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.

Sheri McGregor radio interview for parents of estranged adults

In February, I appeared on Beyond 50 Radio for a talk with host Daniel Davis. As it turns out, he is also a rejected parent, with an estranged adult daughter. We touched on many facets of estrangement. I hope you’ll find the radio show helpful. Please give it a thumbs-up.

If you’re the parent of an estranged adult, listen up. You’re not alone in this heartbreaking situation. And you can be happy again. Click the Beyond50 banner below to go to youtube and listen.

radio interview with Sheri McGregor

Making friends after estrangement

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estrangementDuring January and February here in inland Southern California, morning frost can be a mainstay. That doesn’t stop an array of hardy perennials from carpeting the ground like the sprouts that cover a Chia Pet’s back. Some are soft, like a feathery carpet to the feet. Others, like the single-stalked stinging nettle with its serrated leaves, have a bite.

When the deep green, mint-like stinging nettle plants first emerge, they’re difficult to discern among the plant variety that grows here. But walk barefoot and you’ll know it’s present. That’s what happened to my puppy, Gingersnap, whose little feet got stung by the nettle. The next day she was wary—and who could blame her?

Gingersnap had to learn that some plants sting. Others don’t.

estrangement

Beyond the sting

For parents of estranged adults, making friends can feel as scary. I know the feeling of talking about the estrangement and being met with judgment. Once or twice is all it takes to make us wary of telling more. Just as Gingersnap hesitated before stepping into any new growth, we might be fearful of stepping into new friendships.

If you’re like so many parents of estranged adult children who are lonely but fearful when it comes to making friends, read on for a few tips. Not all people bite, and a tiny foray into small talk can not only get you started but have big benefits for you and your life.

Making friends after estrangement: Start small

The benefits of casual interaction are bigger than you think. Chat with the supermarket clerk, share a thought with the postal carrier, or make small talk with someone pumping gas alongside you. Those who enjoy many social interactions, even with weak social ties, are happier and have an increased sense of belonging than those who don’t.

That’s good news for people who may be feeling extra cautious or whose self-confidence has taken a hit. Making small talk is an art in and of itself, and one that can be learned. Not all small talk leads to deeper friendships, and that’s not the point, but it’s good practice and can raise confidence.

Define what friendship means to you

If you’re seeking friendships, first define what you really want. Your lifestyle, schedule, and social style will dictate the best types of friendships for you, as well as help you find them. Ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have to devote to friends? Some hope for constant companions. Other people are happier with more time alone and prefer seeing friends at planned intervals.
  • What are my boundaries? Do you want friends who feel free to call on you at all hours or stop in for unexpected visits?
  • What does friendship mean to me? A writer friend once told me she has her tennis friends, her art friends, her book club friends. . . . While she may occasionally see friends outside their respective groups, her friendships are largely based on mutual interests. Her description contrasts with another friend who considers these group-related friends “associates.”

 Consider what you want in a friend as well as what sort of friend you will be. Maybe you’re like my writer friend whose schedule is always full. Or perhaps you would enjoy fewer groups and a close friend or two who will respect your boundaries and need for solitude.

Friendship facts

Friends are good for us. Those with strong social relationships are more satisfied and live longer. Cultivating a few close ties is worth the effort, so even if you’ve been hurt in the past, it’s wise to try.

Making good friends takes time. A recent study found that it takes around 50 hours for someone to go from an acquaintance to a casual friend and another 90 or more to grow even closer.

Friendship takes interest. Despite the discovery about how many hours forming good relationships can take, more than time is required to create friendships. To grow close, you need to show an interest in the other person and feel the same interest coming your way.

Making friends after estrangement: Know yourself

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Some people are energized by a crowd and love interacting all day every day. Others feel drained by even moderate amounts of group time. Some feel enlivened in the short run but can later start to feel weary. When looking for ways to make friends, choose situations that are a fit for you.

Finding groups of like interest can foster friendships. Already having something in common with a stranger is like getting a head start. Join a meetup.com group or volunteer for a cause you believe in. If you feel good in a crowd, consider situations where you will be at your best. Maybe you volunteer somewhere with lots of social interaction and people to talk with. More of an introvert? Consider quieter situations such as working one-on-one with people who need help learning to read. Or walk pets at your local animal shelter. Then engage in small talk with other volunteers. Brief, positive interactions can set the groundwork for deeper connections.

Are you the type who will feel more at ease if you have a bit more control of your social situation? Consider starting a group yourself. Meetup.com offers both public and private settings, so you can be extra cautious about who can see your profile online. If you’re the one heading up a group, you also get to choose the purpose as well as how often and where (a public place) the group will meet.

