Make a Detailed Plan to Get Through Special Days

I’ve suggested elsewhere that every estranged parent should have a detailed plan on their special day, whether it be Mothers or Fathers Day, your birthday, the holidays, or any day when you wonder if an estranged adult child will reach out.

With a special day coming up, I’ve heard parents say things like, “I’m having lunch with a friend,” or “I’m going to a movie.” That’s a great start. But it may leave too much unstructured time for misgivings to creep in and ruin your day.

Nobody wants to spend a day that’s supposed to be enjoyable, in despair or in tears.​​

That’s why your next special day should be planned to the minute. Below is a sample to give you ideas. It’s never too early to start planning.

Before the Day Arrives

Think about what you’re going to eat that day. However many meals will be involved, plan that many and make them all delicious. Write a list and schedule time to acquire everything (even if it’s just restaurant reservations). Add every condiment, every utensil, absolutely everything you’re going to need, to your list. Don’t forget candles if you like them.

Think about any people you want to spend time with on your special day, besides yourself. You may want them with you for the whole day, only an hour or so, or anything in between. You’ll have a better idea once you’ve crafted the day’s schedule. Whomever you wish to spend time with, talk to them about your plans and make sure they’re available. Or, plan to take the phone off the hook and spend some quality time alone.

Think about anything you want to do that requires pre-planning, such as getting tickets, shopping, or making arrangements for a pet sitter. If you want to be in the Bahamas for your special day, there’s probably some planning around getting there. If you’re going to watch a movie, read a book, or listen to an audiobook, queue these up. Same with web pages you’ve been wanting to dive into, on a topic of interest to you. Bookmark them now.

If you’re going to spend the day at home alone, write down your itinerary. How exactly will you spend it?

Think about what you’ll wear on the day. Mend any clothes that need mending, make sure they’re going to be clean and ready to wear. Plan to lay them out the night before, including shoes and (unless you’re going to the Bahamas) socks.  Spending the day at home? Still plan your wardrobe. If you run out of underwear you’ll have to do laundry. Unless that’s on your schedule, don’t let it happen.

Think about whether and how to honor the spirit of the day. Trying to ignore the fact that you have children on Mothers Day or Fathers Day is not necessary. If you want to, build in time during the day for meditation, prayer, or some kind of acknowledgement of yourself as a parent. You might be surprised by an unexpected call or text, but plan for silence.

If you want to do something for someone else on the special day (e.g., if it’s a holiday and you want to give a card or gift), put all of the above in place before thinking about that. By prioritizing your own needs on what might otherwise be a difficult day, you’ll send yourself a message of loving kindness.

On the Day

Congratulations on completing all that preparation! The hardest part is over. Now it’s time to follow your plan.

Your agenda for the day will ideally be broken down at *least* into  hours, and detailed.

Feel free to schedule smaller chunks of time, such as 30 or even 15 minutes. To get your wheels turning, here’s an example of a detailed plan for the whole day.

IMPORTANT: This plan has multiple examples of activities for each time block. Yours will not. Specify the exact activities for each of your time blocks. You can always deviate when the time comes if you want or need to.

7/8/9am Set an alarm to start the day, and stick to your start time. Lying in bed dreading the day, postponing the inevitable, will make you feel helpless. Let’s say your day begins at 8am…

8-9am Ten minutes of meditation or prayer with a relaxation or gratitude focus, followed by a shower and breakfast.

9-10am Take a walk, either alone or with someone you enjoy;  or exercise at home or the gym.

10am-12pm Church / farmer’s market / online research into something that interests you / gardening or another pleasant pastime.

12-1pm Lunch at home or out, on your own or with someone else. Savor the flavors and give thanks for the meal.

1-2pm Visit the library and find a book to read and/or a DVD to watch. If your library isn’t open, plan a trip to a bookstore or other favorite place. Don’t feel like going out? Try at-home activities such as puzzles, baking, or playing with your pet.

2-3pm Quiet time to journal, acknowledge your estranged adult child(ren), and plan the coming week, month or year. Or simply take a restorative nap.

3-5pm Lose yourself in a good book, engaging project, conversation or favorite hobby.

5pm-7pm Dinner activities. Eat the delicious food you planned, in or out, by yourself or with someone else. If time, tidy the kitchen so it’s ready to go tomorrow morning.

7pm-9pm Enjoy a favorite after-dinner activity alone or with others such as games or puzzles, dancing, socializing; a pleasant hobby like sewing or quilting; or screen time: Watch a DVD, streaming service, or do some research into something that interests you.

9-11pm Twenty minutes of meditation or prayer with a gratitude or relaxation focus. No more screens; read a book, write in a journal, talk on the phone, do gentle yoga or stretching, etc.

11pm Lights out. Trouble sleeping? Listen to an audiobook, count sheep, or think about what you’d do with $10 million.

Implementation Notes

If you have to work or attend to other obligations on your special day, plan the times that are your own, such as early morning, lunchtime and evening.

Plan to make the most of any free time, taking care to include a period for acknowledging your estranged adult child(ren) if you want to. Making room for difficult feelings about your child(ren) on special days will help you enjoy the parts of the day assigned to other activities.

If you’ve done your preparation and followed your plan, you’ll feel much better about the day.

Before you fall asleep, thank yourself for the energy you put into planning and implementing this special day for yourself.

PS. If you find yourself looking for a book to read, reach for your copy of Reconnecting With Your Estranged Adult Child: Practical Tips & Tools to Heal Your Relationship. Or Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them.

– Tina Gilbertson

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