Category Archives: What Parents Can Do

Articles and information for parents on the subject of estranged adult children. Includes assistance, strategy, coping, ways to get through the troubling emotional traumas and dilemmas common to parents suffering an adult child’s estrangement.

Rejected parents: Your happiness can be independent of estrangement

Rejected parents: Your happiness can be independent of estrangement

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Rejected parents: You can be happy again

In the spirit of Independence Day, step away from the bondage of always thinking about the adult son who betrayed you or the adult daughter who walked away. Instead, think of this Fourth of July as a turning point. Then, support yourself in moving forward.

First off, if you don’t yet have my book, Done With The Crying, get it, read it, and do the exercises. People say it saved their sanity, helped them—finally—to move beyond the pain and sorrow, and to move forward in their own lives.

rejected parents

Rejected parents: Gain independence from the pain of estrangement

Here are six more tips for gaining your independence from the pain of estrangement, which may be the biggest shock of your life:

  • Get started. For some, just getting started in taking care of themselves can be difficult. This primer, Five Ways to Move On After an Adult Child’s Rejection , isn’t so much about moving on as it is about dealing with the thoughts and feelings that can keep you from moving at all.
  • Come to conclusions. Maybe you’re plagued by the Why? It’s a common stumbling block because, so often, parents aren’t told why. There’s simply a cutting-off, with no clear-cut answer. Here’s an article, written as I entered the fourth year of estrangement, that might help you come to a few conclusions. Settling on an answer, even if it’s incomplete, can help you gain independence from the question that can run on an endless loop.
  • Handle uncertainty. Another thing that keeps rejected parents from moving forward for themselves is that, as life moves on and events happen, they worry a son or daughter will have regrets or wait too long. But uncertainties are part of living, and adult children need to learn their own lessons. Learn to deal with uncertainty.
  • Get it out in the open— Our society has been conditioned to believe that adult children would not reject good parents. That’s one reason so many decent and loving, yet rejected parents feel shame and guilt that doesn’t reconcile with who they are or all they’ve stood for. It’s also why they might not talk about estrangement. Should you tell people? Taking small steps in that direction can break you free.
  • Get clear on hope. In estrangement circles, rejected parents often talk about hope, but that can be a two-edged sword. Are you hoping for something you can’t control? Are you bothered by lack of hope that you will ever reconcile? In Estrangement: What About Hope? you can start to clarify how hope can hurt or help.
  • Learn to cope. In the wake of estrangement, rejected parents are tasked with the question of how to cope. After estrangement, learn to cope. It starts with a decision.

Rejected parents: Gain independence

The articles linked within the blurbs above offer just a few of the ways rejected parents can gain independence from pain and suffering—and move toward a better future even after estrangement. If you’re a rejected parent, don’t get stuck telling yourself you can’t move forward until the estrangement ends. Instead, work at making your life great now. That way, you’ll be better off if or when reconciliation takes place later. Your happiness and fulfillment really can be independent of the estrangement. Get started by reading the articles linked above. Read or reread Done With The Crying and be sure to do the exercises. They really help.

For more articles, you can always click on the Latest Posts, or use the drop-down menus under “Answers to Common Questions” or “What Parents Can Do.” There’s also a search box that can help you locate information on specific topics.

Father’s Day: When Adult Children Turn Away

Fathers: When Adult Children Turn Away
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Most men don’t talk much about estrangement. At least that’s the consensus among a lot of the fathers who do reach out to me (and among their wives, too).

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” says George, father of a 42-year-old daughter who hasn’t spoken to him in years. “I don’t want to talk about something that makes me feel like a failure.”

fathers when adult children turn away

George’s own father wasn’t around much, so being a family man was important to him. He did all the things he thought was right. Attended school functions, worked hard for the family, and spent time with his daughter. They had a good relationship. “Yet here we are,” he says. “I know this isn’t because of me. I don’t have guilt, but I also can’t fix it.”

George’s pain over the estrangement makes him angry, too. “Because of my daughter’s choice, I can’t make my wife happy anymore. It’s just us two now, and the loss of our daughter and the three grandchildren we don’t know is always between us.” George tries to be supportive, but it’s difficult to see his wife so sad. “She used to be so cheerful,” he says. “Always humming. Always making plans.”