Where I live, there’s an online community group (Nextdoor) that helps neighbors connect. I’ve seen people start hiking and book clubs, a sewing group, and even a morning dog walk. Imagine how you might fit. Maybe the security of your four-legged pal in tow is right for you, or you have a closet full of sewing supplies you could share with new friends.

Be a friend

The best way to make a friend is to be one. The old saw is as relevant today as ever. Bring treats or something from your garden to share with the team down at work. Offer to help when a moment presents itself. Just holding a door, offering to refill a coffee cup, or asking if anyone needs something from the corner store since you’re going anyway, reveal that you are kind, friendly, and interested in other people’s feelings. Maybe you’re not a witty conversationalist or need time to feel your way toward trust. Your good will, demonstrated through acts of kindness, sends a positive message and makes you a friend.

To deepen friendships, you’ll eventually need to talk about yourself. As you become more comfortable, sharing bits about your life makes others feel at ease sharing bits about their own. Disclosing information about ourselves, as it turns out, makes us more likeable. We also feel closer to those with whom we share  Of course, there are limits to sharing. A friend isn’t a place to dump all our emotional trash.

Social anxiety after estrangement

Emerging from the shadow of an abusive relationship, which is true of some parents of estranged adult children, can cause social anxiety. Some parents are out of touch with their own value. They wonder where they fit and whether anyone would like them. After years of eggshell walking, careful not to state an opinion that will start a tirade, it can be difficult to converse at all. In our increasingly “social” world, it can feel as if everyone else is outgoing and has a million friends. A quieter person might wonder if they seem strange, but there must be a reason we have two ears and one mouth. A friend with a quiet nature can be a welcome change in a noisy, look-at-me world.

Worth the work

Try not to get discouraged. Just as Gingersnap had to learn which plants would sting, and which were fun to get closer to, finding companions with whom we can truly connect and trust takes time and patience. This may be especially true after complex issues such as estrangement muck up our lives and self-confidence.

estrangementRemember, friends come in all shapes and sizes. Finding good ones is worth the work.  Friends can help build our confidence and lend a caring ear (or shoulder!) that can buffer stress and even boost our immunity and overall health.

References:
Sandstrom and Dunn (July, 2014). Social Interactions and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk. PLoS Medicine.

Hall, Jeffrey A (2018). How many hours does it take to make a friend? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Hall, Jeffrey A., and Daniel Cochece Davis (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27.1: 21-47.

Collins and Miller (1994). Self-Disclosure and Liking. Psychological Bulletin.

Uchino, B.N. (2006). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29: 377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5

Related reading:

Beyond the Shadow of Estrangement

 

In my garden . . .

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

son doesn't like meIn my herb garden, thyme and oregano become woody in the face of cold. Sometimes, I think they won’t recover, but when intermittent warm days hint at spring to come, the fragrant leaves begin to sprout. Even when the air again chills to icy frosts, they know the future is bright and they thrive.

Not all growing things have such a strong internal clock. A string of warm fall days can trigger plum tree blooms. Like tiny pink bows, they peek from between the drying leaves, eager to give. Too eager. When winter winds blow, they flutter and fall. Energy expended but no fruit produced. Still, the trees have the good sense to rest. In the silent months, separated from their loving sun, the trees grow strong. So, when the timing is right, they are ready.

son doesn't like me

 

The apple trees, a crabby variety bred for drought, are resilient. Their blooms open in January, cling and remain. By June, they have ripe fruit. Their branches may be drooping, heavy with apples one day and then picked clean by coyotes in the dark of night. Often, the apples start afresh, and the trees bear a second crop, though smaller than the first.

The pomegranate trees are late to lose their son doesn't like meleaves. Then their pale gray branches stubbornly resist the sun’s flirtation. A few fruits that are left hanging grow tough through winter but can sustain a wayward bird with an insistent peck.

The chaste tea tree is numbed by winter. So much so that as, all around, spring springs and greenery greens, the barren sticks seem dead. Every year, I am nearly fooled. I snap off a twig and find it wick. This makes me laugh. There is life inside. It only needs nurturing.

As the years have passed and estrangement endures through its seasons, I have seen myself in all of these. The herbs with their steady inner clocks. The plum trees that are, at times, too eager.  The pomegranate trees that grow tough and stubborn but eventually live up to their varietal name (Wonderful). And the chaste tea tree that numbs and deadens. I am wick inside. If only I will not be fooled.

