Giving thanks when adult children reject parents
by Sheri McGregor
When adult children reject parents, moms and dads may find themselves in a state of shock, in disbelief and full of doubt. When our whole world is turned on its head – – past, present, future – – we can feel hopeless. Were all those happy memories even real? We thought we were good parents, but if our grown daughter could up and walk away, were we really? We look at our life now and feel numb. And without the grown son we have loved in our life, the future we imagined no longer exists.
So what do we do? It may sound corny, but focusing on what we’re grateful for – – and there are things – – helps.
In many studies first starting more than a decade ago, Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and his colleagues have discovered repeatedly that people who make a practice of being grateful reap many rewards. Their health is positively affected in ways including better sleep, lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems and being less bothered by pain. Psychologically, people who practice being grateful feel more optimistic, more alert and alive, more joyful, and experience more positive emotions. People who practice gratitude also have better social connections – – perhaps because they’re more outgoing, more forgiving, and more generous.
Gratitude helps us rejoice in the present, while it blocks negative feelings like resentment and regret. People who practice gratitude recover better from trauma and adversity (when adult children reject parents, we can suffer these things). People who are grateful also have better self-esteem. When we feel better about ourselves, we’re naturally more resilient.
Let’s fully get into the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday and take advantage of the benefits of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude: How?
You’ve probably heard of keeping a “gratitude journal,” in which you write (weekly or daily) at least five things you’re grateful for. Not only do you benefit from reflecting on the good in your life, but having a written journal can help you later. On days when you’re feeling down, you can look back and be reminded of the things you’re thankful for.
Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be monotonous or formal. You can use any notebook. You might also try smartphone diaries or apps. They make great journals to-go, and we almost always have them with us.
Attaching the practice of gratitude to daily habits can make the exercise easier to remember to do (and that’s how you’ll benefit). You could have a magnetic pad on your refrigerator. Make a practice of coming up with three things you’re happy about before getting out the cream for your coffee every morning.
Some people keep a “gratitude jar,” and drop small notes on which they’ve written notes of thanks. Others put in a coin each time they reflect upon what they’re grateful for. Once full, they donate the money to a charity or treat themselves.
What are you grateful for?
When adult children reject parents, moms and dads can feel overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and many other negative emotions. It can feel as if a curtain has been drawn over our happy outlook. But with a little conscious effort, we can take control of our frame of mind. We can find and focus on good in our lives, and practice being grateful.
We take for granted some things we really are happy about and thankful for. We can make anything in which we find joy a part of practicing gratitude. Things like: I’m thankful my dog is always happy to see me. I am on time for work this morning. I made it home safely despite the traffic. I am so thankful to have a friend who cares. I’m thankful I can still help at the church. These reading glasses make sewing possible! It makes me happy to see those children playing up the street, so full of energy and without a care in the world.
For your own good, cultivate thankfulness and practice gratitude. Even the tiniest steps can move you in the right direction.
Stop now and think of three things you’re grateful for.
You may find that your attitude of gratitude rubs off on others, too. So not only will you practice thanksgiving, but you’ll be spreading good cheer.
If you’re reading this after the holiday, remember that you can start any time. It’s never too late to give thanks. Making a practice of gratitude can help us take control, focus on the good, and reap positive benefits for our health and well-being.
Also, consider sharing what you’re grateful for in a “practicing gratitude” topic in the community membership support forum for parents of estranged adult children (you’ll need to join first).
Related articles: Holidays: How to manage them when adult children reject parents
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