Focus on the Family Is Vital
Earlier this year, an acquaintance talked about the estrangement she has observed in her family. She complained about some of her grandchildren telling their parents inquiring about their general wellbeing or academic pursuits that it was “none of their business.”
“Where do they get this stuff?” she asked with a tone of incredulousness.
One could have chalked this comment up to a familiar litany of complaints about the younger generation being: a) spoiled, b) disrespectful, c) clueless, or d) another factor of your choosing.
But a few months later, two different friends told me about serious relational breaks with their children. Then I saw this story from Cosmopolitan over the summer. The headline: “Why So Many Young People Are Cutting Off Their Parents.”
“If it feels like whispers of estrangement are everywhere lately—in your group chat, at your happy hour, and of course on TikTok—it’s because the data are staggering,” wrote Los Angeles-based journalist Fortesa Latfi.
“Karl Pillemer, a professor at Cornell University and author of Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them, found that in 2020, 27% of Americans over the age of 18 were estranged from a family member.”
Latfi noted that although there is a lack of long-term research, Pillemer believes the rates are increasing in the United States and other Western nations, especially among whites and non-immigrants under the age of 35.
Noting the hashtag #ToxicFamily has more than 1.9 billion views on TikTok, Latfi said that the rise in millennials and Gen Zers airing their own crises “may suggest that American families are severing ties at an all-time high.”
Yet to do so can fill the “cutter” with regret. The leading anecdote in the Cosmo story was about a woman named Jordan who stopped speaking to her father because of various disagreements.
A year later, he was hospitalized. Jordan caught a red-eye flight to be by her mother’s side and say goodbye to her father, who died after she got there.
I realize there are complicated (and sometimes good) reasons for children to cut ties with their parents. Take the 21-year-old woman mentioned in the story whose father’s heroin addiction escalated to the point she felt she had no choice.
But the actions of adult children I’ve seen go off the deep end had little to do with abusive behavior. More often, it’s been folks with heads planted firmly in their posterior, angry over some imagined slight or mistreatment that they refuse to even discuss. Hard for a parent to apologize when they don’t even know what’s wrong.
It’s not only bewildering, but quite sad. Having harbored resentment towards my long-gone mother and grandmother for petty reasons (aren’t they always?), I can assure you that I would empty my bank account if I could talk with them just one more time.
Were I to cast blame for this situation, I would start with smart phones and social media. They have increased teen suicide rates dramatically the past 15 years while promoting a self-centered, “look at me” ethos that affects people of all ages.
But at the heart of it, I see growing family estrangement as yet one more sign of our society’s departure from biblical values.
Ephesians 6:2-3 puts it best: “‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise, ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”
We ignore those words at our own peril.