Using the garden to heal

Whether you like growing things, just spending time in a garden, or even looking at plant catalogs, can you parallel your growth or endurance in estrangement with that of plants and trees? Seeing ourselves reflected in a garden’s growth can be a healing. Can you imagine yourself recovering from the cold of a stressful season by stretching toward the sunlight? As you add water and special food, imagine treating yourself to loving care. Can you see yourself blooming? Even if you feel numb, as if your leaves droop and you thirst for sustenance, can you imagine you are quietly doing the work of resting, like my plum trees do in winter? Are you seeing bulb flowers sprout through the snow? If so, can you imagine yourself pushing up through the muck of a difficult relationship or the icy cold of rejection?

Whether you call it horticultural therapy or just call it fun or relaxing, cultivating plants or spending time in gardens has benefits. Reductions in stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, as well as enhanced self-esteem are all known positives.

If it’s still too snowy to do any outdoor gardening, consider getting started inside. I hear geraniums do well in pots. Or maybe just remembering being outdoors last summer would feel good. Imagine your feet, stepping into a soft carpet of grass, or the sunlight warming your back.

son doesn't like meAs the dead of winter marches toward spring, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment to this article about your own garden and how it helps you. I like reading about people’s gardens, and others do too.

 

 

Estrangement in the New Year: The Blanket of snow

by Sheri McGregor

estrangement

Photo source: Pikwizard

Don’t let the pain of estrangement ruin your New Year.

On this beautiful morning, no matter where you live or what the weather is like, imagine the world before you as if a soft blanket of snow has gently fallen in the night.

Gone are the muddy footprints and trails to nowhere. Erased are the well-worn ruts to unhelpful thinking, worries, whys? and what ifs?

On this blank slate of the New Year, take a little time to imagine the trails forward you will make. While it’s true that any of us can start fresh anytime, today it’s official.

Are you excited? I am.

Even in estrangement, make this a terrific year.

It’s time to start.

Think of the changes you will make. Maybe it’s to alter how often you reach out, or to let go of expectation or a desired outcome. Perhaps it’s to leave the strife behind entirely, and embrace your own happiness—and if so, what does that mean? Your goals are your own. Make them now and begin to work toward them. Yes, work may be involved. But it doesn’t have to be grueling. Even tiny steps inch you forward.

Take a few minutes to really consider what you’d like to leave behind. Get a pen and paper and jot down your thoughts.

Estrangement: Time and energy wasted

For many parents of estranged adult children, so much time and energy has been consumed by the emotional pain that they’ve missed the good that’s beside or in front of them. Others have striven for a goal that is beyond their control. Don’t let next year dawn with regret. Consider how 2019 will be different.

Turn back to the goals section in Done With The Crying, and consider what improvements you can make. One mother wrote to say that she had read the book but would start the exercises today. Her responses will be her own unique road map to make 2019 about moving forward with purpose.

Just want peace and happiness?

Some who have suffered the raw emotions and hurt of estrangement say all they want is peace and happiness in the coming year. Even this takes a plan. Without preparation, the same old issues, hurtful thinking, and habits will return. Consider:

  • What will you do when your mind wanders to the same old pointless questions?
  • How will you handle an uninformed question?

Consider whatever it is that robs you of peace and happiness. And then you can make a plan. Without forethought, even the most useful resolutions can go awry. In Done With The Crying, there is an exercise to get you thinking about each area of your life and how you can make it better. Try it. Work on just a few areas at a time. Make a plan to move forward, and also how not to slide back.

I would love to hear about your plans for the New Year, and what you share by leaving a comment will help other parents, too. You’ll also find a few links below, to articles here at the site that can be of use as you move forward.

estrangement New YearEven if estrangement has muddied things up for you this past year, imagine that beautiful blanket of snow for the New Year. What helpful trails will you make in it? Where will your tracks lead?

HUGS to all. ~~ Sheri McGregor

 

Related Reading:

Estrangement: Shape your new normal

Give yourself a break

How to cope when your adult child cuts you out of their life

Estrangement and the holidays: Your perspective can help

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estrangement and the holidaysWhen it comes to estrangement and the holidays, feeling joyful can be a challenge.

This time of year, parents of estranged adult children can feel very down. They wish things were the way they used to be, they look at all the other happy families, and find themselves alone. In estrangement, for many, the holidays equal pain. This holiday season, won’t you join me in considering how a change in perspective can change our experience?

Estrangement and the holidays:
Change your perspective, change your experience

There’s a funny internet article (or two) about how social media models use perspective to change how they appear. Camera angle and posture work like magic to change the viewer’s perspective, and voila! Abdominal rolls flatten, the booty looks bigger, and the models look slim and fit.

