Now I can hear each and every one of you say "What the heck is Parentcaring?" Let me explain: When our parents gave birth to us and raised us they exercized "Good Parenting" in the best ways they knew based on their upbringing and their situations as adults. When we grew up and married, we too (or at least many of us) had children and also became concerned with "Good Parenting."
The parental role they played changed over time. When we got older, we no longer had to call our parents to tell them we would be getting home late. We did not have to ask permission to change jobs, to become parents, or for any of the other minor or major decisions in our lives. Yet they remained our parents and we still made efforts to honor their wishes. We rewarded them with the role of "Grandparenting.
For many of us, our parents have aged and are now in need of our assistance. Many have made the comment that "We now become our parents parent." Yet this statement is not really accurate. We are still the children and they are still the parents our roles have not changed but the function within our roles has changed. As Baby Boomers and the Sandwich Generation we are increasingly assuming new parentcaring functions. Here are some insights to help adult children of aging parents to successfully make manage some common functional transitions:
1) Let go of your childhood fantasies of your parents: We all have said we have done that and at some level we have. However it is hard for us to think of our parents in human roles and functions. Some of us are even shocked if we discover our parents are still actively intimate. Somehow our childlike view of our parents being greater than human seems to live within us as we age and mature. You may even have to remind yourself over and over that "My parents are human and do all the human things everyone else does, have all the human feelings, and they are not invincible".
2) Remember that your parents will have a hard time not trying to fulfill that super human image: Our parents too will have difficulty letting us see them in a very human light. Even we as parents have difficulty with that with our own children. They have tried to set a good example for us all during our growing years, just as we do for our children. As parents it can be difficult to let our children help us especially in something as personal as in-home caregiving.
3) You are still always your parents child: Nothing will change that fact, not age or illness. No one or no thing can take that away from the parent or the child. We can never be a parent to our parent. Yet it can feel like that is what we are doing. Our functions towards our parents have changed, just like they have throughout our lives in so many other areas. These functions are often functions we thought we would never have to do with our parents, such as those that are very personal in nature (bathing and toileting) or ones that parents have always handled (finances or gardening).
4) You may have to step in if your parent becomes debilitated or dependent: This can be the hardest thing for an adult child to do. As a responsible adult, you may have to intercede with your parent and say No! if their driving becomes unsafe, if finances are being ruined, if the home is unsafe, or if they are affected with dementia. As an adult child, you may have to utilize a durable power of attorney, seek guardianship, remove cars or dangerous items, or even move a parent into a more appropriate living arrangement when they no longer can safely live alone. These are hard things that adult children often do: You need to realize that it is a part of your function as an adult child.
5) Getting involved when one parent is caring for the other: This presents many challenges and complicated emotions for the child who finds herself in the middle. You may be doubly confused about when and how to act. The caring parent (also referred to as the wellspouse) can often unintentionally make you feel unneeded or your attempts to help as unwanted. It is important to know your assistance and visits are important though implementing your actions can be difficult.
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