George distracts himself with work and hobbies. He tries to cheer up his wife, too. Sometimes, the trying backfires. “She thinks I don’t care about it all,” he says. “And I do.”

This Father’s Day, I hoped that providing George’s thoughts might provide a little insight. Maybe some fathers can relate. Maybe some father’s wives might better understand.

I hope to be sharing more about the experiences and feelings of fathers when adult children turn away. While it’s still mostly women who answer the surveys, lately, more fathers have been contacting me to share commentary, news, and feelings.

Meanwhile, here are a few more Father’s Day and other articles.

Fathers of estranged adult children, you’re not alone

Fortitude doesn’t mean “going it alone”

What about Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

Cut off by adult children? You may feel lonely but you’re not alone

Why do they make contact now?

 

The turning point

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

rejected by sonAll over the world, as businesses shuttered and people sheltered in place during the Covid-19 lockdown, parents rejected by adult children began to hope. Maybe their sons and daughters would have a change of heart. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of members to my Rejected Parents Facebook page and/or this site, their hope was fruitless.

For those who did hear from their estranged adult children, it was by text, in conversations  that often went something like this:

How are you?

Dad and I are fine. How about you? Are you and XX okay?

Fine.

That’s good. I’ve been thinking of you. Love you guys.

Then comes S-I-L-E-N-C-E.

done with the cryingAs the social distancing and isolation has continued, more and more parents have expressed their dismay. If a pandemic can’t get a wayward son or daughter to care about them, then nothing will.

Have you experienced this sort of letdown? Did you hope, maybe send a text or two, yet receive little or nothing in response?

Many moms and dads call the lack of concern shameful, a disgrace. Deafening silence or a a bare minimum response triggers a resurgence of all their emotional pain. Even parents who have worked hard to regain their footing feel bewildered and rejected again. They find themselves back to asking WHY?

Don’t Get Stuck

The takeaway from this pandemic is something others have learned in other ways:

  • A father whose heart attack and near-death experience didn’t prompt his daughters to care or call.
  • A mother whose life-threatening illness brought nothing but meanness, and accusations the disease was her own damn fault.
  • A parent whose adult children didn’t care when a grandparent faced life-and-death circumstances or a beloved family pet died.

Don’t get stuck in the sad stage. Don’t allow the shocking cruelty of someone you once knew and loved to dictate your life.

Turning point

Is this pandemic, and the lack of care or concern from your estranged adult child, a turning point? Make positive changes for yourself now. You’ve done your best to love your child, to empathize, to try to understand….

If there was ever a turning point, this is it. What will you do to change for the better?

I hope that you will use my book, Done With The Crying, to help yourself. It’s available in paperback, as an e-book, and on audio. If you get the e- or audio book, be sure to get the accompanying Done With The Crying WORKBOOK: for Parents of Estranged Adult Children so you don’t miss the exercises.  What can you do today to fight past the shock and dismay, and move toward your own healing and happiness? The book’s exercises offer specific assistance to aid your journey forward.

If you already have the book, what did you find most useful? I hope you will leave a comment. Parents who come to this website find relief in knowing there are other parents who understand.

Hugs (and happy Mother’s Day 2020).

Sheri McGregor

Related reading

Put on your 2020 vision

Do your questions keep you stuck?

Don’t get [sun]burned this Mother’s Day (when adult kids cut parents off)

When adult kids cut parents off:
Don’t get [sun]burned by Mother’s Day

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

when adult kids cut parents offA few days ago, I learned of an annual event called “World Naked Gardening Day.” Held the first Saturday in May, the event encourages people to tan where the sun doesn’t shine (usually, anyway).  The event that encourages getting as naked as a jaybird in the garden doesn’t (yet) pull at heartstrings to make a commodity of the holiday. That isn’t true of another well-known holiday which, here in the United States, also falls in May—Mother’s Day.

Those who follow this blog know the serious tone of my work to help when adult kids cut parents off. However, once in a blue moon, I can’t help getting a little cheeky. So, please bare with me as I use World Naked Gardening Day to expose a little more of that now.

Mother’s Day when adult kids cut parents off

When Anna Jarvis first founded Mother’s Day, she didn’t intend it to become commercialized. The naked truth is that marketers realized Mother’s Day was a gold mine for their bottom line. Especially for greeting card companies, candy makers, and jewelers who cash in on the day. Knowing that may help you to cope as the holiday draws near each year.