Of course, with estrangement, it’s not as simple as sucking in your estrangement and the holidaysbelly so you look thin or tucking your tongue to the roof of your mouth to lift a double chin. But when it comes to estrangement and the holidays, your perspective really can make a positive difference. This is true in both how people see you, and how you see yourself and experience the holidays.

Below, I’ll share just a few short thoughts on perspective. These are meant as jumping off points for your own unique ideas and specific ways to view the holidays in a positive light.

Estrangement and the holidays: Are you really alone?

In the U.S., many senior citizens are alone for the holidays. Millions of seniors are by themselves over the holidays. You may feel alone, but you’re not.

When you read that, what did you immediately think of? Did you imagine people sitting at home alone, maybe with a sad face? If so, it’s because of our conditioning about the holidays.

estrangement and the holidaysWe’re conditioned to think of families and togetherness as the perfect holidays. And that can set us up to believe that if our holiday isn’t like that, then it’s not a good holiday. Seeing the holidays with a more realistic view puts your situation into perspective.

There are many, many people who choose to spend the holidays alone. They’re tired of the hoopla and commercialism. Or perhaps they choose to focus on what’s at the core of holiday meaning for them and view the time as a period of rest and reflection.

Estrangement and the holidays: When will this end?

There are 365 days in a year, and only a few are holidays. Don’t get caught up in the commercial ploy that tries to make everyone think holidays-holidays-holidays for months on end.

Estranged or not, holidays evolve

For all of us, the holidays have changed over the years. This is trueestrangement and the holidays whether we face estrangement or not. Think back to the different ways the holidays have evolved for you…even from childhood. To have a good perspective about estrangement and the holidays, consider this just another phase.

When your circumstances evolved in the past, how did you change up the holiday activities to fit? Think about it, when your children were young, you did certain things…. Then you moved to more age appropriate activities. Maybe you used to get together with extended family, and then you no longer did. Families get complicated, and activities change. Sure, we didn’t want or expect estrangement, but it’s our reality (at least for right now). We might as well make the best of the holidays despite it.

If it helps, consider clear back to the first holidays you remember. Make a timeline, or even a scrapbook if that appeals. It’s proof that holiday joy changes.

When things change, we must change, too. We have been flexible before, and we can again.

What will you do now to make YOUR holidays bright? Don’t forget to let YOUR light shine.

Estrangement and the holidays: Is this a plus?

You may be so focused on the sadness and loss that you’re blinded to any positive aspects. Answer honestly: What won’t you miss?

estrangement and the holidaysMaybe you won’t have to cook (or cook as much). Maybe you’ll have more money in your budget. Maybe you don’t have to travel. Maybe this way, the holidays won’t interrupt your healthy lifestyle. Maybe, for once, you get to do what you want.

In my book, there’s an exercise to get you thinking about what you don’t miss about your estranged son or daughter. Alter that exercise for the holidays. Doing so can help.

To change your perspective, consider what you will not miss.

Estrangement and the holidays:
Acknowledge your feelings

This is not intended to minimize the sadness parents of estranged adult children can feel. The holidays really can be difficult.

Sadness, longing, anger, envy, bitterness, hatred. . . . All the emotions we don’t like can pile on.

It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings, cry, vent, or reach out for support if you need to. But don’t get stuck there.

If you start to feel down, consider your perspective.

  1. Remind yourself that you’re not alone in being alone.
  2. Remind yourself of the way the holidays have changed throughout your life, and think about how you changed right along with them—you’re more flexible than you think.
  3. Instead of thinking about what you’re losing this holiday season, think about what you’re gaining in the loss. We can all come up with one or two things that are positives.

Be thankful for the good in your life, and take on perspectives that make you feel better.

HUGS to all of you,

Sheri McGregor

P.S. — Read the related posts below for holiday help … and use the search box on the right of the page, using the word “holidays” for even more articles.

P.P.S. — as always, I’d love to hear your perspective on what you can change up to make the holidays good/fun/enjoyable/bright despite estrangement. Leave a reply to this article.

Estrangement and the holidays: Related reading

Abandoned parents, let your light shine

Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway

Estrangement and the Holidays: How to manage them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estrangement: When letting go hurts

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Michelle, a mother of three whose two daughters are estranged, said that after four years, everyone else was moving on. “No one wanted to talk about the girls anymore,” she says. “No one seemed to miss them anymore,

Michelle still wanted to hold the good memories and to speak of her daughters as if they would one day return. The people around her had come to an ending point. For her own good, they wanted Michelle to accept the estrangement, too.

