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Forgive for your own good

by Sheri McGregor

It’s often said that we should forgive for our own good. To forgive sets us free. That’s different than the forgiveness that comes when someone who has wronged us is remorseful and wants to make things right. To forgive doesn’t always require that we forget.

Forgiven or not, a person’s bad behavior often has consequences. Forgiveness can be a solitary act. To forgive doesn’t require that we forget everything and place ourselves, precariously, in a position to be hurt again. Read more about that, with a fuller look at forgiveness, in this article:

Why Forgive?

Today’s look at forgiveness is short—and oh-so-sweet!

forgiveness

Hugs to all the parents of estranged adult children. Your forgiveness is a gift to yourself.

~ Sheri McGregor

Neglected parents self-love exercise

By Sheri McGregor

Valentine’s Day post

Most holidays, you will find new articles here because I know how lonely those special days can feel for neglected parents. Adult children who rarely call, have cut their parents completely from their lives, or only reach out when they need something, leave their parents’ hearts in shards. For neglected parents, the only way beyond the emotional pain is through. That means digging deep for your own strength, looking for ways to support yourself, and then taking action. Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity to let your love loose on your own life and for your own benefit.

In my work as a life coach, I’ve routinely used exercises and questions to help people guide themselves through a variety of situations, increase productivity, and get out of their own way as they move way forward. Today, I’m including a short exercise for neglected parents and, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ll use the word “LOVE.”

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • An open mind
  • A willing spirit
  • A sheet of paper
  • A pen or pencil

Option: Fancy paper and/or colorful pens/pencils. Use what makes you feel good.

Don’t discount the first two bullet points. Those may be the most important.

FIRST STEPS

As you see in the photograph, fold your paper in half and then half again. When you unfold the sheet, creases mark off four sections. Eyeballing the space is okay, too. Or use a computer document and not worry about space at all. There is no perfect way to do this exercise other than to see it through for your own benefit.

BEFORE YOU START

You’ll be writing, so make up your mind not to censor yourself. If this exercise prompts you to spill out your feelings with no action steps, let it happen. You may be holding onto energy that needs a place to land. Let those thoughts and feelings emerge. Your feelings are valid—even the ones you judge yourself for.

GET STARTED

To the left of each of the four paper sections, write each of the letters in L-O-V-E, one per section, so that the word is spelled out vertically. Use flowery writing or make it bold—it’s up to you.

Below, after each letter, I’ve chosen a word that starts with that letter. You’ll also see a few questions. Spend a few moments answering them as they pertain to your unique situation:

  • Estrangement from adult children
  • Coping as a neglected parent
  • With a disrespectful adult child living at home due to Covid-19 (or for some other reason)
  • Your unique circumstances

This and similar exercises work for a variety of situations where the aim is to analyze thinking and behavior, and then move toward better self-care and past the problem.

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.)

Same Time, Same Place

Once you’ve spent some time considering each of these and writing out your thoughts, fold the paper so the writing is all on the inside. Then pen yourself a silly note on the blank side: Same time, next year. Or, Will you be my Valentine? Whatever feels right. Then tuck it away somewhere safe. Next year, pull this out and see how far you’ve come.

If the thought of looking at this later to observe your progress pricks panic, don’t ignore the feeling. If you worry that you will still be crying and miserable, take action now. Let this be a solid step toward your progress. It’s for your own good. Get your copy of Done With The Crying, read it again and use the WORKBOOK, or do the exercises for the first time (some readers skipped them). To move beyond the pain, you must set goals and work toward them. After a while, taking care of yourself becomes a helpful habit.

EXERCISE YOUR OPTIONS

If you have ideas about how to make this exercise your own, feel free to put them into action. Creative pursuits are freeing and fun. Honoring your own ideas is validating and helpful. Here are a couple of options:

  • Use your words. My example words for each of the letters aren’t set in stone. Come up with your own or even choose a word other than LOVE to start. The point is to get your thoughts on paper, begin the work of setting goals for your own happiness and self-worth, and move toward a fulfilling life only you can design. You’re in the driver’s seat on this self-love train. Don’t get sidetracked or derailed.
  • Get crafty. Create a keepsake. Once you’ve done the exercise and tucked it away, use the basic words (limits, observe, value, evaluate) as a visual reminder. Make a painting or a Valentine card and display it as a gentle reminder of where you’re at and where you’re headed. Make a bookmark and tuck it into something you read daily so your goals will be in front of you—or just as a reminder that you deserve your own kind care. (I’m tucking my folded page with my note into a book where I can see it often, plus find it next year.)

Do you gain insights from using this exercise? I’d love to hear about your experience. When you comment, you help other neglected parents move forward too.

Hugs to all on this journey, Sheri McGregor

Related Reading

Cut off by adult children and feeling lonely

How do I love me? Let me count the ways

Estranged from adult children, Love Yourself

 

2021 Giveaway Events: giveaway #2

Event with Sheri McGregor

This giveaway is over, but the book (by the mother of an estranged adult child) is still available.

