Dealing with uncertainty

dealing with life's uncertaintyUncertainty: Help for parents estranged from adult children

Because parents of estranged adult children experience uncertainty about the relationship’s future, they can feel as if their lives are on hold. They find themselves in a sort of limbo between the past they shared and their uncertain future.

Help for parents of estranged adult children: Take control of now

While experiencing a sense of waiting, parents can begin to feel proactive and empowered if they take control in the present. Depending on each unique situation, taking control might include working toward reconciliation by reaching out to the estranged adult child. But don’t put your life on hold for an uncertain outcome. Embrace the present. Get involved. Take a class. Learn a new hobby.

Mr. Rogers used to sing a catchy tune telling kids to think of something to do while waiting. Mr. Rogers’ wise advice gets at taking control and driving your own happiness now.

Follows are three tips for handling life’s uncertainties.

Handling life’s uncertainties: Lose control

As parents, protecting our kids from pain comes naturally. That’s why parents of estranged adult children may ponder what-if scenarios. What if our estranged daughter doesn’t meet her new nephew until he’s ten? She’ll regret not knowing him sooner. And then there’s the other extreme. What if a death occurs? What if our estranged son waits until it’s too late? He’ll suffer guilt.

The more we speculate on what-ifs, the more we can get caught up in feelings – – for scenarios that haven’t occurred, and ones we can’t control anyway. Adults steer their own lives. Make a decision to let the thoughts and feelings go.

In my work as a life coach, clients devise short statements that help. Out loud or in your head, try something like this: Bottom line, I can’t control my adult child’s actions. Regret, guilt, or any other emotion will be his to live with.

Handling life’s uncertainties: Think better

Work through negative thoughts. Think more constructively. First, start listening to your inner monologue. When you hear a defeating thought, turn it around. Instead of thinking, “I can’t handle not knowing how all this will turn out,” switch to something more positive. Try, “I don’t like not knowing, but I can accept it for now.” Or, “This isn’t what I expected to happen, but it’s tolerable.”

Notice these aren’t giant leaps at joy and positivity. You wouldn’t jump to the top of a 50-foot ladder. Take realistic steps in the right direction. Over time, you can train your thoughts toward constructive and empowering ones.

Accepting uncertainty

In a 2009 article in the publication, Journal of Women & Aging, research focused on the reflections of older women. Stressful events in their histories included The Great Depression, and World Wars I and II. These events caused disruption of family life, economic hardship, significant loss, fears and uncertainties. The women’s resilience was demonstrated by frugality, reliance on social supports, and acceptance of their situation. These attitudes and actions can also be help for parents of estranged adult children.

None of us have had smooth life roads without a single bump or detour. For many of us, losing a child by estrangement is the most significant obstacle we have faced. Strength gained through past difficulties has helped prepare us. With support, encouragement, and the passage of time – – along with a little mental gymnastics, taking control, and acceptance – – we can get through this too.

As is explored in the article on resilient people listed in “Related articles,” below, one thing that is known to help people facing obstacles is to make purpose of the experience. What we do with our adversity, how we lead our lives despite our obstacles, can be powerful.

Consider getting involved to help parents of estranged adults. This might mean joining the forum where you can give and receive support. And you can take the survey to help parents of estranged adult children.

Related articles:

Estrangement between parents and adult children: Feeling Stuck

The Paradoxical traits of resilient people


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2 thoughts on “Dealing with uncertainty

  1. Lola

    My daughter turns 30 this year. She has my only grandchild. She changed when she moved to the city and started her business. She became arogant, self centered, and selfish. My graddaughter graduated PBK and I was told my boyfriend could not come because she doesn’t like his sense of humor and thinks he is crude. He is my best friend and partner. He loves her like his own and it hurts both of us. I know she wants me to choose, so I chose him. I don’t like who she has become and I will not let her control my life. She thinks because she has my only grandchild she can control me but I only saw them @ 6 times a year. She has blocked me on FB now I cant even see her pics.

  2. Kathy

    I’m working through so many emotions and “what-ifs” right now. My youngest daughter, age 36, has distanced herself from me and my husband. She was married to a controlling man who she divorced almost 1 year ago when she found out he was cheating. She leaned on us for months but now says she needs to be alone, needs to heal and doesn’t want to talk. This came in a text after months of very little contact; now she wants no contact. We’ve always gotten along well. She was the princess daughter who had to have the best of everything and the fairy tale wedding.
    Her step-dad and I moved to her state 4 years ago to help care for her children. I retired earlier than planned. We were keeping the kids 5 days and overnights per week. Now they have 50/50 custody and she doesn’t want to give up or share any time with them. I love my daughter and grandkids so much but I’m also angry with her for being so selfish. I feel I’ve done so much for her, probably too much. I’m hoping she will come around but feel like I can’t forgive this. I’m weepy (not at all my temperament) and upset. I’m trying to stay busy but this is making me miserable.


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