“But accepting their estrangement felt like saying good-bye to hope,” says Michelle.

Estrangement: Destinations unknown

estrangement between parents and adult childrenAs a mother who had given her all to her children, Michelle felt that letting go was like abandoning her daughters as well as everything she stood for.

Parents like Michelle may continue to reach out repeatedly despite harsh replies. Or, they cry for days afterward when the only answer is silence. Some may have stopped attempting contact and accept the reality of estrangement “for now.” Yet when faced with the idea that estrangement might be permanent, they fall into depression or describe themselves as “numb.”

“As long as I felt hope, there was a reason to go on,” says Michelle. “Without the belief that the estrangement would one day change, my life seemed to have no destination.”

Before estrangement, there were assumed expectations: marriages, births, and year-to-year traditions that bring families close and connect the generations to the past, the present, and the future. Estrangement disrupts the expected pattern.

estrangement between parents and adult childrenIt’s as if the future is an endless sea, with no shore in sight. Even when other children and family members remain close and loving, estrangement may loom in the present as well as in the past. Or even worse, on the horizon of possibility, placing a pall on relationships with other children.

Estrangement: Does the mourning end?

Maybe it’s you who is done with the sorrow and stress of estrangement, and you want your spouse or other relatives to move on, too. You’re tired of talking about your son or daughter, reliving the pain, the shock, or the disbelief. Or maybe you’re like Michelle, who feels a sort of second abandonment, because no one around her holds out hope.  Perhaps you have come to accept the estrangement but discover a secondary sort of grief in the process.

Wherever you fit, your feelings are not so unusual. It’s okay to feel hurt at the very idea of moving on without your son or daughter or even grandchildren in your life. It’s normal to wish it were different, or to feel a sense of guilt in getting on with your life. It’s not unusual to feel different than your spouse or other relatives do, or to recognize that accepting the reality of estrangement brings its own sorrow.  These types of emotions (and more) are ordinary stops on the estrangement journey.

estrangement between parents and adult childrenIf you’re parked in a place of withdrawal, guilt, shame, anger, sadness or feeling numb, get the support you need. For some, reading and doing the exercises in Done With The Crying has been enough. Others have found that meeting with a therapist provides a safe space to gain perspective. Or they utilize the peer community here, where members understand and empathize.

It’s wise to mourn the loss. It’s fine to mourn the abandonment you may feel when no one around you wants to keep the estrangement alive in the present, too. But you also must recognize that a season of mourning is just that: a season. We are not meant to be forever sad. Even in the uncertainty of estrangement, we have the right to be happy today.

None of this means we must forget our child, the love we once shared, or even give up hope that the love will be restored. But we cannot let estrangement debilitate us.

Tell me something good

In a recent Huffington Post article, I was one of several who spoke positively about talking to yourself. In my book, I tell parents to pay attention to the things they tell themselves. Mindfulness is discussed in the early pages, because being mindful brings awareness of what you think and the words you mutter to yourself and others. When it comes to healing from estrangement, those things matter.

Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself. Falling into a habit of negative thinking and unhelpful self-talk never helps. Neither does catastrophizing or believing that you will “never” get over the pain.

You might as well tell yourself something that helps. Here are a few ideas:

“I was a good parent. One day they will realize that and return to me. So right now, I’m making the most of my life.”

“I can’t watch her right now, but God is.”

“Whether he comes back next week, years from now, or never, if I live well now, I won’t have wasted my life worrying.”

“I wish him well. I wish me well, too.”

“I may not like this, but I can learn to live despite it.”

“When he comes back, he’ll find me happy and strong.”

The truth about reconciling

estrangement between parents and adult childrenWhile we may imagine a happy reunion where everything falls right into place, often there are complications. If you’re in a long-term estrangement, accept the reality, even if it’s with a “for now” mentality. Then concentrate on your health and happiness. In so doing, you will be prepared when (or if) your child wants to reconcile at a future point (if you’re willing).

The truth is, your strength and well-being will be necessary to see any reconciliation through. Strength to help a daughter who desperately wants a relationship but who struggles with an issue you previously knew nothing about. Strength to stand firm and demand equanimity—even when a reconciled relationship feels like it’s going south again. Strength to admit mistakes, yet not forever pay penance or remain in guilt. Strength to forgive. Strength to move away from communication or family patterns that, in the space of estrangement, you may recognize as less than healthy.  Strength to remain true to yourself despite false accusations or baiting. And even the strength to say no, if the reconciliation will not work.

If you have reconciled, will you share your thoughts in my short survey?

