Parents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

emotional toolkitParents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

By Sheri McGregor, M.A.

On a recent walk, nature distracted me. Beautiful deer peeked from between oaks, turkeys meandered across the road, and squirrels chattered as they leapt from branch to branch Happy and on alert for the next sighting, I stepped into a rough spot and tumbled, face-first, to the ground. After pausing to see stars, check that nothing was broken, and regain my wits, I limped home feeling sorry for myself—and then reached for my emotional toolkit.

“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. Humor is a go-to tool, and I surround myself with those who can apply it (at times too liberally!). The social support is also relevant. Find someone to laugh with. It helps.

What’s in your emotional toolkit? We all need one and have been learning to “self-soothe” since babyhood when our hurts weren’t always immediately tended to. Think about what works for you, consider why, and how you might adapt so that it becomes a habit or is within reach when you need it most—like during the holidays, after an important but trying event, or on one of those shaky emotional days. Stressors can hit those who have suffered estrangement trauma (and connected narcissistic abuse, borderline rage, delusional rants, or shocking revisionist history) with quite an impact.

I’ve listed a few emotional toolkit ideas below. Borrow those you like and add your own ideas for a list you can keep handy and get ready for in advance.

  • Calming herbal tea (keep varieties or a favorite on hand)
  • Upbeat or inspirational music (handy CDs, or a music app already loaded)
  • Old movies (on video, or know what channel features them)
  • Talking (a supportive person to text, call, or email; a local “warmline,” versus “hotline,” to call; or join the membership community here)
  • Positive self-talk (have upbeat words on sticky notes; be your own cheerleader)
  • A sweet pet to cuddle, train, or treat
  • Nature (watch birds at a feeder, visit a refuge—or create one even on a patio)
  • Exercise (get things ready: weights, a treadmill, videos, yoga mat, gym membership)
  • Meditate (have a quiet space prepared)
  • A hobby (keep supplies on hand)
  • Comfort foods (on occasion)
  • Helping (volunteer, pick up neighborhood trash, pray for other people)
  • Journal (keep a special notebook or computer file)

Right now, reflect on what you need to put in an emotional toolkit you create just for you. And then get prepared. There’s no time like the present.

(Excerpted and edited from my 2021 book, BEYOND DONE, a Benjamin Franklin psychology award winner)

Related reading

March and sing into… (Be sure and watch the cat video on this page)

Unexpected emotions over an estranged adult child

When adult children reject parents: Giving thanks

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11 thoughts on “Parents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

  1. Serenity

    Beautiful Sheri & Beloved Ones in this Online Healing Community:

    I just signed up for the MEMBERSHIP site!!!! It feels like Giving MySelf An Eternal Infinite Christmas Gift…So Very Joyous that the Membership opened for new members…

    I became Aware of Beautiful Sheri & her books…After praying for some Comfort & Guidance for a very long while (years)…Then in a “Kismet” Moment…While channel-surfing on you tube…There was Beautiful Sheri on a podcast…The entire conversation resonated with my Heart…After the podcast I went online to purchase her 1st book & Workbook…In such pain that I could not focus on the written word…So I ordered the Audible version of the book…Slowly but surely…Each day…In my daily shower…I would Listen to Sheri’s words…So many stories…Beautiful Sheri’s own experience … As well as other parents’ experiences with this thing called “estrangement”… As I Listened to the words…With my Heart & Soul…As the shower water flowed…My tears flowed…Such Dear Sweet Kind Beloved Parents…For the first time ever…I felt “I Am Not Alone”…Using the Workbook…I was able to slowly move through the maze of hurt & confusion…Then the 2nd book…With the many valuable resources & workbook pages within…Is still my on-going reference tool…As well as this Online Healing Community…Being a very private person…I am so Grateful for the Membership site opening up for new members…

    It is an Honor to travel this Life Journey with Beautiful Sheri & Each of You…

    In Maya Angelou’s words:
    To not just “survive”…but to “thrive”
    “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”― Maya Angelou

    Which is what Beautiful Sheri is all about!!!

    In Divine Gratitude & Love.

    1. rparents Post author

      “Serenity,” I am so glad you signed up for the membership community. You will find that conversations are more easily attended to, and you can interact more consistently there in the members-only area. ( There are some great discounts on right now, too (listed on that page with coupon codes to insert upon checkout).

      Here, where members leave comments to articles and attempt to interact, it is getting more and more difficult to moderate and navigate–because there are many, many unkind people who leave such nasty comments. Many are prejudiced against parents, baby boomers, older people, etc. It takes so much time to weed through. I now understand why so many websites have stopped accepting comments at all. Anyway, thank you for joining the membership, and I think you will find it useful.

  2. Jan K

    Thank you Sherri, a very useful article and I do several things on your toolkit ideas list. I find exercise in particular to be a wonderful distraction, that and reading a book you can’t put down. I would say I live a happy life generally…people I meet all think I’m happy and upbeat. I live a life parallel to the sad and grief stricken side of me, the side where the thoughts of my estranged son pop up in my mind almost daily, but which I make every effort to compartmentalise and suppress…nobody except my husband really knows about the parallel life.

  3. Bonita

    The hole in my heart remains, but support like yours helps me carry on. Happy Thanksgiving to All Us Love Lost Parents. (Our kids are missing out).

  4. Pamela S.

    My children have both chosen to have little to no contact with me. I have grieved, oh how it hurts. But… when I change my expectations it becomes easier. I don’t expect them to call. Therefore when there are no calls, I am not disappointed. I don’t expect recognition of the important things in my life. When I have surgery, it is alone. Having said this, I am at peace, I have joy, and I am building my own life. I taught my children how to treat me. Their wants, needs and desires came first, then my ex husband. They embraced this .My daughter, when she was in her mid forties, told me to my face that I “ have never done anything for me” and “ you have always put yourself firs” and ……. You get the idea. Her father is Never at fault, and they both have contact with him. I love both of my children, think of them every day. I don’t own their decisions, but recognize consequences for each choice. Let go, have no expectations, and live!

  5. Lily B.

    Why? Do the adults kids, blame the parents, of not being a good parent. How about them not being Good Adult Daughter in my case. & Son to other Parents. I had 3 children 2 are Great we had our differences got worked it out. But 1 daughter I wasn’t good enough and I didn’t deserve her.

  6. Yve

    Thank you Sheri for your inspiration warmth and kind heartedness, my go to uplift …. I love feeding the birds first thing in the mornings and watch them feasting while having my breakfast! Nature is so wonderful! I also love go to inspiring quotes ….e.g. Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower by Albert Camus. ….Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet …and the Winds love to play with your hair by Rumi.


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