Sheri McGregor’s 2021 GIVEAWAY EVENTS: HERE’S #2

parent of estranged adultI am excited to announce the second giveaway event for 2021!

In my book, Done With The Crying, I mention the poetry some parents of estranged adult children in my online peer support community here at the site wrote as part of their healing. Some funny, some sad, it was joy to read those poems and to know that in writing them, those mothers had changed their momentary outlook … and eventually their lives.

For this giveaway, I have ONE copy of a book of poetry written by another parent who knows the emotional pain of estrangement from an adult child. Poems from the Heart for Hope and Healing: For Those Who Have Experienced Estrangement from a Loved One, by Claire L. Cunning, is a heartfelt collection written to express her pain, as well as offer hope.

My assessment? You may shed a tear or two because the poems are moving and touch the heart. Others may make you laugh. You may recognize yourself in some of the verses, and feel the pull of the past and to times you cherished … as well as look forward to a good future ahead.

One lucky reader here at RejectedParents.Net will be randomly chosen from among those who follow the instructions at the end of this post and take action.

The author has divided this poetry volume into into three sections:

  •  Grief and Hurt
  • Anger and Denial
  • Hope and Healing

Cunning chose to organize the poems as a way to help. She explains to readers,  “That way you can choose a section of poetry depending on your feelings for that day. It is my hope that you can find some comfort in my poetry knowing I’ve been there with you.”

To enter the giveaway, you will need to be reading this and enter by commenting as instructed between 9 p.m. PST on 1/29/21 and 9 p.m. PST on 2/1/21. Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up immediately (all comments are moderated and must be approved for publication). Your comment must meet specific criteria, too, so read closely.

To enter, here’s what to do.

Leave a comment in reply to this blog post as follows:

Leave your first name and last initial as well as a working email address in the form where it asks who you are. Also, in the comment post itself, you’ll need to share three things:

  1. Who is estranged from you (just a title, no names please)? Is it a son, daughter, step-child, adopted daughter or son?
  2. In no more than three sentences, please share: How long you have been estranged and whether this is the first estrangement, part of an episodic estrangement, etc.
  3. In ONE sentence from your own experience, share the most important thing you would tell another parent whose adult child has become estranged.

Got it?

The winner will be randomly drawn from a hat or jar into which all names have been placed. I will contact the winner, who will need to reply to my email by 9 p.m. on 2/2/21, with their full name and the correct email to send the pass. In the event of no reply, another winner will be drawn.

Remember, to enter for this book of poetry by Claire L. Cunning your comment must be received here by 9 p.m. PST on 2/1/21. Don’t delay. Leave your comment as instructed for a chance to win.

Good luck! I can’t wait to read your comments, and by sharing a bit here, you will help other parents.

Hugs to you all. Take kind care of yourselves, Sheri McGregor

 

Why do adult children estrange? Let’s look at nature-or nurture

Why do adult children estrangeWhy do adult children estrange?
Could it be nature … or nurture?

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

“Know when to hold ‘em; Know when to fold ‘em.”  I used that line from the Kenny Rogers song, “The Gambler,” in a section of my book, Done With The Crying, that discusses playing the hand you’re dealt, and the fact that how kids turn out can be a crap shoot. Parents don’t have as much influence on their kids as they might think.

A 2015 meta-analysis of existing twin studies research over 50 years and in 39 countries makes it clear that the old nature-or-nurture inquiry isn’t a one-or-the other prospect. Both play a role, and in many instances, it’s roughly half and half. No wonder you can raise two kids in the same family, yet they can turn out so very differently from one another.

In some areas, the scales are weighted more heavily on the genetics side, and that may be important for parents of estranged adult children to consider. Sometimes, mental illness is part of the estrangement equation, whether diagnosed or speculated. Twins research reveals that the risk for bi-polar disorder is 70% due to genetics and 30% influenced by environment.1 Not all areas are so clear-cut, but twins research suggests heritability for Borderline Personality Disorder between 35% and 65% (with the highest heritability occurring in self-ratings).2,3,4 The role of genetics in schizophrenia could be as high as 79%.5

Genetics also more subtly influence mental, emotional, and behavioral traits. Many parents know that their children arrived with different temperaments. One baby’s nature is to be agreeable and always smiling. Another frequently fusses and is generally peevish. As a mother of five children, I know firsthand that this is true. My children were each uniquely themselves and different from one another. Even my pregnancies were not the same. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Have you been examining your history and looking for where you went wrong? That’s something most of us parents do. We immediately think that if our own child can disown us, then we must have done something wrong. And when we look for help, we hear that belief echoed across the Internet. We’re also told we’re making mistakes and probably going about trying to reconcile all wrong…. Ugh.

In general it’s common for parenting advice to give the message that our children’s behavior is a direct reflection of us—how we raise them and how we interact. That’s not actually true. We can do almost everything right, but sometimes, our nurturing takes a backseat to genetics.

