Monthly Archives: September 2022

Call it what it is: ABUSE by adult children

by Sheri McGregor, MA
abuse by adult children

Abuse by adult children: A sad secret

Hurtful behavior, abuse, by adult children toward their parents is covered up to a huge degree. Parents are duped into believing they deserve their adult children’s abuse, sometimes even by professionals. After all, people reason, if they were good, their own flesh and blood wouldn’t hate them. It’s sick, and it’s what keeps many parents from admitting what’s happening to them.

It’s important for you to call bad behavior names, label it, and see it for what it is. That way, you can think clearly about it. This clarity of mind concept and many other practical ideas to help are included in Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children.

Related reading

Let me tell you about some heroes

 

 

For parents whose adult children don’t want to be around them: Take charge of your holidays early

parents whose adult children don't want to be around them

For parents whose adult children don’t want to be around them: Take charge of your holidays early

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

About this time every year, emails start arriving to my in-box. Parents whose adult children don’t want to be around them worry about the holidays. For rejected parents, the season can loom like clouds of gloom and doom. This year, I have a mission for you … if you choose to accept it.

Take charge

Those of you who’ve read my book, Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children, know that one of my pet peeves is being driven around without a destination. This always sparks my anxiety, which I connect to my Native American roots and to my ancestors who were driven away from their homes on the Trail of Tears. For more about how ancestry affects us and may relate to estrangement, you’ll want to read the book. Today, let’s get out of powerless passenger seat and steer our own way to holiday bliss.

Put yourself in the driver’s seat

Parents may feel like they’re being held hostage on an out-of-control bus steered by their estranged sons or daughters. You may have no choice about what they decide for their holidays, but don’t allow them to ruin yours. This year, instead of buckling up and dreading what comes, map out a successful holiday season for yourself.

Map out your holiday journey

Today is your starting point. Get out pen and paper. Jot down what comes to mind after each of the bulleted items below. You’ll capture first responses—which are often true to your heart. You can use your notes to later do research, make decisions, and attend to details.

  • Focus on what’s within your power. If you were planning a trip, you’d think about all the fun you can achieve, not what you can’t. When I visited New Orleans, Louisiana some years ago, the trip centered on a speaking engagement for a Society of Professional Journalists conference. So, while a day-long historical tour would have been my first pick, time was limited. A short swamp tour, a carriage ride down Bourbon Street, and a steamboat dinner cruise fit—and that’s where I kept my focus. For the holidays, let go of what you can’t have. Seize upon fun, meaningful pursuits that you can. Share a meal with a friend. Write an email or call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give to a charity.
  • Arrange your holiday itinerary. Every trip needs an itinerary. What will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally engaged? Who and what will lift your spirits? What new activities can you try? (And what sort of planning will they require?) What old joys can you still do and love? (Remember, some things are better to let go—for now or forever. So, give yourself permission.) Maybe you want to see a holiday musical or attend a show. Tickets go fast, so book early. Check local listings for online events, too. More exist than ever before. You could invite a buddy (even a furry one) and make your sofa the best seat in the house. Try this online event link at meetup.com for a few ideas. Get out your calendar now. Your successful holiday itinerary depends upon it.
  • Schedule some down time. Don’t forget to leave some wriggle room. Packing every day in November with activity may leave you too tired to enjoy December. I’ve learned that several full, busy day in a row leave me exhausted—and grouchy. Emotional well-being is tied to physical wellness. Schedule some downtime, too, and plan wellness activities for those days. Get a few new books to read. Plan some healthful but easy meals and buy what you can now to avoid the holiday rush. Restock any medications and supplements, as well as feel-good items such as your favorite tea, a fragrant candle, chewing gum, scented lotion or nail clippers. Personal care is self-care—and needed during stressful times.
  • Be self-compassionate. Sometimes, the holidays bring pressure to do what other people want. It’s healthy to keep to routines and honor commitments but begging off an event or tradition is worth considering when we’re hurting. A pros and cons list can access logical reasoning but may not honor your heart. If you’re sick at your stomach at the thought of an event, maybe saying “no” is right this time. Remember, declining this year doesn’t mean you will the next. Or it could be the start of a new pattern of self-care that leads to less worry about pleasing others and more about honoring yourself. Most of us parents have loved selflessly and sacrificed our own needs for our children often and in many different ways, for much of our lives. It’s okay to be kind to yourself. Self-care is not selfish. Are you taking good care of yourself?
  • Prioritize. Some parents whose adult children don’t want to spend time with them still have lots of other people and commitments vying for attention. Our needs change at different stages and depending on life circumstances. For your well-being and sanity, start early (now!) to weigh what is most meaningful against your emotional energy stores and what will support your own needs. One exercise in Beyond Done leans on the concept of medical triage, to help prioritize who and what is most important to you at this life juncture. This can help you make decisions while considering your personal needs and those of your family and friends.
  • Opt out. Use the frantic holiday season to accomplish unrelated tasks. Shred old tax records, clear your clothes closet, or de-clutter for a clean slate to start the New Year. Plus, you can listen to your favorite music, stream feel-good movies, or enjoy the quiet while you work. Sometimes, the ears need a break.

