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