Okay with estrangement

As counterintuitive as it may seem, being “okay” with the estrangement can help you prepare for a future reconciliation. You don’t have to give up hope. Just park it on a shelf for the time being. For some, that means keeping a memento in plain sight that allows you to wish your child well despite what’s happened. It could be something like the little wooden bird I wrote about putting out over the holidays. For others, it’s saying “enough” and no longer talking about the estrangement when you drive near a certain area or experience some other emotional trigger (as was written about here). Maybe you need to limit discussing the estrangement to a few minutes a day or relegate it to prayer.

If you’re like Michelle, and want to keep the good memories alive, consider writing them down. Slips of paper with specific memories you can pull from a jar and think about may help you feel connected not only to your memories but to what a good parent you have always been.

Of course, you will need to determine whether you’re at a point where reflecting in this way will be helpful rather than hurtful. For those new to estrangement, recalling happy times may be painful. You may want to consider the articles linked in this one and at the bottom for help that fits where you’re at in the estrangement journey.

estrangement between parents and adult childrenYour turn

What can you tell yourself that’s good? What would you say to Michelle?

Related Reading

Estrangement: What about hope?

Prodigal children: How many adult child return?

Estrangement: Are you an octopus mom?

A few points on reconciling

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

reconciling with adult childrenSome of you are aware of my survey about reconciling with adult children. I’m still gathering results. If you’ve reconciled, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can access the survey (and some others) on the surveys page. ‘

Recently, I responded to some questions about reconciling. The writer used some of my comments in his site posting.  I already talked about this on the Facebook Page, so this is for those who don’t go there.

My comments are numbers 1 through 4 in the article and are derived from the results of my survey about reconciling with adult children. If you click through and read the article be aware that the photo doesn’t quite match our focus here.

I’d love to see some UP votes to the comments!

See the article here.

I’ll have much more to share about reconciling with adult children later.

For now, HUGS.

Take care…

adult children who have gone no contactJust a quick post to let all the parents of estranged adults know I’m thinking of them. With the hurricane barreling in and set to hit, I know many of you are worried and upset.

Adult children who have
gone no contact

Every time there is a major event like this about to start, or during the after-effects, parents whose children have gone ‘no contact’ and live in the affected areas suffer stress. They are faced with a dilemma about what to do.

Should they call the adult son who has rejected them?

Should they reach out to their daughter who is ‘no contact’?

If they do text or call, will the estranged adult child reply and put the parents’ mind at ease?

It can be a trying time.

adult children who have gone no contactIn the past article (from August, 2016) titled: When your adult child is estranged: What to do about life events, one presented situation is a hurricane. If you’re facing a dilemma about this storm (or other life event) and could use some clarity, I hope you will click through. Included questions can help you explore your thoughts and feelings, and come to some conclusions about what to do.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the affected areas or have loved ones who are, take good care. You have this community of thousands of hurting parents cheering for you, sending prayers and positive energy.

Hugs to you!

 

Sincerely,
Sheri McGregor

Related reading:

National Hurricane Center for up to date information

Freedom for a new era (parents rejected by adult children)

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

parents rejected by adult childrenIt’s the end of an era. Changes that were once far out on the horizon are here. My husband’s retirement, my pursuit of a rigorous academic goal, and a few other life-altering situations. I recognize that trying to hang onto the old while embracing the new will only hinder my progress and keep me living in the past. That’s why decisions are being made, changes to support the changes. And I feel good about those.

Even so, as I contemplated giving up our decades-old landline, a pang of sadness hit me. That phone number is the one my children committed to memory when they were young. The one they shared with their friends before cell phones became a thing. The phone that rang at all hours. It was one of the few threads left connecting me to my estranged son, to the ideal of family I envisioned and worked so hard to achieve.

But why hang onto something we no longer need? Why pay a bill for what has become clutter? It’s a small thing, really. A tiny toe dipped toward even more changes to come. Disconnecting the thing became a test, too. With special offers to retain me as a customer, if I’d just keep it for another year. I didn’t. And the disconnection brought a sense of relief. One less thing to hold onto just in case.

What are you holding onto?

Parents rejected by adult children have lots of similar decisions to make. I know how it feels to find a faux fur-framed photo of an estranged adult’s first love—and wonder how long to hold onto it. I know about high school yearbooks, odds and ends left in an abandoned bedroom, handwritten cards or a box of artwork made by a dimple-faced son who once adored his mom. It can be difficult to let that stuff go.

