By Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Last February, I suggested an exercise to bring the focus back to yourself and your progress for your own well-being and self-care. If you did the exercise for neglected parents and self-love, it’s time to pull out your “same time next year” or Valentine’s note to yourself and analyze how you did.
In the neglected parents and self-love exercise, you were asked to choose your own words to go with each of the letters in the word “love.” And then you wrote a few notes about what those meant to you and how you’d achieve more freedom, set boundaries, and focus on making your life good despite what another adult has chosen to do. Remember, this exercise is about what is within your control (and not what—or who—is not).
The words I shared as examples, and my thoughts about each, went like this
L: Limits. How can I limit how much of my energy or thinking goes toward the estrangement (or: problem, relationship, situation)? Have I spent enough time being miserable? Have I let my adult children surpass the limits of how I would let another adult treat me? Is it time to set some limits now, and get on with living my life? What does that mean to me? What can I do right now to start setting limits and/or enforcing them?
O: Observe. Am I listening to myself think? How often does my mind wander to this problem I can’t solve? What’s a new way to think about this? Do I still think I’m the only one? Do I still blame myself?
V: Value. Does what my adult child say about me, or how s/he treats me, truly define who I am and who I’ve been? (HINT: The answer is NO.) Does this other adult’s decision or opinion change history or define who I am now? Have I been devaluing myself? How can I show myself the value I deserve for all my hard work and loving care?
E: Evaluate. Where am I on this journey as a neglected parent? (Name your spot like a town or venue, i.e., Tearsville, City of Hope, Onward Town.) Where do I want to be at this time next year? How can I get there? (Name at least one step.)
If you didn’t do the exercise or didn’t need this site back then, you’ll find the exercise in self-love here. Take time to read through the comments as well as the instructions—and jot your own thoughts there.
If you did do the exercise, take it to the next level now. Write each of the words you chose again, and this time, and add a few notes about where you succeeded (or failed). As you do, remember that even the smallest steps for yourself are progress. As for the failures, don’t get down on yourself. Consider how and why you fell short of your goals. What circumstances contributed to your loss of focus or control. Learn from the past—and set a few goals for the year ahead.
Parents whose children cut ties: Take charge
My focus for parents whose children cut ties (or are unloving or abusive in any way) has always been to recognize where they can take charge for themselves. That means letting go of what is beyond their control. This is different from many “experts,” who espouse an if-you-do-this-then they-will-do-that tactic that’s focused on doing whatever it takes to get your adult child back. While you may very well be able to start some dialogue and move toward reconciliation, for many parents, that tactic becomes just another eggshell walk—and sets up an inequitable relationship that leads to more pain. Relationships aren’t one-sided and it’s a disservice to us (and to our adult children) to pretend they are.
If you’d like to learn more about taking charge of your life and your future, my books in the Done With The Crying series can help. I also offer individual life coaching sessions (on a limited basis) for those seeking more personalized support and/or accountability—but I suggest you read one or both books first. One counselor from a community helping center that has been seeing an influx of parents whose children cut ties recently contacted me to say that she is offering my books as a resource. She told me about a rejected mother whose session was delayed. In the interim, the counselor suggested my work to the mother, and reported that after reading and doing the exercises, the woman said she didn’t need more help. You may feel the same—and I hope you do! However, we are all as unique as our situations. It’s wise to get the support you need. My books also offer detailed information about how to find the appropriate help for your individual needs, which might mean therapy, pastoral counseling, life coaching, or some other assistance.
Tell us how you did
If you’re up to it, leave a comment here about what you did right or what you learned in the year since doing the exercise. Loving yourself includes recognizing that what you learned might help other parents whose children cut ties. While it might feel scary to share your thoughts, your experience may be just what another parent needs to hear. I believe that through sharing we also grow strong.
Take charge where you can, and to the best of your ability, make the year ahead one filled with joy and meaning.
Hugs to you this Valentine season and always,