As the parent of estranged adult child(ren), you know about uncertainty. You’ve dealt with the questions of whether your adult child will reach out, respond if you try to talk, or remain no-contact . . . maybe forever. Uncertainty about those things becomes a new normal as you navigate what to do at the holidays or contemplate the up-and-down moods or on-and-off contact with an adult child who has become abusive or estranged. You may be practiced, but when disasters of any sort strike (let alone this pandemic), worries can resurge, or new emotions can surface.
In uncertain times, structure provides a sense of control
In times of uncertainty, the things we can control promote well-being. As Covid-19 causes layoffs, worries about the safety of an estranged adult child and other loved ones, renewed feelings of rejection or even anger that our own children don’t care, focus on what you can control. Inserting structure into the shelter-in-place landscape helps (and it’s the same for anytime parents abandoned by adult children try to cope). Instead of ruminating over what you cannot control, ask yourself how you can add in structure, which can make things feel more predictable.
Make plans for yourself and follow through with them. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a schedule for your day. Do things that are productive.
- Cook healthful meals and eat at prescribed times.
- Consider ways you can exercise and make time to move your body.
- Participate in social connection time by telephone or in another way that maintains the recommended distancing.
A friend of mine has often mentioned that in anxious times, her mother always said, “Give them a job to do.” Her advice fits now. Give yourself a “job.”
A few more ideas:
- Catch up on organizing.
- Rearrange your furniture.
- Reach out to friends you’ve been meaning to say are important to you via email or written cards and letters.
- Take a class online. (There are a lot of free ones right now!)
- Love on your pets.
- Repot a plant (or start cuttings for propagating).
- Learn to meditate (try YouTube).
- If you’re able, think of ways to help others. One friend of mine is making masks and mailing them out. Another friend told me that she has been calling her neighbors just to see if there is anything that they might need that she could leave on a doorstep.
What structure is best? Choose carefully
For parents abandoned by adult children, ordinary pastimes can become triggers for pain. I’ve been going through old photos and have found some emotional landmines among them. My response has been to recognize and accept the thoughts and feelings that have emerged, considering them a sort of purge, and practicing self-compassion in the process. Another mother said that she tried organizing photos but decided that amidst all the uncertainty, this wasn’t the right time for her to face the rejection again. Awareness is important, so thoughtfully consider your activities now and be kind to yourself.
My husband has been doing a lot of weed whacking. He tells me that his mind wanders as he works. The activity has become a sort of meditation. I feel the same about trimming my Golden Doodles’ and poodles’ long hair.
What can you do to fill your time and provide a predictable structure in your home or yard? Promoting agency, as in personal action, helps promote positive feelings. While we may not be able to control how our leaders handle the current crisis, the trajectory of the pandemic, whether our estranged adult children are safe, or how soon we can get back to our lives and careers, we can intervene for ourselves, take charge of our own safety and our daily lives.
What will you do? Take time right now to make plans for your day or week. How can you help yourself?