While it’s nice to be recognized, we all know that a duty-bought bouquet or a one-line text doesn’t do motherhood justice. As mothers of estranged adult children, you have some skin in the game as to how you respond—even if an estranged adult child reaches out.

Don’t get caught with your pants down. Have a plan!

when adult kids cut parents offWhen adult kids cut parents off, it’s important to prepare ahead for situations that cause parents pain. For many of us, Mother’s Day qualifies. Below, I’ve stripped down to the basics of getting by.

 

  • While plans help, it’s okay to recognize your heartache. Mother’s Day can arrive like a bunch of wilted flowers on a day you would rather skip. You may feel sad or angry as you mourn the loss and wish things were different. Even gardeners who wear their birthday suits know that a sad, wilting, and maybe wrinkled plant needs attention in order to thrive. Your heart can be like that. Read on about tending to your heartache.

 

 

  • Part of your plan must be looking ahead. I hope you’ll get my book, Done With The Crying, and take the time to do the included exercises that focus on your emotional healing and future happiness. When adult children cut parents off, those who have processed the pain and strengthened themselves will be better prepared if or when any reconciliation does occur. It may be the night before Mother’s Day now, but tomorrow will come. Will the world be your oyster?

 

This Mother’s Day, clothe yourself with preparation by reading through the articles linked above. You can find more about how to cope when adult children cut parents off by using the site’s search box and inputting key words of your choice (Mother’s Day, holidays, etc).

In all Seriousness

I hope you were not offended by this blog post. I don’t typically let it all hang out with silliness. If you look past the puns, my real message is visible to the naked eye. As a mother whose adult son estranged himself, I understand your pain. I hope that this Mother’s Day and every day, you will allow yourself to laugh. It’s good medicine.

Related reading

Mother’s Day 2019 radio interview with Sheri McGregor

 

 

Abandoned by adult children: Structure infuses certainty into uncertain times

daughter won't talk to meAs 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.    abandoned by adult children

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? 

Related Reading

Covid-10 pandemic: When the world is scary, bend and twist

Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

Is your adult child estranged? Be careful

Spring cleaning for parents when adult children want nothing to do with you

 

Rejected parents: In trying times, “check in”

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

adult son hates meSeveral years ago, I created a self-monitoring kit for a mental health organization. It was based on the concept of “checking in” with yourself each day. Testing the wind, so to speak, but about your own feelings. (Or is that “tasting” the wind, like Gingersnap is doing in the photo?) When it comes to nurturing our well-being, awareness is important. In troubling times, awareness can be a first line of defense. So try checking in.

During this Covid-19 pandemic, or any stressful time (such as estrangement), try “checking in.”

Notice your how you’re feeling physically and emotionally upon awaking and at checkpoints throughout the day. By noticing, you can then take steps to take care.

If you awaken worried, take note. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do in this moment to solve the worries? If not, is there anything you can do on this day, this week, and so on. Jot down any insights. Then, thank your mind for trying to work things out for you, and give yourself permission to let the worries go.

Check in later in the day, too. Are you unusually grouchy? Are you sniping at other people or gravitating toward Internet doom and gloom. Check yourself. Also, consider what may be fueling your feelings. Be careful of your media diet. While it’s never good to bury your head in the sand, it’s also not good to fill up on hype or hysteria.

Are you thinking about how much it hurts that your estranged adult child doesn’t bother to see how you’re doing, even in such a scary time? It is hurtful, so allow a few moments to feel those emotions. Cry or vent (a little) if you must. The intensity of the feelings will pass. And how you respond can help them move along.

Take good care of yourself

Sometimes, a negative mood, fitful sleep, or physical issues are best managed with good old fashioned TLC. Even if you’re staying in, get up, groom, and dress. You’ll feel better when you catch a glimpse of a tidied-up you in the mirror (rather than a slouchy robe and food-coated teeth).

Eat purposefully, too. When we’re stressed, it’s easy to reach for the chips and chocolate. Anything in moderation, but be sure you’re giving your body what it needs to thrive. You’ll feel better emotionally when you’re running on healthful fuel. If you’re checking-in with bodily complaints, take heed.  Indigestion: Could it have been all those mixed nuts? Sore lower back: Could it be from too much sitting? Connecting physical symptoms with behavior can help you gain awareness toward positive change.