If you have been a loving and caring parent, then you have most likely imagined stepping into your estranged adult child’s shoes. Most parents are good at perspective-taking. They try hard to see things through their child’s eyes—even when their children have become cruel. Parents want to understand, to help, and to keep the peace.

Parents, I hope you will take kind care of yourselves. Don’t give another adult control of your health and happiness. No matter what happens, you will be better off if you take care of yourself, stay happy, involved in living, and well. Think about it, even if you never reconcile, you will have enjoyed your life instead of wasting it. And, if you do reconcile, you will be much stronger and better able to enjoy the connection.

Don’t forget your own needs.  You count. Your nature may be to get along, to try to understand, and to fix. But you may be like a lot of parents who are surprised that, when it comes to estrangement, your caring nature no longer works. You can continue to spin your wheels and get nowhere, or you can turn yourself around.  You can throw off the “toxic parent” label, let go of an adult child’s negative assessment, and reclaim who you are and have always been. You can be Done With The Crying (and even then you can still hold out hope).

Related Reading:

Nature vs. Nurture: Research says it’s both

Why parents should stop blaming themselves for how their kids turn out

Largest twins study shows nearly 80% of schizophrenia risk on heritability

References:

  1. Polderman TJC, Benyamin B, de Leeuw CA, Sullivan PF, van Bochoven A, Visscher PM, Posthuma D. Meta-Analysis of the Heritability of Human Traits based on Fifty Years of Twin Studies. Nature Genetics, 2015 Jul;47(7):702-9 doi:10.1038/ng.3285, published online May 18, 2015
  2. Distel, M. A., Willemsen, G., Ligthart, L., Derom, C. A., Martin, N. G., Neale, M. C., Trull, T. J., & Boomsma, D. I. (2010). Genetic covariance structure of the four main features of   borderline personality disorder. Journal of personality disorders, 24(4), 427–444. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi.2010.24.4.427
  3. Kendler, K. S., Myers, J., Reichborn-Kjennerud, T. (2011). Borderline personality disorder traits and their relationship with dimensions of normative personality: a web-based cohort and twin study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 23: 349–359
  4. Reichborn-Kjennerud, T., Ystrom, E., Neale, M. C., Aggen, S. H., Mazzeo, S. E., Knudsen, G. P., Tambs, K., Czajkowski, N. O., & Kendler, K. S. (2013). Structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for symptoms of DSM-IV borderline personality disorder.  JAMA psychiatry, 70(11), 1206–1214. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1944
  5. (2017, October 5). Largest twin study pins nearly 80% of schizophrenia risk on heritability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171005103313.htm

Event with Sheri McGregor GIVEAWAY

Event with Sheri McGregorEvent with Sheri McGregor

UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS OVER, but the event itself is yet to come. Find out more and sign up–it’s free unless you decide to upgrade. Register by clicking here. If you entered the giveaway for the All Access Pass that allows you to watch anytime and keep the videos to watch whenever it’s convenient,, PLEASE check your email. I have contacted the winner. If no reply to my email by 9p.m. today, 1/22/21, I will choose an alternate.

To kick off the New Year in a fun way, I’m setting up a few giveaways. This is the first one (you’ll want to watch the blog for the others, coming very soon). Read on for more about the prize and how you can enter.

Event with Sheri McGregor

Some of you know that as part of the “Moving Beyond Family Struggles” event, I am interviewed on the third day, January 28, 2021. What you may not know is that all 15 of the event’s interviews have been recorded already. An “all access” pass allows you to watch the interviews at your leisure. No need to tune in on January 26, 27, and 28. You can watch whenever, and watch again if you’d like.

I am excited to announce that I have procured ONE ALL-ACCESS PASS as a giveaway for one lucky reader who will be randomly chosen from among those who follow the instructions at the end of this post.

First, let me tell you more about the pass, which the event organizer has made available for purchase at a reduced price until the posted dates (and then goes up). Here’s some of what you’ll get with an all access pass:

  • Immediate access to all content
  • Lifetime access to all speaker videos that are ever uploaded to the Moving Beyond Family Struggles website, plus any resources that have been shared
  • A free book by one of the speakers (Laura Davis)
  • Plus future videos as they’re added and a written transcript of the whole event

To enter the giveaway for the ONE All Access Pass for the Moving Beyond Family Struggles event with Sheri McGregor and 14 others billed as “top experts” by the event organizer, you will need to be reading this and enter by commenting as instructed between 9 p.m. PST on 1/19/21 and 9 p.m. PST on 1/21/21. Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up immediately (all comments are moderated and must be approved for publication). Your comment must meet specific criteria, too.

Also, if you already have the All Access Pass to the event, go ahead and enter anyway. This contest is open to everyone who follows instructions. If you’ve already purchased an all-access pass and win, I’ll check with the event coordinator and make it up to you. To see the event, you’ll need to register, so go ahead and do that now too–here.

