We all owe a great debt to our parents – they’ve brought us into this world, after all, and have done their best to make us the people we are today.
However, our relationships with our parents are not always smooth and without snags. Especially as they get older, and perhaps require a bit more care and understanding.
Remember you are an adult
The one thing that most often causes a strained relationship between adults and their parents is the fact that either or both parties sometimes forget they’re all now adults.
Your parents will always be your parents, and they’ll always want to parent you. Don’t let this bother you, and definitely don’t lose your temper over it. What this also means is that you shouldn’t slip into old child-like behaviors – you can now solve issues by talking rather than arguing, and you don’t need to storm out of the room to make a point.
Treat your parents with respect, and more as friends than as parents. It may sound counterintuitive and even odd, but that is what you now are: adults spending time together, and the dynamic has largely changed.
Keep them informed, if not involved
Another thing we tend to handle poorly is the extent to which we now make our parents a part of our adult lives. We may not live together anymore, and not even live in the same time zone. We may or may not want their advice and ‘meddling’.
Trying to cut your parents out of your decision-making process is one thing – cutting them out altogether quite another. Even if your parents are no longer an active part of your life, and live thousands of miles away, they have every right to expect from you to keep them up to speed on what’s going on in your life.
Pick up the phone and give them a call. Visit when you can. Don’t sever all ties just because you’re now all grown up.
After all, grownups take care of their families – they don’t forget they exist.
Remember the toll of aging
As your parents get older, it’s important to remember their health will not be what it used to.
You should also remember that parents tend to play down the seriousness of certain diseases, and may not even be aware something is not well with them.
Make it a habit to check in on your parents, and keep track of their health. Watch out for signs of senior depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, or any illnesses that might run in the family.
And if you believe something may be wrong, mind how you bring the subject up: you wouldn’t want anyone to come barging into your life and telling you you’re senile, would you?
A lot of patience and understanding and a fair bit of courage will be needed to handle any medical issue your parents might face. Some difficult choices may need to be made, but it’s important to involve all interested parties in making them, rather than pulling unilateral moves that may hurt or harm the other side.
Don’t lose your patience over the small things
If your parents now need more time to get ready, eat a meal, or get a sentence out, don’t rush or bully them into conforming to your speed. If they’re a bit repetitive in their storytelling, don’t remind them every single time you already know how the joke ends. If they insist on doing things a certain way, don’t force new habits on them, unless it’s absolutely necessary for their safety and health.
Don’t view the changes in them as a disruption to your own life – they don’t mean to be a hindrance, it’s just the way old age is.
Talk about things frankly
While it may be quite difficult to bring up certain subjects, you can’t let them go just for the sake of comfort or peace in the house.
Discuss how much money they have saved up, and how they were going to spend it.
Is there a mortgage on the house, or do they owe the bank any other money? What are their wishes in terms of care and support? How do they want to handle any of the difficult situations that may arise?
To sum it all up: if you want to do your absolute best to maintain a healthy relationship with your aging parents, be honest about your own limits. Be patient and put some thought into figuring out how you can best help them. By communicating openly, you will be able to reach an agreement that will best benefit everyone.