There’s no rule about how long to hold on, but when something drags you down, it’s time to take action. Maybe that means putting stuff away and out of sight (if you have room for it). Or, parents rejected by adult children could choose to inform their son or daughter of a decision to hold the items for only a specific period.

parents rejected by adult childrenOne mother whose two adult sons have abandoned her couldn’t part with the lovely artwork her talented son once created. She also couldn’t stand to look at it. A few years earlier, he had requested she keep the items for him, but since their only communication dwindled to an occasional text in which he ridiculed her, the works that once brought her pride and joy grew heavy with hurt. Seeing them decorate her home kept her longing for happier times.

Although she was at one point so anguished over her sons’ abandonment that she considered suicide, this mother sought support and made a change. And as she clawed her way toward a better perspective and a happy life, she knew her environment needed modifications. She had her own endeavors to pursue. A new life to live, working toward social change, career goals, and at her own creative pursuits. Her son’s artwork had to go. Her solution was to put them away in parents rejected by adult childrenher attic. “For now,” she explained, thinking he might have children one day and want the art. But she also decided to revisit the decision in the future. If she ever moved, she would discard, donate, or give up the art then. For now, though, out of sight out of mind.

 

With the items put away, she could display her own works, and fill her home with things that represented her interests and brought her joy.

Will you adapt?

The truth is, even if estrangement weren’t part of the equation, our lives change. That’s why people retire to warm climes and downsize. If we’re smart and resilient, we modify our very selves to survive and thrive. An adaptive spirit is healthier (and more fun) than clinging to an old ideal—even a good one—if it no longer exists. Strategies, plans, and ways of being that protect and satisfy us in one era of our lives often don’t work in another. If we don’t adapt, we fail.

Are you a wily coyote? A clever crow?

In the three decades I’ve lived in this semi-rural area, the additions of a school, a church, new tract homes, and a shopping center have changed things. Traffic, noise, and people have increased as the natural landscape with its native resources has shrunk. Yet, the coyote population that has lived here longer than I have continues to thrive. The coyotes have adapted quite well.

parents rejected by adult childrenThey’re like the crows who live in this area. Twenty years ago, when the school was built, the city cleared a grove of old pecan trees. For many years after that, come fall when the nuts would have ripened, flocks of crows could be seen circling above the spot where the trees once were. It was if they were puzzled about where their food source had gone. Now, the crows are as prevalent here as ever. They feed from a tree on my property each fall and fill in with whatever else they can find all year. Their loss and longing evident as they circled the skies in search of the trees, they have nonetheless adapted. Like the coyotes, they’re survivors.

What’s your style?

Like the mother who couldn’t part with her son’s artwork, you may need to preserve the past for now. Or maybe you’re more like me, steadily letting go, never rushing but making forward progress. You may be like the coyotes, who quickly adapt. Or like the crows, who circled for years, puzzling, before letting loose the dream of nuts no longer there.

It isn’t so much the style of our acceptance that’s important, but the forward momentum that allows for change. We can hold onto memories, savor them as I say in my book. Reliving the good memories is good for us. The trick is to hold onto the joy without clinging forever to the loss of what we once thought would be, and the wishes that are beyond our control.

Adapting brings freedom

For some, embracing a new era may mean embracing relief. One mother recently sent me an email in which she recounted the experience of an estranged adult daughter who has come in and out of her life for many years. This mother, like many parents, instigated reconciliation after reconciliation. Unfortunately, the facts of their relationship never changed. Her daughter’s verbal, financial, and emotional abuse continued. The last time her daughter left, this mother admitted to a response she couldn’t previously accept: relief.

By owning the feeling, by voicing it to someone who could understand, she was free to finally begin the work of adapting to a new way of life. She could let go of the guilt and failure that had kept her chained to trying, to her own peril. She’s learning to adapt.

parents rejected by adult childrenIn adapting our attitudes, our environments, and our behavior to support us in the current era of our lives, we become free. This Independence Day, you may be thinking of past times. Of fireworks displays you oohed and awed at with someone to whom you were once very close. If you have good memories, hold them dear. Relive and savor those moments for the joy the hold. I hope you will also contemplate of the holiday in terms of your personal independence. Consider your own sense of freedom, and more specifically, whatever may be holding you back.

Through the Facebook page and in emails, I frequently hear from parents rejected by adult children. Many of these parents are doing wonderful things with their newfound freedom. Some continue to hold out hope for a renewed relationship. Others no longer entertain the idea. Regardless, they’re enjoying and finding meaning in their lives. You can too.

Won’t you help others by sharing your thoughts in a comment to this article?

Happy Independence Day 2018! Great big hugs to all the hurting parents rejected by adult children.

