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Ask Elaine: My daughter cut me off and won’t say why. What should I do?

(María Alconada Brooks/The Washington Post; iStock)
5 min

Hi Elaine: I’m at the airport after a second failed attempt to repair my relationship with my 21-year-old daughter. I flew from the East Coast to California for the second year and she still won’t meet with me. I was hospitalized for depression and didn’t see my daughter during that period but we did communicate. When I asked to visit her, she suddenly went silent. No email, nothing. Well, actually she sends a birthday card every year. The card this year had a friendly message, but it’s a strange kind of distant communication. She won’t respond to any attempt to actually have an exchange. I flew here and requested by text just to have a conversation. I got nothing. I’ve been here for three days, and now I’m going home deeply disappointed.

I've apologized for anything I might have done countless times and begged her to tell me what the issue is. I get no reply. The problem has been ongoing, even before I was hospitalized.

I just don’t know what the problem is, and she won’t tell me. I love her. The relationship is one of the most important things in my life. I’m 71 and don’t want to waste precious time.

— Sad Dad

Follow Elaine Welteroth

Sad Dad: This is a hard one. You feel like you’ve done all you can to reconcile with your daughter but it sounds like the harder you try, the more she recoils. In the absence of an explanation, you have to respect the truth behind her actions. She clearly isn’t ready to re-engage. As a parent to an adult, all you can do is give her space and time. It takes two to rebuild a relationship, and the only person in this relationship you can control is you.