Chalkboard: Try these tips for a better Mothers Day and Fathers Day

Preparing for Mothers Day and Fathers Day

9 Tips for Parents of Estranged Adult Children

In the U.S., May and June bring anxious reminders of estrangement for many parents in the form of Mothers Day and Fathers Day, respectively.

If you’re currently estranged from one or more of your adult children and you’re nervous about Mothers or Fathers Day this year, this article contains resources you can start making use of immediately. Be sure to bookmark this post if you find it helpful.

Remember, no one else can guarantee you a decent Mothers Day or Fathers Day — not even your adult child(ren) or grandchildren. But you can take steps yourself to make sure you’re honored and celebrated on your special day… or any day.

Keep reading for ideas on how to not only survive, but have a good Mothers Day this month, or Fathers Day next month…

#1 Prepare!

The Number One way to make sure a special day goes as smoothly as possible is to prepare for it.

The biggest obstacle to planning is RESISTANCE. We don’t like to think about things we don’t like to think about. (That’s why many people don’t have life insurance: To get it, you have to think about dying.)

If you can get yourself over the hump of thinking about Mothers Day/Fathers Day before it’s here, you’ll be far better prepared when the day comes. You might even have a good day, as some of our members have discovered through planning.

Set a timer for 5 minutes, then click on this link to at least *begin* thinking about preparing:

Make a Detailed Plan to Get Through Special Days

#2 Use Your Breath

Breathing is underrated. Slow breathing through the nose is a free, accessible and research-supported way to improve physical and mental well-being.

But the benefits of intentional slow breathing are greatest when it’s practiced over time. As we routinely use our breathing to calm ourselves, our nervous system learns how to use the breath as a relaxation cue.

That’s why it’s important to begin before you need a mood boost. Or, if you already have a breathing practice, this is a good time to keep it up.

I spoke to breathing expert Nick Heath about slow nasal breathing. Listen to our conversation in the Reconnection Club library, or click here for an excerpt:

Reconnection Club Podcast Ep. 146: Breathe.

If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, click here for a past newsletter article:

Breathing Matters


#3 Face Rejection Head-On

One of the hardest aspects of these holidays is the societal expectation of not only contact, but exclusively positive feelings between parents and adult children.

Parents who don’t experience these — and sadly, they number in the millions — are vulnerable to feelings of abandonment and rejection. But if your adult child doesn’t reach out on your special day, those feelings don’t have to be the end of the story. Instead, they can be the beginning of resolution and healing.

If thoughts of abandonment or rejection by your adult child cause you deep and acute pain, those feelings may not be new to you, even if estrangement is the first time you’re feeling them consciously. They may be core injuries, triggered by — but not originating with — estrangement.

For more on this idea, check out this article:

Feeling Abandoned/Rejected By an Estranged Adult Child


#4 Choose a Mantra

Even in estrangement, there’s always a possibility that your adult child or children might contact you on your special day.

Rather than spend the entire day on tenterhooks, waiting to see if they contact you, and then being disappointed if (as is statistically likely) they don’t reach out, you can reduce anxiety by minimizing the energy you invest in the will-they-or-won’t-they question.

Take 10 minutes right now, ahead of time, to adopt a mantra. Choose a word or phrase that gives you peace, strength or other good feelings. Keep hold of your mantra through any and all unexpected contact. Contact does sometimes happen out of the blue; if it happens to you, you’ll be very glad you were prepared for it. Learn more about dealing with unexpected contact here:

When a Stranger Calls

And while you’re choosing a mantra, why not adopt one for Mothers Day or Fathers Day itself this year? Make it your theme for 24 hours, and call it to mind throughout the day to keep yourself on a positive track.

E.g., “I celebrate myself today,” “Peace,” “Calm,” “Compassion for all,” “I am love,” “My heart is full,” etc.


#5 Beware of Takotsubo Syndrome

Estrangement has been known to lead to a frightening heart condition called Takotsubo Syndrome, also known as “Broken-Heart Syndrome.”

The days and weeks surrounding Mothers Day and Fathers Day can be especially stressful for parents of estranged adult children. This is a time to be careful with your health.

For a description of Takotsubo symptoms and ideas on how to protect yourself, click here:

Estrangement and Broken-Heart Syndrome


#6 Don’t Abandon Yourself

You may be tempted to just ignore Mothers Day or Fathers Day, especially if it’s very painful for you.

But trying not to think about what might hurt you, could negatively affect your relationship with yourself. Distracting yourself from something you’re worried about also distracts you from your own heart, adding self-alienation to estrangement.

Make sure every part of you feels seen, heard and loved by you — including the parts that are worried, sad, or scared. Here’s more about how to address self-alienation:

Self Alienation: Estranged On the Inside


#7 Practice Mindfulness

If you already do yoga, meditate, pray, or breathe consciously every day, a new routine could invigorate your practice this month.

I recommend the online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at It’s backed by research and free to the public.

Start the 8-week program today and you may feel improvements in your mental outlook in just a few short weeks.

Mindfulness isn’t meant to be a just-in-time intervention; it’s a steady investment in your long-term health and well-being, that pays greater and greater dividends over time. Best of all, you can do it any time, anywhere. Even while washing the dishes.


#8 Get outside

Whatever your preference — whether you feel like staying home or going out on your special day, being alone or being with others — see if you can spend some time outside.

Research suggests that just getting up and moving from one chair to another can change your mental state. But when you add Nature and fresh air to the mix, movement can profoundly shift both your mood and your perspective.

And direct exposure to daylight, especially in the morning, can have positive effects on both sleep and mood.

Even if you don’t have a forest or park nearby, remember that just getting outside can be beneficial if you find yourself feeling down.


#9 Remember It’s OK to Enjoy Yourself

Some parents worry that if they allow themselves to stop thinking about their adult child(ren) and focus on enjoying themselves, it means they don’t care about their children or the relationship.

But of course that’s not true! Seeking enjoyment and connection with others during estrangement only means you value life and living. Sacrificing weeks, or months of your life to the fact that your adult child isn’t in touch, is not proof of dedication. It may instead be a kind of emotional paralysis that doesn’t benefit you or your adult child(ren).

If don’t like feeling as though your life is on hold during estrangement, click here:

It’s Okay to Enjoy Yourself When Your Adult Child Is Estranged


I hope you found some inspiration in those 9 ideas above. You might want to keep this article handy until the upcoming holiday has passed.

 – Tina Gilbertson, LPC

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