Why should someone leave their child?

When children leave their parents

If children break off contact with their parents, it is surprising and very painful for many parents. The Reasons for breaking contact can be diverse, but it is almost always an expression great inner distress. A Rapprochement is sometimes possible - if both sides are willing to understand the other's perspective.

Text: Christine Amrhein
Image: iStockphoto

It ends with a short sentence: "Mom, take care, that's it now." With an email or without words. Suddenly calls are no longer accepted, messages are no longer read, and there is no reaction to the ringing of the doorbell. When a child decides to break off contact, it comes as a surprise to many parents. They think that they did everything for their child and that basically everything was fine. Many parents suffer a lot from the loss of contact, are desperate, depressed, or even angry. "The sudden silence on the radio is a shock for the parents and often triggers strong feelings of guilt and shame," says the philosopher Barbara Bleisch, author of the book "Why we owe nothing to our parents".

The termination signals: The contact is not good for me, I want to protect myself from further injuries.

Parents, says Bleisch, then automatically asked themselves the questions "Why?" and "What did I do wrong?" "Our daughter is now 35 years old and broke off contact with us three years ago," reports Carmen (name changed), who and her husband are visiting a self-help group for abandoned parents in Switzerland. «She met a man and left us with the statement: 'I want to start a new life now'. My husband and I suffered a lot and tried again and again to contact her. " Both would have discussed it often, but couldn't Reasons for breaking contact detect.

It is not known how many children turn their backs on their parents. Sociologists estimate that around 100,000 families are affected in Germany. The proportion is likely to be similarly high in Switzerland. "However, the topic may affect significantly more families," says Claudia Haarmann, author of the book "Kontaktabbruch in Familien" and alternative practitioner for psychotherapy in Essen. Break in contact is a Taboo subjectthat is rarely discussed openly. Many parents therefore think they would be left all alone, according to the author. However, dealing with it has now become a bit more open. In Switzerland there are now six self-help groups for "Abandoned Parents"

Serious incidents and subtle injuries

If you ask the children, a great deal often happened before this far-reaching step was taken. “The parents often experience the termination as abrupt. But it's more like a barrel that overflows at some point, ”says Jochen Rögelein, systemic family therapist in Munich. "The trigger is often relatively banal - but it often has to do with the topic that has preoccupied the child for a long time." The termination signals: The contact is not good for me, I want to protect myself from further injuries.

"You should realize that no child wants to leave their parents," emphasizes Rögelein. “Often it is a signal from the child that it no longer accepts the situation like this. But it also shows that a child is in need. " The reasons for a radical break with parents can be very different. Some children have experienced serious things in their families for years: physical abuse, neglect, the father's alcohol problem, the constant mood swings of the mentally ill mother. do not manage to resolve conflicts together through discussions.

Affected parents often had a problematic relationship with their mothers and fathers themselves.

Other factors can Lovelessness and coldness being in the family, constant reproaches and insults, or a strict, unyielding upbringing. "I broke off contact with both parents one after the other," reports a 35-year-old woman from Germany. «My father was never there for me. He used to tell me many times that I was a bad person and we often argued. My mother was often sick and had mental health problems. She kept blaming others for not doing well. Breaking off contact was like a release for me. "

But the negative experiences can also be more subtle. "In many cases, the child was unable to establish a secure bond with its parents," says Rögelein, who in his practice works with affected mothers and fathers and also with children who have broken off contact. "Often the child was emotionally disappointed in something: they did not love themselves, not recognize themselves or feel that their wishes and needs were not taken into account." At the same time, there is also a disruption in communication behind the termination: both sides

Often times, parents have tried to do better with their children

The tragedy is that the parents themselves often had a problematic relationship with their parents and experienced neglect, silence or emotional coldness in their own home. “They have often tried to do better with their own children,” explains Haarmann. “There are also parents who need their child to satisfy their own needs for love and closeness. Some then suffocated their children with their closeness or relieved them of all responsibility. " This could lead to a strong desire for distance and independence in the children.

But another point is also important: parents have to learn how to give their children, as they get older, to enable their own adult path. "But some parents still have a lot of influence," reports Rögelein. “Some“ bribe ”their child with money or exert pressure to get them to take a certain path. And in some families the parents expect the child to “follow in the family's footsteps” - for example with aristocrats or academic families. The children can then only release themselves from the influence of their parents with enormous effort: for example, by moving far away or breaking off contact. "

How can rapprochement succeed?

Many parents long for it again To have contact with their children. At the same time, they are unsure how to behave. Some keep calling or writing emails hoping for an answer or an explanation. But they are also afraid of doing something wrong, so that their child withdraws even more. So what can parents - and maybe their children too - do to make rapprochement possible? "Whether both sides can move towards each other again depends heavily on the degree of injury - and on how much the positions have already hardened," emphasizes Haarmann.

