Healthy Giving

Do you prefer listening to reading? For an audio treatment of this topic, you can listen to Reconnection Club Podcast Episode #64: Estrangement and Healthy Giving.

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Healthy giving has boundaries and respects the wishes of the recipient. It can be challenging to give from a place of pure generosity, especially when you’re not at your best. Read on for examples of how to give in a healthy way this season.

In last month’s newsletter, I wrote about the dangers of giving too much at the wrong time. But you might have been left with the question, “What CAN I give, and when?”

During the holiday season, your heart may hijack your strategizing brain and insist on sending gifts or otherwise reaching out to your child — even when they’ve made it clear they want distance.

It’s definitely the time of year when we think about giving. And for parents estranged from one or more of their children, giving might feel like the only acceptable contact.

“But it’s the holidays!,” cries your aching heart.

Tragically, estrangement doesn’t care about the calendar. If time apart is what your child wants, the greatest and most meaningful gift you can give may be the effort it takes to keep from reaching out.

Think about your desire to give as something different from your desire for contact. It’s important to separate the two. One comes from a place of wholeness and abundance, the other from the pain of loss.

If the spirit of generosity moves you right now, AND your child has asked for no contact, here are some ways to give selflessly to your estranged child.

(If it’s been a year or more since you sent ANYTHING to your child including even a text… OR if your child hasn’t asked for no-contact, you use the guidelines in last month’s newsletter instead.)

The Gift of Space

If you’ve been asked outright not to contact your child, the most meaningful gift you can offer is not to send anything — including to grandchildren, sadly.

If you’re worried about what your child will think if they don’t hear from you at the holidays, plan to let them know one day in the future just how hard it was not to reach out this year. Play the long game. Trust that time is a river that brings continuous change.

One day when you’ve become close again, you’ll tell them you thought they’d appreciate it more if you offered them the space they requested, and the two of you can talk about it.

If your silence is taken as anything other than the gift it is, they can let you know that. All they need to do is reach out.

The (Truly) Anonymous Gift

You may be aware that you can give donations to charity in someone else’s name. This could be a way of giving to your child in a way that honors their wish for no contact, but also allows you to celebrate your child’s interests and personality while doing good in the world.

IMPORTANT: Have the gift card sent to yourself, not to your child. Don’t tell your child about the gift you gave in his or her name!

If you choose to give on your child’s behalf, let it be a spiritual act; give in a way that is genuinely anonymous. Pledge never to reveal to your child what you did, unless/until the relationship is restored.

Telling an estranged child that you gave on their behalf is a risky proposition, as it could be construed as a guilt trip or a bid for attention.

If you do give in your child’s name, plan to keep it under your hat long term.

The Gift of Personal Growth

When the parent grows the child benefits, and so does the relationship. Maybe not in the short term. But parental gains in wisdom and peace do pay dividends in the long run.

What could you use more of in your own life? Would you like to be more grounded? More peaceful? More independent? How about kinder to yourself?

Any of these might be things your child would wish for you — whether they realize it or not. 

Make efforts toward changes that are calling to you. Any personal growth you achieve will usher in a new you and a correspondingly new era in your life.

Change and growth will mean you’ll no longer be the same person your child rejected. 

Self-understanding increases self-compassion. Both of these help in understanding and finding even greater compassion for others, especially your child.

Know yourself better, love and accept who you are, and you can give your child the gift of your best self.

The Gift You Give Yourself

When your own child turns away from you, it shakes your confidence. It might cause you to question your parenting, and it might even lead you to question your goodness or worth. 

Use the season of giving as a reminder that you deserve to receive as well. Choose a gift for yourself to affirm and celebrate the loving, lovable, and growing human being you are. 

Choose something you want that’s meaningful, useful, fun, frivolous, or yummy. It doesn’t have to be expensive, unless you want it to be. It might be as simple as a box of chocolate-covered almonds or as grand as an international culinary tour.

If you find yourself skimming this part thinking, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that,’ or ‘I could get myself something, but I don’t really need anything,’ recognize those thoughts as resistance.

I urge you to go out of your way before the end of the year to give to yourself. Feel what it’s like to be noticed, appreciated, rewarded. You’ve been through a lot with this estrangement; don’t you deserve something nice?

If estrangement has made you feel weaker inside, or even broken, these types of gifts — especially the last two — will help you mend and heal. And remember, that is a gift to your child as well.

What’s good for you is good for your child, and for your relationship. So give yourself something!

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