To enter, here’s what to do:

Leave a comment in reply to this blog post as follows:

Leave your first name and last initial as well as a working email address in the form where it asks who you are. Also, in the comment post itself, you’ll need to share two things:

  1. Something that you’re doing to help yourself and be happy despite estrangement. (Something for your health, your well being, your peace of mind, your future. . . .)
  2. One way that you are being self-compassionate right now (give yourself some love!).

The winner will be randomly drawn from a hat or jar into which all names have been placed. I will contact the winner, who will need to reply to my email by 9 p.m. on 1/22/21, with their full name and the correct email to send the pass. In the event of no reply, another winner will be drawn.

Remember, to enter for the ALL ACCESS PASS your comment must be received here by 9 p.m. PST on 1/21/21. Don’t delay. Register and leave your comment as instructed for a chance to win.

Good luck! I can’t wait to read your comments and learn about all the wonderful things you are doing to take kind care of yourselves!

Hugs to you all, Sheri McGregor

March and sing into 2021

disrespectful adult child parental estrangement

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Disrespectful adult child? Estranged?
March and sing into 2021 anyway

At a tense moment around the kitchen table in the movie, Moonstruck, the grandfather says, “Someone tell a joke.”

Although 2020 held miserable news and troubles, approach the New Year with a new attitude. That might very well mean telling a joke—or trying another action that supports and empowers you.

TENSION AS THICK AS A BRICK

This article is for parents who are estranged from adult children, but the term, “estranged,” isn’t always cut-and-dried. I hear from many parents who live under the same roof with their estranged adult children or have “reconciled” but find regular contact tougher than they thought. Typical scenarios include:

  • Disrespectful adult child (young) who can’t take care of themselves (yet)
  • Move-back-in situation when an estranged adult child has lost a job or gone through some trauma
  • A reconciled relationship that is wrought with distrust, explosions, and/or an eggshell walk
  • Adult children who just don’t seem interested in keeping a relationship with you

Whether or not you’re in a situation like one of these or are cut off from all contact, read on. We’ll lighten up, get grounded, and march forward with feel-good and empowerment techniques.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

When an adult child moves in after leaving a bad relationship, losing a good job, or some other trauma, distress can hang like a dark cloud over your home. Ditto when a young adult you’re trying to remain patient with “as they mature” spends most of their time behind a closed door. Parents may worry for their child about a past abuser’s continuing psychological hold, the ongoing effects of trauma, or problems with physical and mental health.

While you can lend a generous ear, step gingerly around explosive subjects, and focus on any good, you must also take care of yourself. Listening too much can cause secondary trauma—or prompt your (unwanted) advice. Avoiding explosive subjects or moderating every word builds resentment. Worrying isn’t healthy. 

Parents aren’t always ready (or able) to insist on big changes, kick a disrespectful adult child out of the house, require a son or daughter to get counseling, or address relationship issues head on. Those are subjects for another day. Here, we’ll get to what parents can do in the meantime—for themselves

Regardless of circumstances, recognizing what you can and can’t control helps. Maybe you can’t calm an adult child’s mood swings or emotional distress, but you can work on your own moods, support your own well-being, and get on with living. This article isn’t about solving the bigger issues or even examining them. Instead, let’s look at a few easily implemented ideas to lighten the dark tone that may be filling your physical or mental home and also raise your spirits:  

    • Sing. Singing reduces stress levels and can stimulate the immune system—plus it feels good. Make up a theme song (or adopt one that makes you feel good) and sing it every morning. Or sing while you go about your work or play. Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song! You might have even been singing that last part like The Carpenters or Shirley Bassey
    • Music. A little music can lift moods and provide a distraction. Today, it’s easy to find music online. Music apps are available on our phones, and there are whole channels that play only music on some television services. Don’t forget the radio either. Choose something that makes you feel happy and energized. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself dancing, too (maybe even the Cha Cha Cha)!
    • Exercise. Physical movement like dance is good for you, but movement as simple as putting one foot in front of the other for a walk increases blood flow to the body and also to the brain. Walking boosts creativity, which may mean you’ll return refreshed, and able to tackle tough problems in new ways. Walk! It’ll help you think.
    • Crystals. Stones from the earth hold vibrational energy that can improve mood, aid clarity, and promote calm and peace. In the past, therapists recommended a rubber band around the wrist to snap as a reminder to manage bad habits or think better thoughts. Touching the smooth stones of a bracelet composed of crystals with energetic properties is a less painful variation. Try rose quartz, known for its loving energy, or get a kit with several crystals collected to conquer stress or promote healing. Etsy.com has a variety of crystal kits and jewelry created by artisans. You might find them helpful—and they’re beautiful.
    • Ground yourself.  “Earthing,” by walking barefoot to connect with the earth and its conductive energy is purported to heighten mood, decrease pain and inflammation. So far, studies are few but I can tell you from experience that it feels good. Be safe where you walk, limit exposure in cold weather, and enjoy. My recent move has taken me farther from the coast, but I used to live within half an hour—and Earthing along the beach felt wonderful and freeing. Earthing among the nettle that grew profusely beneath a towering pine was also energizing. Don’t like going outdoors barefoot? Try relaxation meditations where you’re aware of your breath, your body, and how the soles of your feet “root” you to the ground. 
    • Engage in a project.  While any project you enjoy is helpful, let’s stay grounded and talk about gardening. Imagine yourself blooming along with the flowers you raise. Plant seeds indoors for healthy seedlings ready to go outdoors in spring. Allow yourself to marvel at the bits of growth you see each day. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty either. Friendly bacteria that’s present in soil works as an antidepressant, raising levels of serotonin in the brain.
    • Laugh. Just as the grandfather in Moonstruck knew the right timing for a joke, I lean on laughter to help. Distracted by nature during a recent walk, I stepped on a rough spot and fell on my face. “Crack some jokes,” I told my husband. “Make me laugh or I’ll cry.” Glad to oblige, he compared my fat-lipped profile to Donald Duck and told me I had kissed the ground. Laughter stimulates the organs and soothes stress. Over time, it’s thought to have positive effects on the immune system and work with your body to relieve pain, too. Besides, it’s fun. Find comedians you like on YouTube, or watch silly animal videos. Here’s a really short one that always makes me laugh:

EASY-PEASY

If you’re feeling so low right now that these simple tasks look momentous, at least try a few ultra-low-effort tactics to take care of yourself. 

  •  Get out your softest blanket or throw and enjoy the texture.
  • Wear feel-good cologne and sniff your wrist often.
  •  Stroke a pet who will love you for it.
  • Wear cozy socks.

Whether you’re fully estranged, living with an adult child who avoids or rejects you, have reconciled but don’t feel all joy-joy and wonderful about how things are progressing, or are affected in some other way by estrangement, don’t make your life all about another adult. Sometimes, the tiniest gifts we give ourselves help the most.

Consider listening in on the free eventfree event for family struggles that takes place later this month, too.

Hugs to you for the New Year and beyond.  ~ Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

Happy New Year 2020 posting (includes a beautiful link a reader sent to me)

Holiday talk: Parents alienated by adult children, Cha-Cha-Cha 

Holiday Talk:
Parents alienated by adult children,
Try the 3-step Cha-Cha-Cha

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents alienated by adult children

Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

How we talk and think can make a big difference in how we feel. As the holidays approach, many parents alienated by adult children are filled with dread or sadness.  Without even realizing it, a dreary voiceover may narrate their days, shaping a gloomy outlook. I’ve got a solution: Cha-Cha-Cha.

No, I’m not necessarily suggesting you do this Cuban dance that began its long mark on international culture in the early 1950s (per Wikipedia). A few simple steps get people out on the dance floor and having fun with the Cha-Cha-Cha (sometimes shortened to Cha-Cha) but here, I’m borrowing the name and the fun that made the dance style so popular to illustrate my three steps to overcome the holiday blues:

CHEck your self-talk

CHAllenge your beliefs

and 

CHAnge 

Okay, so it’s really CheCha-Cha, but you get the idea. (Say the first one with a forced Southern U.S. accent and it sounds correct. Say it that way out loud now. It’s fun!)

Here’s how the process works:

FIRST, CHECK your self-talk

What are you telling yourself? Without even realizing it, are you using words or sayings that hurt you rather than help you?

Anne Marie, a mother of three, says that when the calendar hit October 1, she always thought, “Okay, here we go.” When her kids were younger, this helped Anne Marie focus and gear up for the season where she went all out for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Although she had a full career plate, her holidays were dictated by costumes, school pageants, and parties—all of which she made perfect, memorable, and fun. She was an unsung hero behind everyone else’s holiday joy, but Anne Marie was proud of the good times she created for her children.

Her kids are grown now. Two of them are estranged. As one of the multitudes of parents alienated by adult children, these days, her “here we go” thought stirs resentment for her. Yet come each holiday season, those words still run through her head.

As we chatted, Anne Marie explained her difficulty in moving beyond the sadness of her adult children’s estrangement over the holiday season. “Traditionally, this has been a hard time of year for me,” she said.  

Traditionally?” I asked, emphasizing her word choice. 

Thankfully, she laughed with me when I pointed out that she had made a ritual of feeling bad about the holidays. A tradition like that becomes a habit. Those can be hard to break, but the first step is becoming aware—and that’s what Anne Marie did

CHECK your thinking. What do you tell yourself about the holidays? Right now, stop for a moment and reflect. Do your thoughts help or hurt you? Are you building yourself up or tearing your spirits down?

The thoughts or spoken words we direct to ourselves, our self-talk, is important. Everyone talks to themselves, as is explained in this Huffington Post article that quotes me and other experts. The trick is to make your self-talk useful.

