What do children want their parents to be understood?

When children break off contact with their parents

She wanted to be free. That is why Sandra Fritsch broke off contact with her parents. Again and again she felt patronized by her mother. "Her opinion was always the only true one," says the 36-year-old who is actually called differently. There are several ways to live your life. Throughout her childhood, her mother gave her the impression that her opinions, wishes and dreams did not matter. "She was always convinced that only she knew what was right for me." Her mother did not support her when making decisions or in difficult life situations. Often she even stabbed her in the back. After many arguments, the then 30-year-old withdrew completely. For almost two years she didn't call, send messages, or visit.

The parents didn't understand. They tried again and again to get in touch, called, but Sandra Fritsch had nothing to say to them at the time. "Of course they noticed that I didn't want to talk to them, but that was all there was to it."

This article is included in Spectrum - The Week, 07/2021

Despite years of quarrels, a break in contact for parents often comes out of nowhere. After that, a time often begins for them that is characterized by despair, anger, sadness, self-reproach - and shame. They feel ashamed in front of others and fear having to justify themselves for the fact that their child no longer wants to talk to them. Many of those affected said in therapy that their child broke off contact “from one day to the next”, says the psychologist Sandra Konrad from Hamburg.

What parents usually ignore: Up to this point, the child has often gone through a long path of suffering. Many mothers and fathers then feel "an insane powerlessness," says Konrad. "And the pain of separation that can be physically painful." They often tried to make contact over and over again. If the attempts are unsuccessful and parents do not understand the reasons, a scapegoat is often sought. Then, for example, the son's new girlfriend is to blame for the fact that he has become estranged.

Dropping out of contact is a taboo subject

Not having any contact with your own children is still a taboo. Around 100,000 adults in Germany have broken off contact with their parents. Sociologists roughly estimate this number. Sandra Konrad believes, however, that the number of unreported cases is much, much higher.

There was often violence or abuse in the family of those affected. Sometimes the parents suffered from serious mental illnesses or the children simply didn't feel loved or respected. The loss of contact almost always expresses great distress. When children are unsafe at home because of emotional or physical abuse, for example, and parents are unwilling to question their own behavior, cutting all connections can be the last resort. "Sometimes you need to break off contact in order to protect yourself," explains Konrad, who dealt with the topic in her book "That stays in the family - Of love, loyalty and ancient burdens".