"In addition, a redesign of the relationship between parents and child must really be wanted." First of all, it is very important that both sides are aware that they have different perceptions of family life - and that they are trying to empathize with the other, according to the therapist. "The child may have felt oppressed, while the father thinks that everything wasn't so bad." Parents can ask themselves here: What did my child experiencewhen they say they didn't feel loved or accepted? You can learn to listen to your child, acknowledge their subjective feelings and show them that you are taking them seriously. Similar processes could also be initiated on the part of the child.

Professional help in the form of psychotherapy

Jochen Rögelein sees it similarly. “By being willing to put yourself in the other's perspective, both sides can learn to develop more understanding for the other,” says the therapist. "In this way, parents who were previously unable to identify the reasons for the loss of contact can also gain insight." Many parents would guess the reasons deep down, said Rögelein. However, plays here displacement a major role. "Admitting to yourself that something was wrong in the family is incredibly difficult and also painful."

Some parents are so emotionally burdened from their own past that repression is a kind of self-protection. "Because of their childhood, these parents themselves did not have a good foundation," says Haarmann. "That is why it is subjectively dangerous for them to deal with the reasons that led to the break." The parents, but also the children, must therefore have the courage to deal with uncomfortable and painful issues. Often such deeper-lying relationship problems can only be dealt with professional support solve - for example in psychotherapy.

"Much in relationships happens unconsciously and the problems are often very complex," says Rögelein. "Like a knotted ball of wool that is gradually untangled during therapy." In a systemic therapy, as performed by Rögelein, the client does exercises and role-plays in which he puts himself in the perspective of other family members. "The therapist takes on an impartial role and can thus enable a new perspective on the development," explains the expert.

Some parents are like that
heavily emotionally charged,
that the repression is a kind
Self protection is.

For example, with a 60-year-old adoptive mother, whose 25-year-old son has refused any contact since he left home - and who then sought therapeutic support. In the conversation and in the role plays it became clear that she always saw her son as a 'problem child' and that a lot was about the therapies he received, ”reports Jochen Rögelein.

“The only way for the son to break out of it and concentrate on his healthy side was for the son Break in contact. That became clear to the mother too - and she could begin to give her son space for his own way. " Other parents, on the other hand, come to the conclusion that their child is difficult or “failed” - or they constantly reproach themselves. "Such Blame and self-accusation but lead to nothing, ”emphasizes Haarmann. "They only have the effect that someone does not really deal with the situation and thus block the way to change."

Accept the past and do better in the present

Instead, both sides need to be willing to acknowledge that they have made mistakes in the past - and take responsibility for them. "The children should also look at the overall picture," says Haarmann. «You can ask yourself: What made my family this way? How did my parents experience that they behaved so coolly or so unpredictably? "

In the next step, the relationship can then be renegotiated and new rules of the game can be established. “That means, for example, that both sides meet at eye level, take each other seriously and accept them for who they are,” says Haarmann. “It is also important to accept that the past can no longer be changed - and to concentrate on the relationship in the present. "A simple question can often be enough:"How are you?“Because she shows the genuine interest in the other at that moment.

What helps parents to deal with the radio silence of their child

General: When children grow up, it is beneficial for parents to switch to a kind of “stand-by mode”: They should withdraw and let the children live their own lives - but stand by in the background and be there for their children when need this support.

  • Even if it is difficult: Parents should first accept the loss of contact. Because the child will perceive every contact as meddling again and have the feeling that his will is not being respected. However, parents can try to get in touch with a question from time to time without bothering their child.
  • Parents should try to take the child's perspective as well and ask themselves: How was my child when it was still living with me? Have I overlooked something that was bothering my child? Where may they have found my behavior to be incorrect?
  • Seeking professional support in the form of psychotherapy can be helpful for both parties. This can help to «translate Chinese into German» and to see the context in a new way - and to change something in the next step.

Links and books on breaking contact:


Self-help groups on breaking contact between parents and children:

Website of the philosopher Barbara Bleisch, with information about her books and her research:

Website of the systemic therapist Jochen Rögelein:

Website of the alternative practitioner for psychotherapy Claudia Haarmann:

Thoughts on the subject of breaking contact from the book author Tina Soliman:


Claudia Haarmann: Broken contact. Children and parents who fall silent. Orlanda
Frauenverlag 2015, 300 pages, approx. 25 Fr.

Barbara Bleisch: Why we don't owe our parents anything. Verlag BTB 2019, 205 pages,
approx. 15 Fr.

Tina Soliman: radio silence. Why people break off contact. Verlag Klett-Cotta 2017,
196 pages, approx. 29 Fr.

About the author:

More on the subject of broken contacts and radio silence:

  • «Children owe nothing to their parents!»,says the philosopher Barbara Bleisch. Children never take the radical step of removing their parents from their lives voluntarily and only after many injuries - for the benefit of their own development.

  • “My hope is that my son will come back one day”. A mother tells.