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Estranged from adult children: Take care of yourself

Emotional Well-Being Series
Estranged from adult children: Taking care of yourself

adult child is estrangedIn a recent post, we explored the question: Why? and how it can be helpful to parents who are estranged from adult children

It’s important to note that in order to deal with the loss, the why questions must be coupled with another set of questions, the crux of which is: How? How will I move forward? How can I keep up my strength? How can I get over this?

Answering all of these how questions involves taking care of yourself. It’s s natural to ask why after any traumatic emotional experience. When you are hurting because you are estranged from adult children, figuring out how you can get through the emotional roller coaster, move forward, and enjoy life is absolutely necessary.

After my adult child’s rejection, eating healthfully, resting, and recreation took a backseat. And sometimes, I comforted myself with unhealthy choices – – which was not helpful. I added extra weight, and exercised less. That meant having to re-start good habits, backtrack and lose the weight, etc. It was like digging deeper, so climbing out was even more difficult.

When estranged from adult children, take control, take care of yourself

When we become estranged from adult children, taking care of ourselves is necessary to deal with the stress, sadness, loss, and eventually heal. Getting into a self-care routine really helped me to feel better overall. I was better able to take control of my attitude, and my feelings about my life.

When we take good care of ourselves, we’re more likely to try new activities. We’re more likely to get up off the couch and get out into fresh air, participate in hobbies that bring us joy, and associate with friends. All of these things help us feel connected, and studies have shown that connections aid health as well as promote longevity and happiness.

Even when we’re estranged from adult children, we need to live our lives. Doing so empowers us — whether that means feeling strong enough to reach out more to an estranged child despite the possibility of disappointment, or fostering an attitude of acceptance for the time being.

Estranged from adult children: Assess your self-care

When short and quick, assessments can be useful tools to determine how well we’re taking care of ourselves. An assessment increases self-awareness and helps identify areas where we can be kinder to ourselves. If you take an assessment today, utilize the results to make changes where you see weaknesses in your self-care. Then take the assessment again. You will have a concrete picture of how you’re progressing.

Sometimes, when traumatic, emotionally unsettling events occur – – becoming estranged from adult children falls into this category! – – we can feel so out of sorts that we don’t know where to begin in caring for ourselves. Simply by its listings, a good assessment tool can help you think of ways to help yourself

Try this tool, originally created for my life coaching clients, to assess how well you’re taking care of yourself: Self Assessment RTF.

Consider also sharing your results, or how you feel about how well (or not) you’ve taken care of yourself once you became estranged from your adult children. You can leave a reply below, or post in the help for parents of estranged adult children forum.

Emotional well-being series: Be kind to yourself

self-compassion be kind to yourself emotional well being estranged from adult childrenBe kind to yourself: Self-compassion

Purposely tending to our emotional health can make our lives happier and healthier. Parents who are estranged from adult children can nonetheless bolster their emotional health and increase feelings of well-being, with positive effects.

Looking optimistically forward may be difficult in the face of a situation that remains unpleasant and unchanged. So, parents who are estranged from adult children may hold a less than positive outlook. But even when you can’t change a negative circumstance that is beyond your control, taking charge of your emotional well-being can help. This is one in a series of short articles on ways to bolster emotional health and increase feelings of well-being.

People who suffer rejection in a relationship may replay interactions and try to figure out what they did wrong. Parents whose adult children are estranged often react similarly. We may reflect upon every detail of how we raised our child in an attempt to explain the estrangement. In so doing, we may identify mistakes. Even well-intentioned parents don’t do everything perfect all of the time. In a state of worry, shock, and distress, parents whose adult children are estranged may be too self-critical, which can injure emotional well-being and prolong our sadness. Here’s one way to work at combating an overly critical self-examination, and feel better:

Parents of adult children who are estranged: Practice self-compassion.

In his research, Wake Forest University psychologist Mark Leary found that the ability to treat oneself kindly helps people cope in the face of negative events. Do you forgive your own imperfections and treat yourself well despite failure, defeat or rejection? Or do you berate and belittle yourself? In Leary’s studies, participants with the most forgiving attitudes toward themselves were less bothered when they imagined distressing events.

Most of us find it easy to let another human being off the hook. We might be quick to say something like, “Don’t feel bad. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes. You’re only human.”

If a friend confides a failure, we might offer support by reminding our friend of their success in other areas. Providing ourselves with the same type of supportive self-talk can be healing.

In one of his studies, Leary had participants write themselves a letter, as if they were sending it to a friend. If you have a tendency to blame yourself, you might do well to pen yourself a note of support then read and re-read it whenever needed.

An exercise to practice self-compassion

In my work as a life coach, I have directed clients to ask a trusted friend to sit down and write them an email or note that describes them when they’re at their best. My clients enjoyed receiving the positive depiction, and were often surprised by the depth of a friend’s caring. The note became a tool they could pull out whenever they were feeling low. Trading notes might be even better.

A few years ago, I participated in this exercise myself by trading descriptions with a friend. Her letter describing me at my best was helpful in that it demonstrated she understood some of my most core values. And at a time when my focus was a bit fuzzy, her description reminded me of what is most important to me. Providing a description of my friend at her best was also helpful. It feels good to provide positive support to an individual you care about, and writing the description did just that.

To foster a spirit of self-compassion, consider writing out a description of yourself when you’re at your best. In the wake of an adult child’s rejection, parents whose adult children are estranged can feel powerless. In preparing for the exercise, reflecting on your life, how you’ve successfully dealt with problems in the past, and reliving satisfying moments can perhaps break a habit of self-blame, and trigger better feelings. Describing yourself at your best in writing may help reconnect you with your strengths, accomplishments, and value – – and perhaps spur you back into things you enjoy and do well.

Self-compassion, according to Leary’s studies, might also have another benefit for parents whose adult children are estranged and who look forward to the hope of reconciling. When we are self-compassionate, we are better able to admit our mistakes. Because healing family rifts may require honest, open discussion, a willingness to admit our failings as perceived by our adult children can help foster the necessary atmosphere of humility and understanding.

Even if you don’t follow through and write a letter to yourself, take a few moments to consider yourself with compassion. After all, you are your oldest friend.

Parents whose adult children are estranged: How you will be self-compassionate and treat yourself well?

In what ways will you be more self-compassionate? I’d love to hear how you’re treating yourself well. Shared kindness creates a more compassionate world.

Related articles:

Looking forward

Self-Compassion and Reactions to Self-Relevant Events: The Implications of Treating Oneself Kindly

Psychologist finds self-compassion helps people cope with failure