What Are You Working On?

Many Reconnection Club members are working on letters of apology to their estranged adult children.

They’ve decided that an apology is appropriate, but in thinking about it, they bump into the fact that it’s not always easy to find exactly the right words.

That’s why some of our members post draft apologies in our forums. They’re seeking feedback on how they come across in writing.

They know what they want to say, but they also know how hard it is to convey the language of the heart in words. And how easy it is for written words to be misinterpreted.

Hence the understandable desire for feedback.

Through reading the forums, and in working with parents one-on-one, I’ve seen many apology drafts over the years. Quite often, they contain statements like these:

“I’m working on XYZ.”

“I’m working on not doing XYZ.”

“I’m working on understanding XYZ.”

My question to these good-hearted and well-intentioned parents is this: How are you working on those goals?

Planning vs. Doing

In many cases, “I’m working on…” really means, “I want (or intend) to work on…”

Realizing that we have something to work on in our relationships is an achievement. Not all of us are ready to gaze at our own limitations, looking for opportunities to learn and grow.

So if you’ve come to some difficult realizations on your path to understanding why your adult child is currently estranged, you’re already ahead of the pack.

Identifying changes that might be needed is an important and necessary step towards making those changes. But realizing you need to take certain steps is not the same thing as taking them.

If you’re thinking about making changes that could benefit your estranged adult child and/or your relationship, you can certainly list those goals as I did in the examples above.

But also ask yourself, “What am I currently doing to reach those goals?”

Goals for Change

If you’re not sure what to work on, start there. We have a library full of resources inside the Reconnection Club, just to provide you with information and ideas.

But let’s say you’ve got certain changes you know you want to work on. Is it clear how you can achieve the changes you seek? Maybe it seems straightforward, but you haven’t actually begun the process.

As an example, let’s imagine you’re trying to be less reactive to stressful situations. How does someone work on that?

Your reaction to stress is largely biological. You don’t just choose a reaction intellectually; it’s mediated by your autonomic nervous system.

To calm overreactions to stress, you need to start with a regulated nervous system. So one step toward a goal of being less reactive might be: “Learn how to regulate my nervous system.”

Thanks to the internet, you have access to loads of articles. This one is just an example:

The Biology of Calm: How Downregulation Promotes Well-Being

Learning isn’t doing, but it’s often a necessary bridge between wanting to change, and changing.

Practice Makes Better

Now let’s consider a change that’s more straightforward. What if your intention, like many of ours, is to listen more?

You may have noticed that wanting to listen is easy. Actually listening is hard. The only way to get better is through practice.

Sometimes parents will tell me, “I can’t practice listening to my child because he’s not talking to me.” But your currently estranged adult child isn’t the only possible practice partner.

If you have a spouse, another relative, a friend, coworker, neighbor, or even a pet parrot, you can start listening immediately.

All you have to do is decide on a plan: To whom will you listen, and when, and for how long? How will you remember to practice? How will you know when you’ve become a better listener?

If you’re not sure what good listening is, once again the internet has your back. There are literally billions of articles that result from typing in the search words, “how to listen.” So…

If you know what you want to do, start doing it.

If you don’t know what to do, learn the steps to get there. And once you learn the steps, make sure you start taking them.

The next time you write or say, “I’m working on XYZ,” you’ll be able to answer questions confidently about how exactly you’re doing that.

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