The holidays are upon us. A time of good food, laughter, and gifts. A time when families come from near and far to celebrate their love. But if you haven’t seen your parents in awhile, you may be in for a surprise. You may find them slowing down, forgetting more, not taking care of themselves as well as they used to. Your initial response is to try to take over, figure out what’s wrong, get them help, etc. Some of you may have parents who may be amiable to this but most won’t.
You’ll wander when did they get so old? You’ll ask them why they didn’t tell you things were so bad? You’ll feel guilty that you didn’t know they needed you. You’ll get angry and frustrated that they won’t open up to your suggestions. Perhaps knowing this ahead of time will help you do the one thing that is most important in that visit.
Take a step back from your concern. Listen carefully to what your parents are telling you. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute and ask yourself what you would want from your kids in this situation.
Understanding? Acceptance of the inevitable aging process? Freedom to choose what you want even if others don’t think it’s best? The right to live where you want, wearing what you want, eating when you want, in an environment that is comfortable for you?
The last thing our parents need is us showing up on their doorstep and disrupting their routine. Criticizing, out of concern, the way they live. Demanding that they accept help to ease our burden of worry. Punishing them for getting older and not being able to do things they way they used to.
I know its out of love. I know its because you want the best for them. I know it feels like they need you to make things better for them. And perhaps they do need a little of that. But your approach is key to how well they will be able to hear your concerns and make changes for themselves.
Watch and listen and calibrate.
So the house isn’t as clean as it might be. Are they uncomfortable or unsafe? If so ask if there might be some things that can be moved around to make mobility easier. If they say no…let it go.
Perhaps their appearance is not as it used to be. Are they unable to care for their hygiene or clothes? If so, ask if it would be easier to have someone around when they need help for a few hours. If they say no…let it go.
Maybe they don’t seem to be eating well, have misplaced things, forgotten a bill or two. Always, you ask if there is some way they will allow you to help them. Always if they say no…let it go.
Sounds cold I know. But in the end that really is all you can do. Anything more than that will make them resistant, angry and will promote them keeping things from you. If you are able to say, okay for now, and keep the door open so that if they change their minds later, you will be able to help them and they will accept it. Your job is to simply be available. Let them know you are there to help. Accept their decisions no matter what they are until and if only they truly can not decide for themselves. It’s really no different than what we do for our adult kids. We share our concerns in a loving way, offer our assistance, and then we…let it go, knowing we all have our own path to walk no matter our age.
Love well during this holiday season and celebrate each other with respect and kindness. The greatest gift you can give to your parents is the freedom to maintain their own power and then work together for the good of all.
Wishing you and your the merriest of holidays. Love Ali