Exercise is another way to care for yourself. Sitting around can feel paralyzing. Make your house and/or yard a walking track. (Try singing while you walk. Beats ruminating about everything you cannot change.) Try standing on one foot and then the other. Sweep the floor, clean the walls, vacuum your car. Exercise doesn’t have to be a standard fitness routine. Just get moving. All the better if what you do has a purpose (my car is filthy right now).

Get a dose of social connection

Confined to home in Italy, neighbors strummed guitars and sang from their balconies. Their social distancing while socializing nurtured a basic human need.

Reach out to friends by telephone or email daily. Share a coffee break by phone, or at lunch with a friend on Face time or by phone. Wave to your neighbors and your mail clerk. If you’re video conferencing from work, allow a few extra moments for each of your associates “check in” about how they’re doing personally before the work starts. If you go out for essentials, chat with the store clerk (they’re extra busy and stressed right now, too).

Members of the support forum here at RejectedParents.Net value the social support of fellow members. Internet forums abound. Do you want to do more gardening this year? Maybe it’s time to join a planting forum. Are you planning to restore a classic car? There are forums with like minded individuals who have lots of knowledge to share. Planning an RV trip? You’ll find a forum for that … and just about any other subject. Think for a moment: What do I want to do or learn? (Check in with yourself.) Then take action.

Look for the beauty

Whether that means physical beauty such as a sunrise, sunset, or blooming flower, or the beauty of the human spirit such as neighbors helping neighbors, seek out the good. Although the ugly is so often pointed out, there is also beauty—-take note, let it infuse you with compassion, joy, and a sense that all will be right with the world again.

In Done With The Crying, there are numerous strategies to build a happier spirit, take care good of yourself, and regain your footing when estrangement has tilted your world. During times of uncertainty (this Covid-19 pandemic qualifies!), turn back to some of those strategies.

What are you doing to help yourself? What can you share to help other rejected parents? Please leave a comment.

Related Reading

Dealing With Uncertainty

When the world is scary: bend and twist

Parents abandoned by adult children: Shape your “new normal”

When your adult child wants nothing to do with you: Is it time to go with the flow? 

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

when your adult child wants nothing to do with you

Photo by Gëzim Fazliu from Pexels

Have you read about that man in Munich, Germany, who floats to work every day? He got tired of the stops and starts of traffic, the long waits that got him nowhere fast, and the road rage. This man, Benjamin David, did something different. He looked to what was in his environment to help him, decided on a plan, prepared himself, and plunged into the river. Now, he floats along with the current each day—and it delivers him effortlessly to his workplace. He goes with the flow. 

Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this man to parents rejected by adult children—or maybe not. Especially as estrangement drags on, it can feel like we’re stuck in a sort of traffic limbo. We may be the recipient of anger we don’t deserve, or get angry ourselves. The tiniest breakthrough can get our hopes up and then drop us into a pit. Like when the cars go from a standstill to a crawl and we breathe a sigh of relief… only to get snagged in another snarl of traffic up ahead. 

CHANGE DIRECTIONS 

Like this man who made a change for the better, parents rejected by adult children can assess their situations, realize they’re getting nowhere, and try something different. A realistic analysis is the first step to a solution, and new direction that drives progress.  

Parents around the globe continue to send holiday cards or gifts yet remain estranged.  As the holiday music jingles and the messages of family and restoration abound, they feel a mix of obligation, hope, and confusion. They start to ponder whether to reach out again this year.  

They may worry that not reaching out may be used as proof they don’t care. Or that a heartfelt message of love will be viewed as a manipulation tactic to “guilt” the son or daughter into responding. Grandparents who want to make sure their grandchildren know they’re loved face a dilemma: How can they choose gifts for the special family members they no longer know? Or worse, will their gifts given to innocent grandchildren be subverted to the trash bin?    

WHEN YOUR ADULT CHILD WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU:
START A NEW ERA 
 

As this year comes to an end and a new one begins, I implore you to consider what one of my adult children who is not estranged recently said about estrangement from the sibling who is:  

“We’re about to start a new era.”  

We really are beginning a new era, moving into the third decade of the millennium, and far beyond the time when our estrangement from one adult son began. It’s a new era for our family as a whole, with fresh starts, changes in direction, and a time of renewed joy. Being stressed over something we couldn’t change has no place in our family’s future.  