Why give yourself a poop talk when a pep talk is more motivating and uplifting? Becoming aware of the words you use can help you to help yourself. Don’t make a tradition of feeling bad. While it’s wise to be aware of triggers that bring up emotional pain, you also need to find new traditions and let the old pain go.

We’ll explore more about changing the way we think in a moment. First, let’s move to the second syllable in Che-Cha-Cha. Is what we’re telling ourselves even true?

CHALLENGE your beliefs

“Holidays are all about family so this will be tough.” That is what one father recently related.

“Are holidays really all about family?” I asked him.

Seasonal TV commercials and movies do a number on our views. The truth is that, for many, the holidays are a time to reaffirm spiritual beliefs, help those who are less fortunate, and give to causes they find meaningful and that bring them joy.

When this dad of one son who won’t talk to him realized his holiday thinking set him up for loneliness and disappointment, he challenged himself to find new ways to celebrate. He watched religious movies, started to pray again, and sponsored needy children through a local charity.

Where can you find new meaning for the holidays? What can you do to challenge old, negative, unhelpful thoughts and take action that makes the holidays more fun?

Finally, CHANGE

Anne Marie called friends in another state who had never had children. She figured she could learn a thing or two from this couple in their 60s whose holidays have never been about family. Listening as they talked about their fun plans for the season that included trying out snow-shoeing in a piled-high meadow near their home and watching a local theater group’s holiday comedy offered this year over Zoom, she couldn’t help but smile. Despite a Covid-19 lock-down, they were making the holidays fun!

Anne Marie has decided to use the holidays to research how she can reclaim an old hobby, dancing, she gave up as a teenager but had always missed. She started by listing every word that came to mind when she thought of dancing. This meant being realistic about her abilities at age 62, but also how liberated and happy dancing always made her feel. She also subscribed to a topic magazine and eagerly checks her mailbox daily for the first issue’s arrival.

During her days off work this season, Anne Marie plans to locate local resources, join related social media pages, and maybe even touch base with questions. These are first steps in her plan to restore the wonder of childhood and bringing a sense of awe and fun into her life now. Anne Marie sees this gift to herself for the holidays as a launching pad to nurture herself with self-care all year.

Who can you learn from? Whose habits can you adopt, adapt, and make all your own? What beliefs or old thinking can you check, challenge, and change? No matter who you are or what the holidays have meant to you in the past, you can start new traditions that better suit and support you at this phase of life.

If you find yourself dreading the holidays or feeling low, remember: Check, Challenge, and Change. Just as Anne Marie plans to dance, you’ll be doing the Che-Cha-Cha in no time!

Parents alienated by children can be happy. Give yourself the gift of moving forward for your own happiness. Get Done With The Crying and the accompanying workbook.

Still thinking about the Cha-Cha-Cha dance? Learn the basic steps or hear oldies with the videos below.


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Kneaded: Resilience illustrated for parents of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult child won't talk to me

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels

During the first year, I took up making bread from scratch.  I bought glossy, coffee table recipe books with beautiful photos of freeform artisan breads, out-of-print books with healthy recipes requiring obscure ingredients, and fat paperbacks chock full of variety that became well-worn. I bought a pizza stone, a pizza peel, loaf pans in an array of sizes, serrated knifes and a countertop slicing guide. I experimented with flatbreads, made dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls and bagels. I made bread every day. It kept me occupied. And in looking back, I can see that it was also about my family, about breaking bread together and all that means.

I tried a bread machine with a kneading function, but it wasn’t the same. There was something therapeutic in the hands-on approach. As I kneaded, working up a sweat and toning my arms in the process, the dough became stretchy and strong.  I could feel the gluten strands doing their magic in the way the dough held together, smooth and soft, tough yet pliant. I could see that too, in the little “windows” that revealed themselves in stretched-thin dough that didn’t break.

I learned about the need for moisture in the oven and what a difference a few degrees of heat can make. I learned how yeast functions, too.  Even with the scientific knowledge, leaving a small, smooth ball in an oiled bowl, and returning later to find a puffy pillow, doubled or tripled in size was nothing short of a miracle to me. And each time I punched it down, it would rise again, resilient.

The toughest lesson was the need to wait. While the air swirled with the scent of fresh baked yeast bread, patience was essential. Hot loaves crush rather than properly slice.

My favorite recipe was one that made my family happy. It added bits of cold butter and powdered milk to the dough. The bread required longer kneading, and a third rising period that brought it spilling over the bowl. All that beating and punching down, yet it rose ever higher—the finished loaf as light and fluffy as a cloud, yet also strong.

As I would knead that dough, I sometimes imagined it a bit like me. My son’s estrangement had me emotionally rolled, twisted, and flattened. Punched down and left on a shelf. And like the gluten in that dough, I imagined the strands of my soul growing stronger, more flexible, and holding together. I could take an emotional kneading, a punching down, and be resilient like that bread dough rising yet another time. As the years have passed, I have found this to be true.

In my daily life, I am tough like that dough. Pliant and flexible and holding together.  On some days, I’m even as light and airy as the finished product.

