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.