How to Navigate Resentment Between Parents & Adult Children


Louise says, “My son, who turned 18 last October, said that he has always felt ‘in the way’. Last week, my husband said that if he could choose, he would not have any children.” Read more to find out what Josh Spurlock, Counselor & Sex Therapist, says about navigating resentment between parents and adult children.

About the Author

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Josh Spurlock, MA, LPC, CST is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Therapists with over 10,000 hours of clinical experience. Josh specializes in Marriage Counseling and Sex Therapy. You can schedule an appointment with Josh for online counseling.

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Video Transcript

(Transcript is generated by a software and may have discrepancies from the video.)


Welcome to MyCounselor Online. I’m Tori, and this is Asking for a Friend. In this video, we’re sitting down with Licensed Counselor Josh Spurlock to talk about parenting and marriage, how to do both well, and how to parent when it doesn’t quite meet your expectations. Keep watching.

Josh Spurlock on Navigating Resentment in the Family

That’s a hard place to be in, Louise. I can see this being in a bind in both directions; for one, the pain that it’s got to cause for you to hear your son, whom you care about very much, communicate that he’s always felt like he’s in the way. And then there’s some sort of feeling on the outside a little bit with you and your husband.

Create a Safe Space for Adult Children to be Vulnerable & Share Their Experiences

I want to affirm that, I appreciate that he felt like he was able to bring that to you, that it mattered to you, and that he believed that would matter to you when he brought it to you. That’s a big deal. You’re doing something right in terms of that relationship, that he would feel safe and able to communicate such a vulnerable thing with you. And I would hope that you will be able to continue that.

Create a space in your relationship for him to process that, and for him to be able to share the things that he’s experiencing, as well as the longings of his heart in terms of the relationship with you, and for you to be able to speak to that and affirm that as his mom.

You don’t have control over the other people that are in his life, but you can be there for him. Make sure that he knows and experiences your care and affection for him.

So I’d encourage you in that with him.

Reasons Why a Parent might Develop Resentment for a Child

And then you’re also in this bind with your husband. There’s this dynamic of him expressing this thought of, ‘if I had a magic wand and I could undo things, or change things, maybe I wouldn’t have kids at all.’

That’s a really hard and painful thing for you to hear as a mom. And it’s hard to know what’s going on on his side of the fence. It can be a variety of different things that a man can be experiencing that might lead him to those thoughts.

It might have to do with the relationship between you guys. Some husbands will have the feeling that when they had kids, they lost their wife in the process, and they didn’t realize that that was going to be a part of the deal. When they had kids, something changed in that dynamic; instead of having this best friend and spouse relationship that they valued and enjoyed, they were no longer the most important person to their spouse.

There’s resentment or disconnect that can be felt there, which can cause the kind sentiment that your husband expressed. Sometimes it’s other things that don’t really have much to do with the marriage relationship, as it does other factors or things that are going on in the man’s life.

Therapy can Help Parents Work Through Resentment in the Family

My hope would be that he would have a safe place that he could unpack and process that, in order to make sense of what’s going on in himself, and that he then would be empowered to communicate that with you, and to know how to navigate those things in the relationship with his kids.

I would want that for you as well; that you have a space that you can unpack the tension between you and your son, and the pain that’s there, as well as how to navigate the relational dynamic of that with your husband. Hopefully the two of you would be able to find the safe space to have a forum to dialogue around the different moving pieces that are part of your family situation there.


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