Monthly Archives: March 2024

Difficult adult children? Three tips for better sleep

difficult adult children

Image by GrumpyBeere from Pixabay

Difficult Adult children? Three tips for better sleep
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

As we head into spring, and with summer on the horizon, increased daylight hours typically aid our sleep. That may sound counterintuitive but exposure to natural light is the key. Indoor lighting can confuse our bodily circadian rhythms, which influences patterns of sleep. Harsher weather and shorter days combine to keep us inside under artificial lighting and limit our exposure to natural light. That explains why, in winter, people frequently get to sleep later at night than in summer. (Counterintuitive, right?!)

As parents of estranged or difficult adult children, the last thing we need are sleep hindrances. When winter stubbornly holds back spring sunshine (grrrr), it’s tougher to get outdoors. But natural light helps regulate better sleep. That’s why making the effort to get outside is so important.

Even on cloudy days, outdoor light has a stronger impact on the body’s clock than indoor light, counteracting the sleep-delaying effect. Morning daylight exposure is particularly helpful. Which is why I’ve made this the first of these three tips for better sleep.

Difficult adult children? Three tips for better sleep

#1. Spend time outdoors each morning. Outdoor light, particularly in the morning hours, assists the body’s natural circadian rhythms. While you’re at it, notice nature, which has wonderful calming and restorative affects.

#2. Increase your optimism. More optimistic people tend to enjoy more restful sleep. Thankfully, optimism isn’t an either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t trait. Every one of us can develop more optimism. One way that research shows works is to visualize and focus on yourself at your very best. There’s an exercise to help you do just that in Done With The Crying.

#3. Stop watching the clock. Recent research reveals that “time monitoring behavior” (TMB) exacerbates insomnia. Instead of meditating, rhythmic breathing, or sipping chamomile tea, there you are in the dead of night, your face lit by the glow of your wristwatch. Yet calculating the time left before the alarm goes off and the hours already lost only increases frustration and stress. Not exactly conducive to drifting off. TMB holds no value for restful slumber. So, at least overnight, ditch your watch, smartphone, or clock.

Related reading:

For parents abandoned by adult children: Sleep can be elusive

Restful respite: A moon garden

Is your adult child estranged? Be careful

Estrangement: What about hope?

Research studies related …

Daytime light exposure . . .

The association of optimism and sleep . . .

Use of … the role of TMB . . .


Ignored by adult children: The stops and starts

ignored by adult children

Ignored by adult children: The stops and starts

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

I stand at the window. Another day of cold and rain. Even snow is expected tonight. My mind wanders to the flower seeds and bulbs I purchased last week during two days of sunny, springlike weather. Those days had been a gift. And now they’re gone. Spring weather snatched back by the bony hand of winter’s grip.

Outside, in the distance, the wind whips at the neighbor’s brittle Eucalyptus trees. One day those closest to the fence we share will break like the trees that used to separate his property from his neighbor’s to the south. The carved rounds now lay in mountainous piles at the side of his house. Some grow moss. Others rise in wispy chimney trails that disintegrate into the dull gray sky. If only the Eucalyptus had been tended to. Trees need care.

Irritated, I turn from the window, my shoulders slumped under the weighty wool of another stormy day. “Will it ever end?” I ask my pitch black dog, Marilyn.

She wags and, when I open the door, she leaps out into the cold and misty morning air. If only I could be so glad. Another day to live, happily, despite the gloomy weather.

Feeling brittle myself, I go to the sack from the nursery and pull out the seed packets. The colorful pictures of zinnias, cosmos, and showy milkweed lift my spirits.

Ignored by adult children: Back at the window

Watching my dog romp through the green-green grass, her thick black fur clotting with falling rain, I remind myself that sunshine will return. As a native San Diegan, I’m not yet used to the more distinct seasons of this Sierra Foothills home. In a way, this late winter period reminds me of the early daze of estrangement from my son. For the first couple of years, I would get myself in order, be moving ahead, aware of the “sunlight” that still existed in my life and, that through my own intention, action, and focus, I could even generate, cultivate, and renew. And then a storm would hit, and the tender shoots of hope would wither. I’d be snatched back toward the pain.

The rhythm

Spring comes in fits and starts. It’s the same with other seasons. Spring rains alternate with fog and sunshine before settling into sauna-hot days. Summer then folds into fall with early storms that clear back to blazing heat before breezy days build to leaf-plucking winds, and the pelting hail or snow of winter’s grip.