Related reading

New Year’s Resolution (not clinging to the loss)

Parents of Estranged Adults: Declaring Independence 2016

Freedom

 

Don’t get caught in a meddler’s web

alienated adult childrenby Sheri McGregor, M.A.

There’s an old saying: What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.

In raising our five children, my funny husband recited an altered version: What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to conceive! He infused humor into the trials and tribulations of parenting. We never imagined estrangement, but here we are. The saying still fits.

Another spider saying comes from parents with estranged or alienated adult children whose extended family gets involved—sometimes for malicious reasons. They say that meddlers weave a “web” of deceit.

After hearing their stories, I feel the term is appropriate.

A Finely tuned trap

Spiders tighten and tune individual web strands like guitar strings so that other spiders and prey can be easily distinguished. Spiders are adept at attracting the prey they want. Some lure the unsuspecting with sweetly scented silk. A finely tuned web provides varying feedback from individual insect types, so the spider knows just how to snag the unsuspecting. Plus, spiders are adept at positioning their trap, and know just when to weave it.

Of course, I’m not writing about spiders. This is about meddlers and others who interfere. They say they want to help, but sometimes spin a web of deceit.

One mother of an estranged adult son said her husband’s brother called to say her son was having a baby. This man is still in contact with the estranged adult son.

“This might be the perfect time to reconcile,” he told the mother, who was mortified to hear from him about her first grandchild. He advised the parents to get in touch. But when they did, their son called it harassment.

“My husband’s brother has meddled in the past,” says this mother. “Always with bad results.”
Other parents with estranged or alienated adult children tell similar stories. Unfortunately, just as spiders are adept at spinning webs for malicious purpose, people can be just as cunning.

Many parents of estranged adults have come to accept the reasons their son or daughter makes contact and then disappears again. For you, it may be a third party who lures you back into the web of emotional pain just when you’re moving forward in your life. Learn to trust your gut instincts. “I knew it was wrong to listen,” says this mother, who wishes she’d have trusted herself.

Tempting trap

On early fall mornings, spider webs are a lovely sight. Pearls of dew. Rainbow prisms in the light. The sheer magnificence of the intricate engineering is wonderful to behold.
Meddlers can be just as adept. Often, they have had lifetimes to perfect their weaving. They know just when to call and what words to say to take advantage of your vulnerability.

A change of perspective

alienated adult childrenNext time someone wants to help you reconcile or calls with news about the son or daughter who doesn’t want you in his/her life, be wary. Pause and reflect. It may be that this individual truly does want to help. Not everyone who meddles is purposely manipulative or hurtful. Some people just don’t understand estrangement.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s often a wise course of action to try and gain information rather than be the one to talk. If you’re feeling ill at ease about a meddler for any reason, stay quiet and ask questions.

Depending on the circumstances, you could:

  • Ask them why they’re getting involved.
  • Change the subject.
  • Thank them for wanting to help, but explain that it’s not something they can fix.
  • Explain that you’re letting a little time go by right now.
  • Tell them you’re doing research or seeking counseling before taking any further action.
  • Ask them not to interfere.

If these suggestions are not helpful, consider the situation more closely. If interference is common, you’ll have time to reflect. Be honest and write out your thoughts. Then answer these questions:

  • Does this person truly want to help me?
  • Can this person really help?
  • Do I have misgivings about this person? And if so, could taking his or her advice hurt more than help with regard to the estrangement?
  • Has this individual steered me wrong in the past?
  • Does what this person says seem too good to be true?
  • Is this person attempting to make me feel guilty?
  • Have I heard my words to this person come back to me, only altered (even ever so slightly) in a way that made me feel uncomfortable?

Your answers can help you detect potential or actual manipulation so you can steer clear of the web.

In order to move forward in their own lives (whether hoping to reconcile or not), parents who are estranged or alienated from adult children must gather their strength, choose support wisely, and view their circumstances with clarity.

If you don’t already have my book, Done With The Crying, consider getting it. The examples and exercises in the book can help.

Estranged or alienated adult children can have effects on the family overall. I’m doing research to learn more about these effects. You can help. Please consider filling in my survey. If you have other children who have been hurt by a sibling or step-sibling’s estrangement, the survey works for them as well (if they’re over the age of 18). Consider asking them to complete the survey, too. Here’s the link.

Too busy right now, or need a quick way to refer someone to the survey? You can find this one, as well as a few others, on a page all their own: RejectedParents.NET/surveys

Related reading:

Spiders tune in

Adult children who reject parents: Why do they make contact now?