Parenting Your Parents: Tips For Making the Transition

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Close-up of clinician hand on that of disabled woman with walking frame

The best kind of relationships and what makes them so resilient is that they are not static. Relationships are meant to evolve. As you change and grow, the relationships you have with your friends, family, and yes, even parents, are meant to change and grow, too.

It is easy, however, to fall into patterns or ways of thinking about our parents that no longer fit the current reality. This is especially true when it comes to parents that are hitting retirement age. Whether we are ready for it or not, as their lives change, so should our relationships. Here are some tips that will help you weather this transition and be the kind of support your parents can appreciate and rely on.


Be the grownup.

It can be hard to reverse years of conversation habits and looking at someone as a food or advice dispenser. But as an adult, you get a chance to be a grownup with your parent. Everything that follows is founded on this premise. Being the grownup will mean not expecting your parent to “fix” whatever current turmoil you are going through. At other times it will mean asking about things that may initially be difficult to discuss. Such as their financial health, whether or not they have signed up for Medicare, etc. When you do talk about such topics, avoid offering advice. Instead, offer information and resources. For example, point them to MedicareHealthPlans.com if they do not know where to start with post-retirement insurance. Or give them a list of health clubs that they could try out if you are concerned about their health.

Look at them as friends.

Sometimes what it takes is a fresh look at your relationship. Think of your parents and treat them as you would your friends. With all friendships come boundaries but also warmth, mutual support, and caring. But even the best of friendships require maintenance and an investment of time and care for the friendship to thrive. If you can’t remember the last time you set up a date with your parents, be the one to initiate contact for a change. Remember, friendships should be a source of mutual support. Think of all the time and resources your parents put into your life, and then it will not feel like a huge ask to begin to be a source of support in theirs.

Do fun things together.
Some of the glue that keeps families close are the years and years of memories that you have together. Endeavor to keep creating more memories to treasure. Doing so will ensure that you continue to grow closer together rather than apart. Plan for a trip together. Sign up for a class together. Take up a new hobby that you can do weekly when you visit. Learning and discovering new things with your parents is an effective way to see your parents from a fresh perspective.

Keep an eye on the future.
Part of why all of this is important is because, as our parents age, their needs will increase with time. Changing the nature of your relationship now will smooth the way for future transitions. It is not only about you seeing your parents differently. It is also about them looking at you differently, as an adult. And parents can have as difficult a time with that as their adult-age children. Make it easy on them by taking the first step to behave as an adult would in your relationship with them. Do not resort to thought and speech patterns established in your rebellious teen years. The older your parents get, the more the decisions they make concerning their health and finances will affect you. Once they are able to see you as an adult, they will be more open and receptive to your suggestions and the information you offer.

 

Comments

  1. adriana says

    Aww, this is a great resource for those whose parents are older. Spending as much time together as possible is so important!

  2. says

    This is something that I think about often. It’s hard to stop looking at your parents as “the parents” but as they grow older they will need more of our support, advice and guidance.

  3. says

    I dont even want to think about a life without my parents. I guess the best info is now that I am an adult my parents and I can do more grown up and adult things together.

  4. says

    My mom is 78 years old and she’s losing her hearing. It is now very difficult to talk with her because she can barely hear. So many times me and my siblings suggested that we’d take her to have a hearing aid fitted but she declined. We just have to talk really loud but to the point that it won’t seem like we’re shouting at her.

  5. says

    My mother is actually in this situation and it’s even harder because she’s living here in the US & my grandmother is in the Dominican Republic and it’s hard because my grandmother is one tough cookie and doesn’t want to listen to anyone. It been a hard thing to watch my mom and my 2 aunts going and forth trying to care for someone who is fighting all the way. (and nope my grandmother does NOT want to come here lol)

  6. says

    On one hand I’m glad I moved away from my parents as my mother was still mothering me almost into my 30s. On the other hand I’m sad I’m so far away and don’t get to see them that often.

  7. Pam Wattenbarger says

    These are great tips. I had to be my dad’s caregiver for a while and it was pretty hard. We did fun things together to keep our relationship strong.

  8. says

    I know I will have to accept it one day but it’s weird thinking of my parents as old since they will soon be reaching retirement age. But loved reading these ideas

  9. says

    This is such a hard time in life. This past year I have really become sandwiched between my kids and my parents. I have so much love for them all, but it can be over whelming for sure.

  10. says

    We’re not quite at this point yet, but it’s definitely coming very soon. We watched our parents go through it and I feel like we’re all a bit anxious about when the time comes, but your post definitely helps!

  11. R U S S says

    This has been informative and at the same time, an eye-opener for me. I guess for me, I’m having a lot of denial here that my parents are getting old. In my head, they’re still these strong people that have always guided me when I was growing up. I’m going to start making adjustments now and I will be more understanding. I’ll definitely keep your tips in mind.

  12. says

    So sorry for your loss. it is so tough caring for an older parent. I did this with my father in law and it was so hard. We have to be patient and understanding for the most part.

  13. says

    My mom is not to the point of needing parenting, as she is still younger, but I know there will come a day when this is needed. Neither of my brothers are especially strong in this area, so I know it will fall on me.

  14. says

    My parents are getting older and I am an only child. I am a bit concerned about this transition, especially as they are divorced and a few hours apart from one another. Being the one person that has to do this is a bit weighty but something that I know I will have to do eventually.,

  15. says

    My parents are both 71 and in good health, thankfully. I am not looking forward to the day they decline. We are very close, so that will be really rough. I know it is so hard on people to have to be the parent to their parents after so many years of being the other way around.

  16. says

    We have been doing this for several years now. The hardest was when they couldn’t drive anymore. Which was difficult for them having to be dependent on someone else all the time. Financially was the second difficult decision.

  17. says

    Thankfully my parents are at the moment in good health. I remember my Gran going down hill and it was awful seeing her change from this bright bubbly lady to someone who struggled remembering.

  18. robin rue says

    I lost my mom in February, but before she passed she definitely needed parenting. She was not well and started behaving differently.

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