What’s going on? Your parents aren’t talking to one another.
“Where’s Dad?” you ask. You’ve stopped in on the way home from shopping for school needs for the children and only Mom is home alone and you can tell she is fuming.
“How should I know where he is.” Your mom replies. “He took the car and mumbled something and left.” “He keeps telling me not to be so nosy. I only wondered where he was going.” “I can’t understand what’s wrong with that. It would be nice if he invited me to go along with him sometimes. I hope he’s not having an affair with someone.”
Not the words you wanted to hear – and certainly not from one of your parents. Yikes! What do you say to something like that? Suddenly you realize you no longer know how to talk with your aging parents.
What happens to communication in retirement?
Now that your parents have entered into this new era of retirement, you will notice that they may be having serious communication problems. This is an area that they may try to engage you in and it’s not a pleasant experience. Each of them may have complaints about things the other is or isn’t doing or things that are being said to one another.
They are suddenly realizing that they really don’t know one another. Years of concentrating on business and raising a family have kept them from getting to know one another better. Now that they no longer have these distractions, they were expecting that the first love they had for one another will still be there to be re-ignited. Instead, they wake up one morning realizing they don’t know one another.
Your role in retirement communication
You, however, continue with the same relationship with each of them that you have had growing up. Yes, you may be married now and have formed your own new interactions with your spouse, family, and friends. But, that relationship with your parents, in your eyes, continues as before.
Strange as it may seem to you, you too are finding that you don’t know your parents in the same way either. Suddenly we have 3 people who don’t really know one another anymore.
Are you a parent or a child?
In your role now as a parent, you are learning to direct the lives and activities of your children. You are the authority in your family to them and expect to be listened to as such. In addition, you realize that
and suddenly you feel the need to take on the role of teacher to them.
This is the start of a dilemma that needs to be resolved. While your parents are learning to communicate and get to know one another, you, too, must get to know who each of them is – as your parents now and as individuals. How do you get them to listen to you now?
Your First Steps in learning to talk with aging parents
First off, it’s best if you lay the groundwork right from the first complaint either of your parents come to you with. It’s not only permissible but necessary for you to let each of them know you are there to help the two of them, but, you will not be put in the middle of any problems they are having with one another. Calmly let them know that you see them as a set – a set of parents you love. As such, you refuse to be engaged in anything that breaks that set up. This is an act of love on your part. It’s too easy to take sides in their disputes and your feelings and actions may have long-lasting results – results lasting longer than the argument or dispute that they are having between each other.
How a child can help parents with communication
But – you do want to help. I hear you. You hate seeing them at odds with one another in this new era which is supposed to be one of joy and happiness. Helping them to start new activities and experiences together is one way you can help. Another may be including them in family activities. It is perfectly alright and probably beneficial to them to ask them to help with planning some of those activities. Let’s face it. Your life now is very busy and their help may take away some of your stress.
Examples of activities you may use to foster communication
- In something like a birthday party for one of the children, ask them totake responsibility for some part of the activities. For example – say your son has asked for a unicycle.
Maybe your father could pick it up and if needed put it together. Certainly, you can ask them to store it before the birthday so it will be a surprise. You could ask your mother to come up with some way to decorate it for the birthday so it looks festive and like a gift.
And some more suggestions to foster communication
- Or if you are going out to an activity, maybe they could help transport children. Frequently parties involve other parents with smaller children. You could ask your parents to help come up with activities to entertain and keep these little ones busy. That helps everyone enjoy the day and helps your parents feel useful.
Using others to help you talk with aging parents
- Other times you could invite friends in for activities or meals and ask them to bring their parents while you include your own. This gives them a chance to meet new people as a couple and that, if nothing else, is a common topic for them to share with one another.
- An evening with you and your parents and a friend with their parents spending time playing
Scrabble or Pictionary may prove an enjoyable treat for all of you. And during that interaction, bringing up suggestions for things they might enjoy doing, like a cruise or visit to the local zoo, would be perfectly appropriate.
Communicating Legal Needs with Parents
So, now you’ve gotten yourself out of that touchy spot of being in the middle. But, there is information you and your parents need to communicate about. Here, I’m talking about legal
entities like wills, advance directives, durable powers of authority. These are things that your parents need to have in place. And they need to share these with you or one of your siblings. And yes, I will be discussing the need for these in the “Senior” section here on the site.
How you can help with Parent’s Legal Needs
Don’t come across as an authority on these, unless of course, you are a lawyer. What you can do is explore whether they have these in place and where they are kept. It is not out-of-place to ask them to share any decisions made in those documents that will be affecting your role. Many seniors realize the needs for these. You may be surprised to find that it has all be taken care of. But you still need to know details about the location of them and if you are designated with responsibility in any of them.
Talk with aging parents about getting help online
If they don’t have these documents in place, it is totally within your scope as a caring child to recommend that they take care of that. You might give them websites, like Free Advice: Legal and where they can do all of these online for a nominal fee. Also, you might be willing to do the research for legal help in your area where they could get this done if that is their preference.
More to come
I will explore this whole topic of communication more as we go on. It’s one of the core areas where many problems arise. And this article only skims the tip of the giant iceberg. But hopefully, it gives you a start in understanding and starting to define your role in helping them. I have also started this topic in the Senior’s section and you might want to read the advice I’ve given to them.
Aging is a wonderful, joyous, stress-filled, difficult era of life and yes, it affects all three generations as it progresses. Stay tuned for the journey because one day, you too will enter it.
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Love, Hugs, and Prayers,
“Be still and know that I am God.”
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