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Power Struggles with Your Aging Parents

An earnest man, woman in the background.

Of course, you want to do what’s best for your elderly parents and sometimes, like when we’re parenting our youngsters, that can mean butting heads with them. Sometimes you may feel like finding common ground is next to impossible. You may even wonder where their stubbornness came from or how to get them to “see reason,” that is — your point of view. One of the continuing challenges of any type of parenting, including POParenting, is how to convince them to follow your advice while avoiding power struggles .

Here are 3 tips we’ve found helpful:

1. Learn to respond not react! “Responding” is a choice you make to calm down. “Reacting,” by contrast, is often knee-jerky, impatient and related to history, not to the present incident. If you, the POParent, react with these or other “negative” emotions, it will only exacerbate the current power struggle worse and make resolving it harder. When you feel yourself becoming upset and beginning to react, take some deep restorative breaths: yes, do that. Then find the patience and love inside of you and center yourself before addressing the situation … after all, you’re now becoming their parent.

2. Keep your seniors involved: Whenever you can, include your parents in decision-making process that impacts them. By letting your aging loved ones know their opinions matter, by giving them appropriate controls and decision-making for their lives, respecting their life experiences and the fact that they’re living in their own bodies, not you, you may be surprised to discover how much less they’re inclined to dig in their heels and fight you.

3. Choose your battles — and it helps if you don’t think of them as battles: As you’re taking those deep breaths, notice how YOU might even be contributing to this power struggle and how you’re really only doing this “job” because you care. See if you can let yourself rise above the unpleasant situation and view it as if you were standing on a crane, like a Hollywood director, way above it all. From that angle, you’re likely to be able to see things differently, hopefully expand your perspective and even widen your bank of usable “solutions.” Notice that being at either end of the POPcycle — the older parents or the younger POParent — holds some very huge challenges and everyone’s still learning. YOU can be the one to let the small stuff fall to the side and consider how many of your “battles” are really small stuff. Your re-newed perspective may sometimes surprise you: when you want to “take control” of a situation, consider if your parents might be able to handle it just as well on their own since after all, that’s what good parenting is all about!

What “power struggles” have you been battling while POParenting? Please share here what’s not worked and what’s been successful!

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