When parents get older many times our relationship is tinged with rancor, guilt or exhaustion. We are all adults and it’s time to reformulate the rules: now care and advice come and go for love, not for obligation.
Being a parent involves three different aspects: the decision to be parents, unconditional love for the children and the task of caring for them. Of those three things the first two last a lifetime. The role does not change: my children will always be my children and I, their father (even if at some point I do not have to teach them, even if they are the ones who take me by the arm). Nor will the unconditional love of parents towards children (and not vice versa) ever end.
The task of parents, however, which consists in caring for, providing and educating, has, in effect, an end. In a simple way, we could say that this task ends when the children become adults.
7 tips for interacting with our parents when we are adults
And when is the child considered to be an adult? This is, logically, the question that follows. Well, essentially: when it does not depend on others.
This independence, of course, is not only economic. It also includes being able to make one’s own decisions, not needing constant approval and knowing how to take care of themselves . Once the children manage to assume and carry out all these functions that their parents once fulfilled, their task is over. At this time, they can and should be put aside.
1. Giving is not an obligation, it is a choice
That their homework is finished does not mean that parents can not advise or help their children in the way they both wish … What it means is that it is not the parents’ obligation to do so (it was when they were young) and that children no longer need it.
They can receive help and also, of course, recognition, and all this can be rewarding and welcome, but (and this is the key) they may also not receive it and their well-being should not depend on it. This creates a very interesting situation in which parents give everything they give by pure choice.
2. Comment yes, but from love
Adult children are often obfuscated at the insistence of their parents to comment on their lives. The most emblematic case is that of the grandmother who tells her daughter, a new mother, how to take care of the newborn.
Usually the daughters complain to the grandmothers that they do not get involved, while the grandmothers protest because their daughter refuses to listen to them …
It seems to me that in this model a wisdom that can be valuable is lost. What older parents have to contribute can be heard by the children if both are clear that it is not an imposition . When they say they do not hold on authority but on love.
3. Close old wounds
When parents get older and their children are already adults, it is usually a good time to address issues, from the children to the parents, which were left pending. Old grudges, questions that did not find an answer, wounds that have not finished healing …
The maturity of the children usually brings new perspectives to raise these issues in another way. And on the part of the parents, maybe they can also, today be willing to admit mistakes or understand the pain they caused, even though their intention was good.
4. No blame or reproach
The final stage, this moment of maturity of parents and children, often coincides with the process of parents’ decline. Physical or mental deterioration (or, sometimes, both) becomes difficult to bear. The demand for attention, time, care and money is huge and growing. Many times this ends up generating an overload in the children , who suffer doubly, because in addition to coping with this difficult situation, the weight of guilt and self-reproach is added . Is there any way that the parents at sunset and the children who care for them suffer as little as possible? Yes, you have to find the formula, the balance.
5. Do not reverse the roles
Around the care of the parents, there is a highly damaging idea that we could call the myth of the reversal of roles: “Now our parents have become our children and we must take care of them as they took care of us”. This is a fallacy and an error. That older parents need care does not equate them to being children and, if we treat them that way, and walk around scolding them like little rebels , it sure will not go well. The care that older parents require must be modeled for the occasion, not grossly copied from the one we lavished as children.
6. Caring without being in debt
The idea that “just as they took care of us now we have to deal with them” can be very noble, but has the problem that it is established as an exchange. “You gave me that, so now I owe you this.” This leads, inevitably, to thinking that caring for them in old age is an obligation that we must fulfill. And, in general, obligations are not carried out with very good will. It would be desirable that we care for them moved by love, not guilt . We must get rid of the idea that we have a debt to settle.
7. Check your limits and ask for help
Considering yourself in debt is what sometimes causes children to go beyond their own limits to take care of their parents. It is sad to say, but this leads to exhaustion and also to the accumulation of rancor . Where is this limit then? Well, at the point where the caregiver feels that his own life is being relegated. When these limits are reached, it is important to consider the need for external help , often professional, in order to keep our love intact and continue accompanying and providing the only thing that can be offered against the inevitable: comfort.