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Parenting your Parents

Young Adulthood:
Setting Boundaries

Middle Adulthood:
Caring for Aging Parents

When you move through your later schooling years and into the workforce, or move out and possibly start a family of your own, things can get a little tense with your parents. Perhaps your parents are called to let go a little while you might be called to establish some new boundaries between you and your parents as a way to shift the relationship to something more equal and less power-driven. When you enter middle adulthood, your parents show signs of aging. They can’t do what they used to do. Their health may begin to fail. They don’t seem as sharp as they once were. You are called upon more frequently to offer advice, run errands, fix things around the house, and negotiate with all the professionals that are involved in helping your parents cope with life. What is your appropriate response to the call to caregiving?
 Step 1: Get Ready

  • Write out the issues you want to address with your parent(s). How have they crossed a line with you?
  • Try to figure out why you have been reluctant to address them in the past.  What has been blocking you from addressing these issues?
  • Pick one issue to address, and write down what it is and why it matters to you.

Step 2: Communicate your Boundary with Kindness

  • Prepare to communicate without resorting to anger. Imagine yourself in the conversation, and be aware of what your calming strategies will be such as pausing before you respond or even taking a break if you feel like your getting angry.
  • Frame your desire for a new boundary as a request rather than a demand.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Step 3: Have a Plan if Boundaries are Crossed

  • Recognize that you are trying to break old habits. There might be lapses and mistakes along the way.
  • Decide ahead of time what you will say and/or do if your parent crosses the newly established boundary. How can you respond with understanding and also firmness? If humor works in your relationship, how can that be part of your response?
  • Stick with the reminders until a new habit is established around the new boundary.
 Tip #1: Be Honest with Yourself and with your Parents

  • Talk openly about how much time and energy you have to give to your parents.
  • Learn about the signs of burnout and watch for them.
  • Talk openly about what is happening to them and to you as they age.

Tip #2: Sustain a Community Experience for your Parents / Consider all resources

  • Assess their current living situation for amounts of social interaction they get to see if it is feasible and healthy for them to stay at home.
  • Consider professional in-home agencies to offer additional support.
  • Consider a senior living arrangement that has strong social interaction features. More and more of these are designed in a way to help seniors interact with all generations rather than just with other seniors.
  • Consider having them live with you to assist with childrearing.

Tip #3: Prioritize your Battles

  • Safety issues are worth being firm about more than style issues.
  • Use a whole-family, team approach to bring up and strategize about how to address issues.

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