You can be resilient too

Thousands of parents have read Done With The Crying and found it informative and empowering. I think you will, too. It’s chock full of ingredients to help.

Related Reading

Adult child won’t talk to me: Is it time to go with the flow?

Adult child won’t talk to me: When the world is scary, bend and twist

Abandoned parents: Are you “chewing”?

abandoned parentsAbandoned parents’ reflections: Are you chewing?

By Sheri McGregor, M.A. 

I’ve been gradually moving over the last several months, to a new home far away from the one where my husband and I raised our kids. On my most recent return to the blazing Southern California heat after a week away, I discovered that my little man-made pond had evaporated by half. And there, among the tangle of lily pads was an old friend: a plastic manatee I’d forgotten even existed had popped up from the depths. 

Seeing its emergence from where it had somehow been buried beneath the surface, made me think of an old Simon & Garfunkel tune. The song starts out, “Hello Darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again.” Those lyrics remind me of the way emotional pain can pop up and imprison abandoned parents in a looping reel of dark thinking. But is it wise to make an “old friend” of the stuff?  When there’s no solution to a problem you keep going over and over and over, you’re ruminating. That sort of repetitive thinking carries the negative side effects of anxiety and depression.  

The word “ruminate” derives from a centuries old Latin variant that means to “chew the cud.” This makes sense because “rumen” is the English word for the first of four stomachs found in animals that chew a cud. Multiple stomachs help cows and other ruminant animals to break down their diet of coarse grass. There’s a purpose to the process, which is the opposite of chewing the same old emotionally draining cud. That kind of chewing gets you nowhere. 

A previous article covered the weepy days common to abandoned parents and how they can use them for good. Here, let’s look at your emotional cud from a new angle. Like Simon & Garfunkel’s old friend, darkness, has your rumination grown so familiar that it’s become a companion?  

In the distress and uncertainty of an adult child’s rejection, ruminating can become a habit, and even bad habits are something we can count on when our world has gone topsy-turvy. If you’re in the habit of thinking negatively—when you’re trying to get to sleep, whenever friends talk about family fun, wherever you see grandparents with grandchildren, or there’s some other trigger that sets you off—maybe it’s time to recognize rumination for what it is, an emotional rut, and bid the old buddy good-bye.  

Abandoned parents: Mindfully letting go 

One of the first steps to letting go is recognizing when you’re holding on. That means noticing when your thoughts turn down that familiar alley. In Done With The Crying, there is detailed material toward recognizing and measuring how often dark thinking plagues you. Awareness is necessary to begin the practice of consciously letting rumination go.  

It’s normal for our minds to want to chew on things that trouble us, but at some point, we must realize the cud is just old grass. As time passes, and with work that builds happiness, confidence, and fulfillment despite the pain, you can make sweet milk of your life despite estrangement. Even then, like an old wound that only bothers you in bad weather or when you’re tired or ill, the old cud of estrangement pain can pop up. Then what?    

Reflections 

Seeing that manatee brought a spill of memories. After my son cut us off, building beauty in my garden became my therapy. Clearing weeds helped clear my head. Tending to things that bloomed helped me to bloom. Seeing the cycle of life echoed in plants and trees helped me see myself in new and resilient ways. But spotting that manatee rising from the depths where it had been caught and lurking brought back pain.  

I sat on the garden wall, remembering how I’d worked my hands until they were as rough as sandpaper. In my vegetable garden, I had looked up with hope if a passing car sounded like my estranged son’s, and then hung my head and went back to my work. I remember uncovering ugly grubs in the soil and getting tricked by Fool’s Lettuce. That insidious weed sprouted as tender and soft as the sweet greens I’d planted, and eventually took the whole bed over, complete with thorny edges and thick roots that made the imposter impossible to pull. And, right or wrong, I found parallels in my son and those he’d chosen to go off with. Appearances can be deceiving. Those parallels were helpful to me at the time.

abandoned parentsTired from the long drive, as I sat on the garden wall, a misting of tears surprised me. The cute manatee had popped up from the depths, an old friend who tugged at memories and pain. I took a breath. The sky was still and blue. A mockingbird shouted an alarm call to guard its nearby nest. A trail of ants hugged the garden wall near my feet. Life moved on. That painful time was over. I was here and now. I didn’t need to chew the cud or talk with the darkness that was no longer my old friend.  

Bobbing lightly in the pond fountain’s trickle, the manatee seemed to smile. I smiled too.  

Related reading

Emotional triggers: Abandoned parents, set yourself free

In my garden

 

The beat goes on: Politics dividing families

Election cycle exacerbates existing
problems between parents and adult children
 

by Sheri McGregor

politics dividing familiesIt’s happening again. Adult children are insisting their parents change their political views—or else.  Are politics dividing families?