Take a positive detour

When it comes to the holidays or anytime, parents whose adult children don’t want to be around them are not doomed to the shadows of the dark cloud of impending holiday gloom. This season, make the days ahead a personal journey to your own joy and fulfillment. Maybe shifting gears this year is just a side trip. But the detour might lead to new adventures and better perspectives on life. Open your heart to the possibility of closing out the year in a way that helps you start the new one with a fresh outlook. What do you think? Do you accept this mission?

Watch this site for more practical holiday tips. Or, put “holidays” in the search box and get links to past articles here at the site. Also, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your own ideas to help parents of estranged adults during the holiday season. We can support one another.

Related reading

How’s your life bouquet?

De-clutter (Chinese New Year)

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged granddaughter

 

Ask Sheri McGregor: Contacting estranged granddaughter?

QUESTION:
Dear Sheri McGregor,

I just found your site and your Books on Amazon, and hope that you might help  –  I am looking for advice on composing a first-ever email to my 20 year old granddaughter whom I’ve never been allowed to meet. I was denied all access of any kind and never even saw a photo of her until this past summer, when I found my granddaughter on Instagram.

Let me give a little background—

I am a 75-year-old military veteran and have been estranged from my son since the late 1980s, when his mother and I began divorce proceedings. It was an extremely acrimonious divorce that took several years to finalize. I tried to keep contact but, over the years, my son has expressed hate toward me. It became clear that my ex-wife poisoned him against me. I missed major milestones, including my son’s wedding. He has two daughters and although I reached out to my son often, I was not welcomed in any way. Once, I even visited his home, but no one answered the door.

Anyway, this past summer, I found my oldest granddaughter, age 20, on Instagram and sent a request to “follow” her. She asked, “Grandpa?” I thanked her for replying and told her that I hoped we could communicate. Unfortunately, she didn’t respond again.

There is no telling what stories she has been told about me. Wanting any kind of relationship with her may be a futile pursuit, but at my age, I am not sure how much longer I have left on the planet. My own paternal grandfather died when my father was just a boy. So, I never knew him and have always felt that I missed out. Maybe my granddaughter has a similar feeling about me.

Recently, I found out she was living away at college and located her email address.  Can you help me with the exact wording to use when I contact her? I’m including a draft email, not yet complete, for your review. Here is that draft:

Dear XX:

I am sure hearing from me is a surprise, and I hope this doesn’t cause you any kind of conflict. I’ve known of you since the time you were born, just a week after my own birthday, so I have always celebrated my own birthdays with you in my heart.

I’m hoping you will consider beginning communication with me. I’ve really missed not being a part of your life and I would welcome the opportunity for you and me to get to know each other directly, using whatever method you are comfortable with (email, handwritten letters sent via U.S. mail, over the phone, or via FaceTime).

I’d be happy to send you your own phone with its own new number that I pay for the monthly billing thus no way for any of the calls to be traced/discovered by anyone else.

Give this some thought and reflect on my intention and I’ll always be ready when you are.

I’ll end this with Love, Poppa … because that is how I have always felt about you.

What do you think, Sheri? Thank you very much for reading my letter and I hope you can help.

Sincerely,

David P.

Contacting estranged granddaughter: ANSWER From Sheri McGregor:

Hi David,

I’m glad you reached out, and I do have some thoughts. While many who work with those affected by estrangement dissect their letters, I don’t typically offer specific wording as you ask. (See this excerpt from my latest book about that HERE). However, let me apply a broad brush, because there are many loving parents/grandparents who wish to establish a connection with those lost to them through parental alienation and estrangement.

First, just as you have said in your note to me, you may not get anywhere with your contact. There just are no guarantees, no matter how carefully you word things. For that reason, I would suggest that you consider altering your intention a little. That way, you can feel you have accomplished something good regardless of the outcome.

If this were me contacting a grandchild who doesn’t know me, I might consider what I could do to help her. Therefore, I might offer some information to her. This might take the form of a few photos of yourself and/or relatives from your side of the family, along with some brief historical information, links to genealogy sites with their information if those exist, or some interesting tidbits about their lives or even medical information if that makes sense.

In this way, perhaps you leave a legacy, imparting some knowledge that is helpful to her (now or in the future). I discuss the concept of leaving a legacy more in Beyond Done With The Crying More Answers and Advice for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. In your case, perhaps you could offer to answer questions or provide more information as well as convey your desire to have contact with her. By including something that you believe would be useful, informative, or helpful to her, then you could feel good about contacting her regardless of the immediate outcome. You’d be providing her a gift.

If this were me, I might want to tell a little about myself, too. Where I live and my interests, briefly. By doing so, she could see you in a perspective that is perhaps different than she has been told or has imagined. Perhaps your sharing may connect with her interest and spark further communication.

I would not offer to buy a phone that could be kept secret as your draft email implies. In my opinion, doing this could be construed in a negative light and appear devious to someone who has possibly been told bad things about you (as you mentioned believing may have occurred).

David, please take kind care of yourself. I hope that you will get your desired outcome of a relationship with your granddaughter. Whether that happens or not, I hope that by reaching out with a gift as discussed here, that you will feel peaceful about the outcome and satisfied that you have done something good for your granddaughter.

Hugs from Sheri McGregor