How about you? As 2019 comes to a close, can you ring the holiday bell to end an era of heartache, and think of the season as a time of rebirth and joy? 

GET OUT OF THE TRAFFIC JAM 

Make decisions that move you forward rather than keep you stuck. If you’re pondering whether or not to reach out this holiday, reflect on a few critical questions. Consider using a pen and paper to fully explore your thoughts. Ask yourself: 

  • Whether or not my estranged offspring has ever replied, has my reaching ever made a difference? 
  • If I’m worried about how my behavior will be construed or misconstrued, what are my fears specifically? Do they make sense? Or are they keeping me stuck? 

Don’t Stress 

There’s an old story about a woman whose daughter asks her why she cuts two inches off each end of the roast and throws them away. “That’s the way my mother did it,” she says. Curious, the daughter asks her grandmother the same question—and gets the same answer. Dying to know why it’s so important to cut two inches off either side, the girl calls her great grandmother to inquire. She’s surprised when her great grandmother laughs, saying, “Because the roast wouldn’t fit the pan!” 

At one point, reaching out may have kept the hope that you would reunite alive. Even when your adult child wants nothing to do with you, it has been a way to demonstrate (at least from your point of view) that you still love your child and were ready to forgive. But what’s the purpose now? Is it helping, or keeping you stuck in a cycle of hope and disillusionment? Is the expended energy doing you good, or are you only throwing it away? 

Times change. Feelings do, too. At what point do you listen to the message your child’s silence (anger, gossip, abuse. . .) sends? Is it time to decide to put your energy toward your own life, your emotional wellness, and the people who love you?  

Like the man in Munich did, is it time to take the plunge … and go with the flow?  

To prepare and plan for your new era, get a copy of Done With The Crying. Its advice and information based on current research and the input of thousands of parents rejected by adult children will help you take the plunge into a happy life beyond the pain of familial estrangement. Or, if you’ve read it once, now might be a good time to do some of the exercises again (the new Done With The Crying WORKBOOK: for Parents of Estranged Adult Childrenwill help). 

This holiday season, give yourself a supportive gift: permission to go with the flow. 

It’s finally out! WORKBOOK for parents of estranged adult children

WORKBOOK FOR PARENTS OF ESTRANGED ADULT CHILDRENAs readers have requested, Sheri McGregor’s new release, the Done With The Crying WORKBOOK: for Parents of Estranged Adult Children is now available.

The Workbook compliments her award-winning self-help book, Done With The Crying. The Workbook concentrates the exercises in a larger format that provides more writing space for the deeper insight readers find useful.

Meant as a supplement to the book readers call “the bible for estranged parents” and say is “better than therapy,” the Workbook helps audio- and e-book readers to make the concepts more personal. The exercises facilitate self-discovery and growth, which helps parents of estranged adults to move forward in their own lives.

Those who are revisiting the recovery concepts or who have been estranged yet again will find the Done With The Crying WORKBOOK for Parents of Estranged Adult Children convenient. By applying the information, parents can take charge of their emotional health and move beyond the sorrow to new meaning and joy.

If you click through on the title above, it takes you to Amazon. Be sure to look for the best deal presented there by clicking on “see all formats and editions.” Sometimes the best price is not the biggest most highlighted one.

From Sheri McGregor:
I’m excited the Workbook is finally out! Thank you so much to those who have written to me asking for this publication. I am honored that you value my continued work. I hope you will find the Workbook helpful as you move forward … beyond the pain of estrangement and in treasuring your own beautiful lives.

Oh, and help me celebrate! Please click “Leave a Reply” and send me a note. I would love to hear from you!

Holidays: Help for rejected parents in Oktoberfest history

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Rejected parents are already talking about the holidays. Canadians will celebrate Thanksgiving in just a few days, and where I live in the U.S., all the hoopla surrounding Oktoberfest events ushers in the holiday season. All the advertisements for local festivals featuring beer, dancing, food, and fun made me curious. Oktoberfest is popular around the world—and as it turns out, its history offers help for rejected parents.

holiday help for rejected parents

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

Flexibility: A vital skill to thrive

In 1810, townspeople in Munich, Germany gathered to celebrate a royal wedding. The rejoicing ended with a feast and a horse race. It was so much fun and good for the economy that within a few years, Oktoberfest had extended into a weeks-long event with food, fun, and carnival rides. A statue was created to watch over the revelers raising their glass beer steins (did you know these make great gifts?).