Tunnel vision

Four years ago, several parents wrote to me, distraught over sons and daughters who threatened to disown them because their politics didn’t align. This time, more parents are sharing their stories, and the rhetoric is more intense. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • A father writes that his grown daughters started college and adopted an entitlement mentality. Although he raised them with values that included working for what they wanted in life, he reports, “They say life should be easy and believe that everything should be free. An odd teaching from a college that isn’t cheap.” He has required that they work to pay for part of their education and pitch in around the house, which his daughters don’t like. They have decided they don’t like him, and have become downright rude. While not physically estranged, emotionally and in their worldview, they’re on another planet. As the Presidential election draws near, they disrespect his views, and often tell him, “OK, Boomer,” (a new phrase young people use to dehumanize elders). The daughters, though, may be in for a surprise. Dear old Dad is growing weary of their surly superiority. He’s contemplating booting from the house and no longer paying their tuition. 
  • Another father says his son, who had been fully estranged for more than two years, was careless about Covid-19. The son called to check in on his dad but wasn’t empathetic to his fears. “He says the virus is politicized,” the father says. “He doesn’t get what it’s like to be in your seventies plus have another health risk factor.” 
  • A widowed mother writes that her 34-year-old son cannot tolerate her fiscally conservative views. When he repeatedly made every conversation political, insisting his “far-left” opinions were right, she suggested they agree to disagree and talk about other things. He said he couldn’t separate politics from the rest of his life and called her a racist. Shocked by the charge, she says, “I asked him for examples, which he couldn’t provide.” He yelled at her, repeating the word “racist,” louder and louder as he stood over her chair. Shaken by his obnoxious rancor, she asked him to leave and stop coming around until he could control himself. That was two months ago and, other than a few emails in which he continues to harangue her, there has been no contact. She says, “I love him and wish things were better between us, but he doesn’t get to choose what I believe.” 

 

  • Another mother says her son rejected her and her husband (his father) during the last Presidential election year. When it came to their votes, it was his way or the highway. Two years later, he began reaching out and even brought their grandson for a visit. After that, they video chatted every few weeks. Recently though, his demeanor has changed. “As the election draws near, I can feel him rejecting us again,” she says. Their daughter, with whom they have shared a good relationship, is also now putting political views ahead of them. She recently sent her mother a text saying if they didn’t dissolve their assets and “support the revolutionaries,” she would stop all contact. The mother replied that at their age, they would support just causes on their own terms. The mother went on to encourage her daughter to do something to make a difference about what she believes: “Volunteer to clean up, rather than destroy. Get a teaching degree and educate the next generation for a better life. Or get a law degree and help those needing assistance.” The daughter’s reply was “rote.” These children are 37 and 39. “Old enough to know better,” as their mother says.   

What I see in these stories is bullying, disrespect, and even arrogance. That’s not so different than other estrangement situations. These “children” are like many who harshly judge their parents in terms of what they determine are unchangeable traits. Then they use these so-called traits to justify the rejection. This is the opposite of parents, who most often try to sidestep conflicts and get along. Or, as the widowed mother above says, “Agree to disagree.”  That’s why the parents whose son rejected them over the last election welcomed him back with open arms. They try and empathize. Living and working where he does is worlds away than his quaint hometown, where his parents still live. He’s adopted different values. It’s too bad that, at least during the election cycle, he has trouble seeing his parents as whole people. They may differ politically but are still worthy and good.  

Do politics bring out what’s already there? 

The political season amps up the opinionated and highlights the intolerance of those who insist that others agree, but some parents have faced similar strong-arming all along. Those whose children make a stink about their views might look at the current behavior with an eye to the past. Upon reflection, the widow whose son calls her a racist says, “He’s always been a bully. Politics just makes it more intense.”  

 Maybe your political views are very important to you, so when your “children” say those opinions are immoral, wrong, or stupid, it’s tougher than usual to try and keep the peace. That thought begs the question: Should you always stand down? Sometimes, preserving your own peace takes precedence over trying to get along.  

I can understand the father whose daughters dishonor him. It’s tough to live with adults who devalue you and your beliefs. Maybe he’s right, and the school of hard knocks will remind his daughters of the lessons he once instilled in them: ideals about adult responsibility that their college culture has apparently erased.  

For the parents whose son and daughter have rejected the salt-of-the-Earth values they were raised with, peace means recognizing that the world has changed. Nowadays, political rhetoric is often about right and wrong. Everything from global warming to eating meat has become an issue. These parents believe the fear that now permeates every facet of society has taken away all the fun. “People used to get dirty, drink out of a hose, and not be so worried all the time,” the mother says. The couple can only offer their children messages of love and encourage their interests as they always did. Meanwhile, they’ll vote as they deem best.   

Politics dividing families: What do you think? 

In the peer support forum here at the site, political discussions are not allowed. That rule has not changed, but I want parents whose children reject them for their political beliefs to know they are not alone. Here, in comments to this article, I hope you will share your experiences in this regard and support one another. Please be respectful and kind.   

 Related reading

 The turning point

When your estranged adult child wants nothing to do with you: Go with the flow?