How to Tell a Parent You Don’t Want Them in Your Life (8 Tips!)

You’re now at a point where you’ve finally made a decision. Telling a parent you don’t want them in your life is almost always not without some deeply rooted reasons.

The relationship between a parent and a child should always be just “good enough” at the least—not perfect, but good enough. This kind of relationship gives enough room for both parties to grow together in love, respect, and responsibility.

Dealing with things like this is not black and white, and it highly depends on your situation. As always, your safety should come first—alongside your happiness.

how to tell a parent you don't want them in your life

Do you have to tell a parent you don’t want them in your life?

No, you don’t have to tell them you don’t want them in your life, especially if:

  • Telling them may threaten your safety down the road
  • You’re convinced that talking to them about things like this is only futile
  • You’re not feeling brave yet, or you’re not really comfortable doing so

In other words, you can go ahead and do this only if it’s perfectly fine for you.

There are parents with which talking is simply not worth it. You’re the only one who can decide whether you’re pursuing this.

You cannot change people.

But if you think that, even though unlikely, they can at least remember what you’re going to tell them for the sake of other people you care about, then go ahead.

I would consider it as some sort of closure and a blessing to have this talk.

Related: I Don’t Want a Relationship with My Parents

How to tell a parent you don’t want them in your life

1. Prepare—especially mentally and emotionally.

Now, let’s get this over with.

The talk is most probably going to be highly emotionally charged.

That’s why you need to take notes—yes, bring this to the talk. Jot down everything you want to tell them. Don’t pull punches. You could also practice first before talking to them if you like.

Make sure your intentions are clear. Make it easy for them to understand what you’re going to say.

Be aware of regression, a defense mechanism in which people seem to return to an earlier developmental stage whenever they are under pressure or stress. Stay composed and calm during the talk.

2. Work around your parents’ limitations—but only if you want to.

You already know how they think and behave (read: toxic and abusive). Handle the talk with these limitations.

You would not want to talk to them in an insulting tone, which would only get their defenses up, and then you end up postponing the talk.

Try to imagine yourself in their shoes (for a moment and maybe the last time), just so you can clearly deliver your message.

3. Avoid name-calling and “playing psychologist.”

Use words they understand. Avoid buzzwords like “narcissist” or “borderline.”

You know what those words represent, but you only need to make them understand your specific situation, and why you’re finally deciding to cut them off your life.

They might also think you’ve evilly pigeonholed them into some group of mental people (which unfortunately might be true, though).

Bottom line: stick to why you’re having this talk.

Related: I Resent My Parents for How They Raised Me (9 Tips)

4. Don’t try to change your parents.

Maybe you’ve tried doing this in the past, but it has only made your negative feelings worse. You sure don’t want to do that now.

It simply does not matter anymore. They have seen your reactions to their behaviors, even when you were still a small and helpless child.

You may go on to say the consequences of their actions, from abuse to neglect. You may explain why your relationship is far from the ideal, the “good enough.” But don’t expect them to change.

5. Do not tell them how you’ll never parent like they did.

Now, they might already feel that this is your point, but you don’t need to say it.

The whole point of the talk is simply to let them know how your relationship with them is harming you overall, and that you’ll be living your life without them from now on.

Similar to the previous points, this will only cause drama that may only worsen a relationship that’s already hopeless in the first place.

Related: My Parents Ruined My Life! (7 Things You Can Do)

6. Don’t try to reason with them.

Of course you’ll get objections. They’ll probably gaslight you, too.

They will try to reason with you, questioning and taking stabs at your decision and character.

Remember that you can manage this talk.

It is an honorable thing to talk to your toxic and abusive parents for the last time (if safely possible). I believe this is what a good child does, regardless of who the parents are.

But you don’t have to agree and reason with each other at this point. That part was there before, but now it’s long gone.

7. There’s no need for blame or anger.

Stick to “I” statements instead of “you.”

Some examples:

  • Say, “I feel horrible for the way you’ve been treating my kids,” instead of, “You’ve always been verbally abusive towards my kids.”
  • Say, “I get stressed over you wanting to meddle with every decision I make with my wife,” instead of, “You’re a controlling mother who only thinks about herself.”
  • Say, “I want to live a life where I can make mistakes and grow,” instead of, “You always seek perfection at the expense of things you don’t care about.”

8. Just email it to them (or snail mail)!

Don’t worry, yes, you could do this.

If in-person conversations seem to be lost at this point, just craft a sad but straight-to-the-point letter and send it to them.

Will it matter if they don’t read it? Not as much as the fact that you wrote it.

Who knows, they might even want to make amends in the future. Just save or keep a copy of the letter just in case another meeting of changed-for-the-better people needs it. You could also use it to look back to see how well you’ve gone on this journey.

Related: 9 Benefits of Cutting Off Toxic Family (Free Yourself!)

What to do after telling a parent you don’t want them in your life?

Let the other affected people process what happened (say, your siblings or close relatives). Accept that they may not understand your decision.

Be aware that your toxic parents have left a hole in your heart. This might cause you to get attracted to (adult) children that have gone through the same experience.

We have a subconscious longing for patterns and behaviors familiar to us. Be careful of the people you associate with, especially if they have traits resembling your parents’.

Your parents might think you’re bluffing after the talk (or email), but prove to them its seriousness by going no-contact (or low-contact) for, say, a year or two. You are doing this for yourself.

You don’t owe anyone any explanation about this decision. Many people who had a healthy upbringing will not totally understand it anyway.

A very powerful idea you must realize is that you cannot change your parents, but you can change your relationship with them.

A relationship is a contract, with lots of rules to abide by if you want it to flourish. You did not ask to be born, and they broke the rules. But you’ve only found out about that now that you’re an adult.

This is merely a decision made by an able human who wants to get better and grow. No reason to be ashamed of it.

Image Credits: Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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8 thoughts on “How to Tell a Parent You Don’t Want Them in Your Life (8 Tips!)”

      1. “You don’t owe anyone any explanation about this decision. Many people who had a healthy upbringing will not totally understand it anyway.“

        Thanks, commenters, for providing examples of such reactions.

        This is an extremely difficult but sometimes essential step to make and one that isn’t made spontaneously.

        Thank you for the guide, Ethan!

  1. Thanks, good information. This is hard to go through. Ignore these negative comments. They are salty their kids aren’t taking the abuse anymore. Or they assume everyone has the same experiences as them and cannot understand. The “brainwashing” is from the parent training the child ( who cannot understand it’s wrong) to unconditionally love them regardless of abuse. Severing that connection is extremely unnatural and painful. It’s not done “out of no where”. It’s done after a life of abuse. It’s done for self preservation and to protect ones self the way our parent should have protect us. We choose to live with the guilt because it’s less painful than continuing the cycle of abuse.

    1. Perfectly said…the hardest part for me is one parent was not like this at all but now im angry at that for allowing the abuse to happen because THEY dont do conflict and would just talk me out of what I was feeling.

      So yeah…kinda sucks I have to let them go too but I look at it now as being complicit with the abuser’s acctions.

  2. Ignore negative comments, I know for certain I have an undiagnosed narcissistic mother. She treated my brother and I horribly growing up leaving us both homeless before 18 years old. We even forgave her as adults but even as adults she still was verbally abusive and made up lies all the time. There were times I couldn’t sleep at night because of her evil ways. I continue to pray for her but the best decision was to go my own way. I always felt the Lord knew what I needed coming from a broken unloving home I now have a husband two beautiful children and in-laws that make up for everything.

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