It’s natural to move in fits and starts. A baby learns to walk while gripping at a table, falling, and getting up again before walking freely. Plants grow in stages, stopping to rest and gather nourishment, even in a single season. It’s nature’s way. Why then, when something as tumultuous as estrangement occurs, do we expect to immediately cope?


I look out again. Against the dreary backdrop, the grass is bright. A dusting of early red maple blooms swept off in the storm litter the brilliant green. Sparks of color. The promise of spring.

My dog paws at a shallow patch of dirt and then bends to eat the soil. What is it about this earth here? Even my tiny teacup poodle paws and gnaws at this magic dirt.  I go to the door and open it a crack. I patiently wait as my dog’s gaze follows a bird into the tree. She looks back at me and wags. Finally, she steps toward me but stops, shaking the rain from her thick black coat. She sniffs the air, savoring the moment.

I actually love it here, I realize. Wild turkeys are a daily encounter. Deer graze and gaze with enchanting curiosity. And elusive birds like the Northern flicker drill the wet ground in plentiful flocks. There’s something to say for this season that settles in like sleepy day. One that always lasts too long but reminds me to rest as I anticipate the spring I long for but is impossible to force.

Related reading

Bend and twist (like daffodils)

Why did my child disown me???? Making the “why?” question work for you

why did my children disown meWhy did my child disown me???? Making the “why”?” question work for you

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Why? Of all the questions I have received from thousands of parents over the years, this is the biggie. Parents who were there for every game, rehearsal, birthday, and skinned knee are asking: Why did my child disown me?

Then comes the self-examination. We put ourselves under the microscope and comb through every possible offense. And because we’re so trained on finding a reason, anything to make sense of the estrangement we never imagined possible, we even find some reasons. Frequently, these answers align with the blame and judgment we so readily find on the Internet. We did too much, or too little. Gave too much, or not enough. Were too strict, or too lenient. The list goes on almost endlessly, and parents wind up in the same sinking boat.

In Done With The Crying, I devote a chapter to this question and all the mining we do to find the cause, take responsibility and, hopefully, make it right. And no matter how many experts recommend parents write amends letters (For what!?), or offer the pathway to reconnect, it’s often a fool’s gold expedition.

Done With The Crying offers specific ways to cope with and move beyond the Why?, to remember who you really are and have been, and to move forward in a life that befits a loving human being who was dealt an injustice. Let’s turn that question around and find the real gold of a fulfilling life—no matter how far along you are on the journey.

Why? Flip the script

What’s your big why? Not “Why did my child disown me?” Not about taking the blame, making sense of their actions, or trying to wrap your head around the nonsensical. I’m talking about the why of your own well-being.

Both of my books devote time to the subject of reconciling, in a realistic way. Even if that is the ultimate hope, you need to function and learn to live with your new normal now. Rather than focusing the why question on the past—on answers that make mountains out of molehill-sized mistakes or honor invented facts that are anything but—let’s make the “why?” about something we can take charge of, own, and live with: Ourselves.

What’s your “big why?”

Working as a life coach for the last two decades, I’ve often heard the “big why” question. When you’re setting and working toward goals, your big why gets at the values and meaning that sustain your motivation. Parents work long hours to give their children what they need. A mother rises early before work or puts food in the crock pot so dinner will be done. A father cuts the grass at twilight so he can take his kid to weekend sports.

I’m stereotyping, but you get the point. People make sacrifices and alter habits for an overarching goal. That’s what I’m suggesting you do. Whether you’re still reaching out regularly to estranged adult children, have released them with love, or have decided it’s over for good (you have that right), what are you willing to do for yourself? For your own happiness, joy, meaning, overall wellness, and future? And why?

The doubts

Many parents realize, intellectually, they deserve to let go of what’s beyond their control. They understand they need to make peace with what has happened if they’re to move forward, meaningfully, in their own lives. Even so, doubts often creep in. Frequently, these are the same doubts that existed from the start. What will my child think if I stop trying? What will other people think of a mom or dad that gives up on his/her own child? What will . . .? What would . . .? What might … ?

What comes up for you when you consider letting your adult child own the decisions they’ve made, and you contemplate letting go of the rope?

When you listen to the things you tell yourself, the worries that come up about what other people, society, or even your adult child will think, you can begin to put them into perspective. You can take off the magnifying glasses (or minion goggles!) that are so trained on this problem you didn’t create and start to look at your own path … toward meaning, happiness, and your future.

NOTE: This topic of the “big why” for moving forward in your life was explored more deeply In the membership community at  a recent live event. To watch the replay, join me and other parents like you in the community. You can do that here.

Related reading

Effects of estrangement from adult children: Are you still carrying the weight?

Parents: Angry at adult children?