For more than 200+ years, Munich’s Oktoberfest has evolved to fit circumstances (just as rejected parents do). The horse race was suspended, and the agricultural fair was reduced to every fourth year. Due to wars and other crises, the celebration was sometimes cancelled or enjoyed in new ways. Around the world today, Oktoberfest provides community, learning, and fun. This year, as the holiday season begins, remember how the festival changed—yet still thrives. You can too.

Holiday help for rejected parents

holiday help for rejected parents

At one point, your holidays may have been days-long events requiring much preparation to welcome crowds of loved ones. Today, you may suspend customary activities and reach for new or altered ones. The truth is, even if estrangement wasn’t part of your reality, how you celebrate the holidays wouldn’t stay the same.

Halloweens with homemade costumes may have morphed into watching your teenagers or young adults arrive with ready-mades from the Halloween store. Thanksgiving may have once been a time to gorge, but as you’ve grown older, maybe you know better than to eat quite so much—and pay for it later. At Christmas, when your children were young, you may have stayed up all night to assemble bicycles. Many years later, you might have bought a grandchild a tablet or a phone. At one time, Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer may have been real to your children, but eventually, they knew who brought the gifts. As extended family grew, holidays may have broken off into smaller events.

Customs change to fit the times. Oktoberfest expanded and contracted—and yet it thrives—so  can you and your holidays.

Help yourself

Right now, instead of thinking about everything you’ll miss, dwelling on damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t dilemmas such as “Should I send a gift?”, cherish the memories. And then expand or contract. Put on a “costume” to help yourself, ground yourself in what is for now, and get busy with a plan to thrive over the holidays.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll offer more specific ideas and help for rejected parents over the holidays. In the meantime, if you’re beginning to dread the season as so many parents of estranged adults do, at least utilize those feelings for your own good. Your thoughts of what you dread can be the start of a plan. Right now, get a sheet of paper or open a word document and write out the things you worry about or dread the most. Then you can begin to turn the thoughts around.

Here’s a sample list:

  • Being the third wheel at my sister’s big event and seeing her adult children and grandchildren gathered around.
  • Having to brave the holly-jolly music and all the crowds at the stores, the gas station, or the roads.
  • Being all alone on those special days.

Give it a  twist

If this were your list, how might you use what you’re telling yourself to come up with a plan?

If you don’t want to feel like a loner or maybe as green as the Grinch with envy at a family celebration, consider doing something different this year.  Just because relatives’ celebrations are continuing as always doesn’t mean yours must. And just because you do something different this year doesn’t mean you have to the next (Munich’s Oktoberfest was cancelled 24 times … and it’s stronger than ever). Plan something different and tell your hosts early enough that they won’t be stressed. Hint: Come up with a script that heads off any argument or has ready answers to expected questions.

Holidays don’t have to be all about family either. Alternative plans can be fun. Around here, Thanksgiving running or walking events raise money for charity. Maybe a health-conscious friend, non-estranged daughter or son would enjoy getting team T-shirts, helping a good cause, and working off calories instead of piling them on. Bonus: With no time to cook, you could dine out after the race.

Holly-jolly music and crowds got you down? Think now about what you’ll need for the next few months, and then stock up early. Grocery stores and restaurants deliver. Today, medications, toiletries, and almost anything you can think of can be summoned right to your door. Avoid fighting traffic and getting shuffled about in the hustle-bustle. Cozy up to a warm fire and play music that makes you feel good. Or, think of the season as a sort of hibernating period, and then emerge refreshed in the New Year.  Bonus: Getting organized for this season could be the start of habit for a more organized life in the New Year.

If you’re worried about alone time on those special days, take a leap of faith and try something new! Parks & Recreation facilities as well as 55+ senior centers often host holiday events.  Some restaurants offer holiday meal events. Being without family for the holidays is more common than you might think. Try being transparent—and offer solutions instead of sadness. There’s still time to suggest an event at your church, hobby club, or senior center. You may have neighbors who would love some company. You might be surprised whom you inspire and who becomes a friend. Your example can help other people.

Get Smart

This holiday season, plan early. The holidays can be what you make of them. So, raise a mug, toast yourself, and plan your self-care, and thrive—Oktoberfest is.

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