But it can be confusing. On the one hand, as loving family members, we want to consistently support as much independent living as our parents can safely manage! On the other hand, we want those we love to be secure, nurtured and protected. But what if, in doing that, we’re actually enabling our parents’ weaknesses or encouraging them to lack self-confidence and lean on us when it’s not really necessary? And what if, while seeking to be “protective,” we don’t give them the space and independence our parents can still reasonably utilize — can that be harmful, too?
How can YOU find the right balance between “over-protective POParenting” and not doing enough? As I say in my book, “OH MY GOD! WE’RE PARENTING OUR PARENTS: How to Transform this Remarkable Challenge into a Journey of Love,” if you’re asking this question, you’re on the right track.
Here are some specific tools that are respectful and appropriate:
* Take ongoing assessments when you see them (and if you’re at a distance, seek reports from those who have frequent contact with your parents) of what your parents are capable of doing: look at how they’re walking, breathing, standing? what are they saying about their functioning? memory? what are their complaints?
* Ask their doctors what’s reasonable to expect from your parents — given their illnesses, stage of aging or disability;
* Support your senior loved ones to continue to do whatever they can, especially those activities that make them feel more content, whole and independent — just as you did with your children when they wanted to do things “by self…”
* If your parents are struggling to do a task, resist the urge to take over and take control. Assist your parents instead. Remember your growing children’s elation when they could do the job themselves rather than your doing it for them.
* Understand that doing activities they love — even “ imperfectly” — and even accomplishing everyday tasks can keep your parents from feeling discouraged and depressed which is critical to their health and well-being;
* Remember that, since most older people move more slowly, think more slowly (especially after the sun goes down), and may have difficulty expressing themselves as they used to, you need to plan in more time than you think something will take;
* If your parents are openly frustrated with their limitations, avoid getting emotionally involved in that. Instead, reasonably assess the situation, take a breath and act especially patient with them. Let your parents know you love them, have confidence in their abilities and that you’re there to help them, if they need it.
Your parents will appreciate your kindness and patience in dealing with them in these ways. And YOU will gain the satisfaction of seeing your own growth as a person, perhaps heal some old family wounds, knowing you’re on the right path to better Parenting your Self.
Please share this blog with others who need some guidance and comment on what you’ve found is effective — or not — in finding the balance between over-protective POParenting and encouraging your parents to do their very most and best. If you’re struggling with your aging parents and want more help and support, please sign up to find more about POP Family Coaching. http://www.