What It Feels Like When Your Teens Aren’t Close With Your Parents

As a child, I was never close to my grandparents. We lived far away from them and when they visited I remember feeling really excited about their arrival. But, in the end, I’d always be disappointed because it felt like they were strangers and they didn’t share my enthusiasm about spending time together.

It was hard for me to connect with them, and honestly, it was hard for my parents to connect with them. I think that my parents wanted me and my siblings to have a good relationship with their parents, but it was never discussed.

I also wanted more from our relationship. I remember feeling a stab of jealousy whenever my friends talked about spending the weekend with their grandparents, or having their grandparents over for Christmas dinner. A lot of my friends would go to their grandparent’s  after school and they would gleefully talk about being able eat whatever they wanted—who wouldn’t want that in their life?

I longed to have the same dynamic in my family. It always felt like something was missing and that saddened me.

little boy face timing
My children were close to my parents when they were little. (Twenty20 @darby)

The Closeness Between My Parents and My Kids Was Fleeting

Because I live really close to my parents (even though our relationship is less than perfect, even shaky at times), I always hoped my kids would have a different grandparent experience than I did. And when they were young, that’s exactly what happened and it made me happy. I thought for sure my kids would experience some of what I’d been missing out on as a child.

But, it didn’t last.

My kids used to love to go over to their grandparent’s house and spend time with them. There were sleepovers, and special outings for their birthdays and endless projects.

Then, as my kids got older, they started noticing some of the same things that have kept my relationship with my parents at a standstill. They caught on to the broken promises, and being cast aside. My parents have a horrible habit of saying they will do something for, or with you, then changing their minds if they just don’t feel like it, or something better comes up.

My kids started noticing my father’s moodiness, and how he treats people like he doesn’t have time and patience for them. My parents spoiled my kids when they were younger, but as the years went on they stopped remembering birthdays and Christmas would go by without even a phone call.

I guess when my kids were little, my parents got swept up in the perfect grandparent/grandchild relationship, much as I did. I thought and hoped that my kids had the power to change my parents. And they did, but the change was fleeting which almost makes it worse.

The newness wore off. My folks started wanting to come around less and less and my kids noticed. Now it feels like it’s too late. When my parents want to see my kids these days, the kids have no interest. Pursuing a relationship with two people who hardly pay attention to you isn’t on their priority list and I can’t blame them.

After all, they see why I’m not close with my parents, and I know exactly how they feel. This isn’t a case of my kids being disrespectful. This is a situation where they have seen my parents’ true colors. I think in many ways it’s made them feel disposable, just like it made me feel disposable when my folks didn’t visit me at college, or when they acted really put out whenever asked for any kind of help as an adult.

I really wanted something different for my kids. There was a time when I thought they were going to get it. I’ve decided something though: I cannot force my teenagers to have a relationship with my parents, period.

I can expect them to be polite, treat others how they expect to be treated, and when I am a grandparent myself, I know for a fact that this unhealthy cycle will be broken.

I will have a relationship with my grandkids at every age and it will be a healthy and amazing one.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

You May Also Want to Read:

Grown and Flown: The Book

Why I Insist On Knowing The Parents Of My Teens’ Friends

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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