because your ex has turned your child against you

My name is Dr. Joshua Coleman and I wrote my book “WHEN PARENTS HURT: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along” (HarperCollins) to help other parents who are suffering from an estranged or troubled relationship with their grown children.


The most common question I get is “Where can I find a support group based on your strategies and methods?” I have received requests from parents all around the world from people who want to talk to other parents so that they don’t feel so alone and isolated. This is why I developed HELPING PARENTS HEAL: A 10-week guided program for parents and professionals who want to start a support group for those who have been estranged by their grown children. Judging by the thousands of emails, consultations, and forum posts at my website, I know that my method works.


It is not an exaggeration to say that there is an epidemic of parents who have been estranged by their grown children. However, because of the shame that parents feel, it is largely silent. It is silent because few parents want to admit that their own child doesn’t want to talk to them, spend time with them, or blames them for how their life turned out.


I used to believe that if an adult child rejected a parent, it must be because the parent really screwed up. And yes, sometimes that’s the case. I certainly made my share of mistakes. However, after talking to thousands of parents, I no longer believe that this is always the reason that adult children alienate themselves from their parent. However, whether you did or didn’t make big mistakes as a parent, you probably need help figuring out how to reach out to your child or to heal the pain that you’re in.


There is nothing more healing than talking to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. HELPING PARENTS HEAL comes with a guide for the group leader, a set of handouts for the participants, and an interview of me talking about this topic with child psychologist, Dr. Ellie Schwartzman. Each week a different theme is addressed. The format is designed to help parents get support on such critical issues as:

  • Managing anger
  • Resolving feelings of guilt
  • Deciding whether or not to
  • contact your child
  • How to write a letter of amends
  • Taking responsibility for past mistakes
  • When to defend yourself
  • and when not to
  • How to handle requests for money
  • Grieving the loss of the close relationship
  • How to handle disrespect and abuse
  • When to let go and when to hang on
  • How to have a happy life, regardless of how
  • your child is treating you


Q. What is the effect on the parent of being alienated from an adolescent or grown child?
The most commonly reported feelings are depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, and anger. Many of the parents that I work with have also been cut off from their grandchildren which is a very particular kind of misery.

Q.  Should a parent ever just accept that they will never be able to be close to their child again?
Most parents give up way too soon. The majority of the people I work with experience a reconciliation within a year of beginning our work together. But you have to have the right approach. It’s really easy to keep the alienation continuing by making small errors in your communication or behavior. This isn’t to say that it’s the parent’s fault if there isn’t a reconciliation. It’s just that sometimes making small shifts in what you’re doing can produce big results.

Q: Are today’s parents different from parents of other generations?
Yes, they are. Parenting prior to the 1920’s emphasized obedience, respect, and conformity. It used to be that the child had to earn the parent’s love and respect. Now it’s the parent who is supposed to earn the child’s love and respect. We also pay attention to what children think and feel far more than we ever did before.

Q. Does this make parents more vulnerable to being rejected by their children?
Yes, it gives them much more power. Also because of pop psychology they believe they have a bigger case against their parents if their lives don’t turn out well.

Q. What is the biggest mistake that parents make with their grown children?
Not being able to make amends, apologize, or take responsibility if mistakes were made (and what parent doesn’t make mistakes?) It’s hugely important. Kids are often confused about what is our fault and what isn’t and we can help them with that, especially if we’re not self-hating in the process.

Q. How does our own childhood history affect our responses?
In many ways: if we felt rejected by our own parents it might make us that much more vulnerable to being rejected by our own children. It might make us feel more defensive, or scared. If we were raised in an authoritarian household, our ideas about children’s obligation to respect their parents may interfere with the contemporary culture of equality that exists between parents and children.


An individualistic society
It used to be that parents invested in their children with the knowledge that one day, those children would help take care of their parents in old age. That culture of reciprocity has largely been replaced by a highly individualistic society. Now, parents are expected to provide everything and then pray that their children find them worthy of staying close to them.

It’s the parent’s fault
The current view is that if the kid doesn’t turn out well, then the parent must have done something really wrong. Well, sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it isn’t. Freud started this idea and many others have also blamed parents over the years. However, current research shows that while parents are important, children are also hugely affected by peer group, genetics, neighborhood, siblings, socioeconomic level, and interaction with other adults.

Divorce can cause children to evaluate their parents more as individuals in terms of what they did or didn’t provide to the child, rather than as a parental unit. In addition, divorce provides the opportunity for the more troubled parent to poison the child against the healthier parent.

Estrangement as identity
Many adult children cut off their parents because they have no other way to establish their own feelings of autonomy and independence. They haven’t yet mastered how to feel close to the parent and not feel too influenced by him or her. This is especially true in those homes where there was a very close relationship between parent and child before the child moved out.


Contains leader guide, and handouts for group members